Book PostsCulture

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day, and we’ve rounded up some of our favorite reads from and about this unique and awesome country. Each year on September 16th Mexico celebrates its independence with parades, parties, delicious food, and family and friends. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Mexico and its culture, take a look through our book suggestions below.

mexico books

  1. The Years with Laura Diaz
  2. Mexico: Democracy Interrupted
  3. Pedro Páramo
  4. Frida: A Biography of Frida Khalo
  5. History of the Conquest of Mexico

What is your favorite book? Is there one specifically related to Mexico’s history? Let us know @carpejuvenis on Twitter!

Cover Image: Flickr

 

Uncategorized

“Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real riches cannot. In the treasury house of your soul, there are infinitely precious things that may not be taken from you.”

-Oscar Wilde

My mother recently found the above quote, written by my grandmother, on the back of a greeting card while she was going through old family photos. I don’t know when she wrote it, or why, but I think it captures her spirit. These words really hit me and have made me reflect on the lessons I learned from my grandmother, a formidable woman in her own right. She was strong, funny, kind, flawed, and I think she was amazing. I also credit her with, basically, giving me no choice but to become a true, unapologetic feminist and embedding in me a sense of confidence that my voice matters.

Many people have asked me when I realized that I was a feminist. The answer is, I never had that “moment.” I came to it honestly. I’m homegrown. I didn’t have a choice, and I’m glad I didn’t. Hillary Clinton (our next president?) said that women’s rights are human rights. It’s a no-brainer and it’s something I never had to learn. I guess I just looked around and knew. Thank you, Nana.

To really understand this story, we have to take a trip back about 85 years. We arrive in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania and the year is 1930. That’s the year my grandmother, Anne Gaffney, was born to a very blue-collar family. Her dad worked for the railroads and money was tight. When Nana was about 13, the house burned down, and she lost her youngest brother, the baby, Larry. She was thirteen years old.

Not long after, the family moved to Albany, New York. Nana graduated from Albany High School. As the eldest girl, the responsibility often fell to her to help take care of her siblings. For many years she was the primary caregiver to my great Uncle Ed, who is developmentally disabled.

By the time she met my grandfather, Jack Gaffney, Nana was a single mother with three children. They got married and had six more of their own: Dan, George, Patty, Jackie (my mom), Kate, and Meg. Nana attended Schenectady Community College and Russell Sage, but was never able to graduate. She didn’t let this stop her. She was PTA president and worked for the state legislator for many years. She was also an active member of the Albany Democratic Women’s Club.

hannahgrandma

In the late 1970s, Anne Gaffney was elected to the Albany County Legislature. In my grandparent’s house in Guilderland, I walked by a campaign poster that proclaimed her “Anne Gaffney: A Woman of her Word in the 33rd,” almost every day. In her position, she was a tireless advocate for the disadvantaged. One of the biggest battles that she fought, the cost of which was her political career, was to protect the Pine Bush Nature Preserve and stop the construction of Crossgates Mall. Suspiciously, before her reelection she was redistricted and forced to run in Colonie against a long-time incumbent. The Democratic Party refused to nominate her, so she ran as an independent. She also had a stroke during this period and published a letter in the local paper to her constituency from her hospital bed. She lost the election.

Life went on for the Gaffney family, but something shifted fundamentally after this experience. I ultimately think that it is a testament to her absolute unwillingness to bend, to sacrifice her beliefs, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. I try to carry a little bit of that unwavering commitment to my beliefs with me.

I recently graduated from college and am hoping to begin a career in public policy. I often try to evoke my grandmother when I make decisions and even when I read the news. I wonder about her reactions; I imagine what her advice would be. She taught me that a woman, a mother, a wife, could also be a career woman, a politician, a leader. We should all look to these role models; whether they are family, someone who inspires us academically, or even someone we have only seen on TV. In 2015, being a woman, or being a young person in general, during uncertain times, is hard and scary. Let’s all look to those who helped us understand the importance of our own voice for motivation to reach our goals, and, if possible, advice to help us get there. Mr. Wilde would say that this is something that can never be taken from us.

Images: Courtesy of Hannah Cohen

Professional SpotlightSpotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JG 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JG 2

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

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

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

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

CJ: What is your favorite book?

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

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

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

Jessica Grounds Qs

Image: Jessica Grounds

CultureSkills

Young people are always underestimating their worth, and I don’t mean worth as in a monetary value. What we have to offer the world is priceless in every sense of the word. It can’t be bought or sold and it can’t be taken away from us. I recognize the plight of young people who live in countries where their voices are silenced by oppression, but I also recognize that even in countries where freedom of speech is not a luxury the people who live there can afford, people our age have found ways to stand up for what they believe in despite the consequences they might face for speaking out against unfair regimes.

Throughout history, we can find instances of high school and college students alike using their voices to make a difference in their communities, their countries, and across the world. Maybe we won’t see an 18-year-old president any time soon, but young people don’t need to hold a political office to change policy. The only weapon in our arsenal that we need is our voice.

I say that our voices are weapons because they are just as powerful as any firearm, and words truly do have power. They have the power to bring people together; inspire them to move into action, and to make a difference wherever they are. You are never too young to stand up for something you believe in. Even if you’re not old enough to vote, you can still use your voice to speak up about whatever it is you are passionate about. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are too young to understand something or that an issue doesn’t concern someone your age. Statements that use your age to undermine your intelligence, as well as the importance of your voice, are the tools that people will use in their attempt to disarm you, and they are completely false.

No one else has the ideas that you have or can think the way that you think. And this why your voice matters. Your words are unique and while they cannot be duplicated, they can be shared. All you have to do is speak up. There are people who might not listen to you because of your age but don’t let that discourage you because for every person who won’t listen, there will be someone who will. Once you realize that your voice truly matters and that it is powerful enough to make a difference, I have no doubt that you will make a difference in the world around you.

While worth is usually used in reference to monetary value, what we as young people have to offer the world is priceless in every sense of the word.

Image: Evan Forester

CultureEducation

When it comes to voicing opinions these days, our generation has become paramount in articulating difficult issues facing the world. However, due to corrupt and old-fashioned politics, there has been an increase in voter apathy and decline in voter turnout. With fallacious advertisements and discouraging structures like the Electoral College, young people today do not see the importance of voting anymore – oftentimes, they underestimate the power of their votes.

With the midterm elections this week, I hope to inspire a few more people to go out and make their opinions matter. For example, say you prefer ideology that is kinder to those of lower classes but you decide not to vote. Well, for the past few decades, statistics show that those of more affluent households have dominated the voting circuit, and though some of them may vote alongside your ideals, it is most likely that a large majority will not. Go out and stand up for your principles; no one else will.

For those of you who are like my roommate in the fact that you look at a newspaper and immediately shut down: do not be afraid to learn about the tough issues. My roommate justifies her desire to not vote through the fact that politics panics her; she does not understand nor does she wish to comprehend the bureaucratic system our country exhibits. And although I respect her opinion on this matter, this troubles me because people like this live in this country too, and it is vital to care about your country’s politics. What if you do not vote purely because you did not care to look at the platforms, and an abominable law is passed that affects your life negatively? Take the time to educate yourself on the candidates’ platforms and history as politicians so that you can make the best choice for yourself. Just because you do not vote does not mean that the political decisions made post-election do not affect you.

It is astounding how younger generations today are making films, writing songs, and creating art that explore tons of the social and economic concerns dealt with today, and still feel completely apathetic toward voting. For those of you on the fence about voting this week, your voice should not be reserved only to the creative ventures you have. Each candidate specializes in issues that cater to different demographics, so please look into them and discover what you need out of the American political system. Your opinions and beliefs are preeminent in a time struggling to situate itself with rising issues, therefore, take advantage of the chance you are given to express your beliefs.

To get started, check out these useful resources: 

1. Vote Smart: Just the Facts

2. On the Issues: Every Political Leader on Every Issue

Image: Theresa Thompson

Culture

It is hard to believe that censorship is still a present norm in our world today. Living in a nation where the rare occurrence of revealed censorship can lead to intense uproar has sheltered most of us, and has also created a bubble in which whenever we hear of censorship in other nations it sounds foreign and almost unbelievable. For many other countries, censorship of news, social media, or even artwork in order to avoid political discourse among citizens is an everyday battle for freedom of expression.

This week, in a region of Essex, England known as Clacton-on-Sea, a council ordered the removal of graffiti art that opposed the conservative town’s view on immigration reform. Tying in the fact that this town is coming up on election time, the council wanted to avoid political discourse on their conservative values that could have been stirred up by this influential artwork. However, the council had no idea at the time that this graffiti art was done by the anonymous yet world-renowned artist called Banksy. Banksy’s painting showed five grey pigeons – most likely representing the members of the town – holding up picket signs that attempted to thwart a colorful, migratory swallow – an immigrant – from entering their domain. This is a clear jab at the towns desire to restrain immigration to Clacton-on-Sea.

The council attempted to avoid such political agendas from arousing the town, but by censoring what can be done and seen in the town via artwork, they inadvertently drew more attention to the situation. Not exactly going so far as to control their citizens every move, the council took on a very Big Brother-esque position by deciding what people in this area can and cannot see. If you are that afraid of your citizens being influenced enough to switch political affiliations, then try and keep their eye on your issues and viewpoints. Censorship such as this should never be utilized to keep political power; it contradicts democratic laws and ethics in general.

Another example of recent censorship comes with the current riots in Hong Kong. The riots stem from pro-democracy students and adults who are angry with Chinese legislation. Elections used to be controlled by a committee of 1,200 with many Beijing loyalists influencing the group’s decision. But recently ratified policy will now allow the city of 5 million the opportunity to vote for their own officials, so long as the vote is for one of the Beijing handpicked candidates. This new policy renders voting pointless and is why so many riots are occurring in the city. Moreover, the ruckus caused by the rioters has caused congestion in heavily populated regions of Hong Kong, sparking violence between pro-democracy protesters and those who want to get on with their careers and lives. In order to avoid uproar in mainland Chinese towns and cities, the government has censored social media. For example, certain hashtags on Twitter were banned and Instagram was shut down completely to avert any information that the government could not censor or control getting to mainlanders.

Many try to justify censorship as a way of preventing hysteria among citizens; a caveat of political responsibilities that is necessary for order. However, usually censorship just causes more chaos as citizens of that nation and outsiders fight to be able to understand what is happening in the news and in the world around them. Censorship is not protection. If anything, it hinders our awareness of what goes on in the world.

Image: Flickr

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

When we first heard about Anna Browne’s accomplishments, we were blown away. An 18-year-old who has already self-published a book and earned poetry awards? Amazing! Anna loves to write, spend time with friends, and educate herself and others about animal cruelty and women’s rights. Having recently graduated from high school, Anna will be leaving for college in Australia next April.  We are big fans of this global citizen and writer, and we have a feeling you will be inspired by Anna’s passion, determination, and desire to learn more and to explore the world. Read on to learn more about Anna’s book writing process, what she looks forward to most about college, and where her love of writing comes from…

Name: Anna Browne
Age: 18
Education: High School Graduate
Follow: TwitterWebsite

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

When I think about ‘seizing my youth,’ I contemplate how the world perceives me based on my age. Because I am six feet tall, people always think I am a lot older than just 18. I’ve been able to take advantage of this by surprising people with what I’ve accomplished, and then bewildering them when they learn I’m not even in my 20s yet. While people my age go down to the beach on the weekends and party at night, I create worlds with my writing and learn languages. I am a lifelong learner, so I take advantage of my youth by learning as much as I can about absolutely anything whenever I am able to.

You recently graduated from high school. Where will you be attending college and what do you plan on studying?

My plan for college is to attend La Trobe University in Bendigo, Australia. I will be moving in April 2015 and living there for three years to study Marketing. I hope to also minor in Political Science, but because I will be in Australia, the politics will be Australian politics. I hope in doing so I will be given a multi-national perspective in the way people govern, and therefore learn what we need to change to help better our society.

Where does your love of writing come from?

Where does my love of writing come from? Where does your love for the taste of chocolate come from? Or for potato chips? I can’t honestly tell you where my love for writing comes from because I don’t know. All I do know is that I have loved crafting stories since before I could even physically write. It’s more than a passion; it’s something that I live for.

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You have published a novel called Island XTell us about your book and what inspired you to write a novel.

Island X is set on an island that nobody in the outside world is aware of, except for a very select few. The inhabitants of the island aren’t aware of its purpose, why the society is structured to be a grouped dictatorship, or how the magic that surrounds the island like a misty veil came to be. But when one of the leaders of the society sells their adopted son to another, the mystery of the island and its sole reason for existing begins to unfold.

The inspiration to write Island X came from a lengthy English class where my teacher assigned everyone to study the works of the famous philosophers, Loa-Tzu (Thoughts from the Tao-Te Ching) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (The Civil Society). Both men describe politics from their time periods in a very intricate way. When I began Island X, I only titled it that because I had no idea what to call it. I wanted to combine the works of those two philosophers somehow, and it ended up with me finishing 64,000 words about an island, extremely odd politics, and a gore-filled supernatural twist. I had no idea what I was writing half the time, but once I finished it, a huge sense of relief and wonder wafted over me. While Island X is certainly not my first novel, it is definitely my best.

What is your book-writing process?

My book writing process is not your average write-an-outline-and-work-off-of-the-outline; nor is it writing every single day. I am at an age that when I start writing a novel, I know I will finish it, rather than just letting it slowly wither away since I don’t have any inspiration for it after the first 10,000 words. When I have the need to write because an idea has come to my mind and it is begging me to be released, I write. When a character has been nagging at me to be placed in a different scene, I write. When I can’t stop thinking about something and it ends up invading my dreams, I write. I can’t force creativity; it has to flow naturally.

Your poem “Days Ago” was published in four different anthologies and it has won four awards, including a first place award from World Poetry Movement. Pretty amazing! What and/or who is your poetry inspired by?

My poem “Days Ago” was inspired by my grandmother Annette, my mother’s mum, and was dedicated to my father’s mum, Rosalind. They were very close before Annette passed away, and I wanted to write something about how I felt during her passing but still recognize her relationship with my other grandmother.

My general poetry is inspired by recent events in my life or a story I want to write but don’t feel the idea is fitting enough for a novel or short fiction.

You are the creator of the most popular competition group on Figment.com called Figment’s Next Top Writer. What does this competition entail and how do you manage it?

The writing competition, Figment’s Next Top Writer, entails providing bi-monthly to monthly writing prompts and extensive editing and critiquing of the submissions. Before every new prompt there’s an eliminated contestant until only one is left standing. The winner’s biggest prize is a published anthology of their challenge submissions. Since the contest has earned an excellent reputation, I have been able to recruit other writers to help me judge.

What traits make a great leader?

Traits that make a great leader: courage, ability to aid others, and the capacity to listen to what people have to say and act accordingly.

How do you balance being a student with your activities? What are your time management tips?

How do I balance being a student with my activities? I’m the kind of person that writes term papers for fun. If an essay is assigned in class, no matter what the topic is or how many words is the absolute minimum, I finish it within one hour and receive an A every time. Most of my homework just consists of writing essays, so technically my teacher is having me do my favorite hobby for school. It’s an easy balance because I enjoy it so much and I get it done quickly.

As for time management tips, I’m afraid I can’t offer much. My general process is to do everything I want to do before my homework, and the reason why is because then all that I would be distracted by isn’t there. The downfall of that is I’m putting off schoolwork in favor of Facebook or writing a new post for my blog. However, if you’re desperate to finish something and find time management difficult, I suggest offering a reward for yourself once you finish. Whether that is eating frozen yogurt or watching the next episode in your favorite TV series, the reward-after-work idea helps a lot when I am studying for an exam or have something I really need to finish in a short amount of time.

What three things are you most looking forward to in college?

The first thing I am most looking forward to in college is the fact that I will be living thirty minutes away from my amazing kid-cousins, Matilda (10), Montague (6) and Mervin (6). I hardly ever see them and they mean the world to me. I am like their big sister and they treat me as such, so it’s important to me that I am there for them and be a big part of their lives.

The second thing that I’m looking forward to is the independence. Australia is an 18-hour flight, so popping over to see my parents every weekend isn’t an option. I will be living on my own and forced to look after myself. It will be a big change, but an exciting one.

The third thing would have to be the environment of where I’m going. I have visited Australia 14 times, and each trip feels like I’m growing into a stronger person. While Washington State is always raining, Australia is in the midst of a drought. I find myself a lot more water-saving-savvy, environmentally-sound, and careful because that’s the norm in Australia.

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

Oh geez, I’m afraid my normal days aren’t that exciting. I wake up at noon (unless my dad wakes me up at 9AM because he thinks I’ve already slept in long enough), eat cottage cheese with agave and berries, and figure out whether or not I should spend my day hanging out with friends. If I feel more like being on my own, I swim, I write, and I watch re-runs of Nikita and The 100. Recently my father has been elected for the at-large seat for Whatcom County Council, so often at night I will be attending political events and campaign parties. My favorite political event was when my father and I attended Governor Jay Inslee’s inaugural ball. I enjoyed it the most because I got to dress up in a fancy ball gown and stroll the halls of one of the most magnificent buildings in all of Washington State.

When it comes to day-planning, I have begrudgingly learned to rely on using my phone’s calendar. I’ve never been a fan of calendars, I don’t know why, but now I use it constantly and I set up alerts for whenever I have something to do that day so I am constantly reminded.

Anna Gov Ball

What issues are you most passionate about?

The issues I am most passionate about are stopping animal cruelty and advocating for women’s rights. I could go into a very long tangent on why, but basically with animal cruelty I stand up for the voices unheard and refuse to buy anything that has been tested on animals. I actually haven’t eaten any product made by Mars Candy Company in seven years since I learned that Mars funds deadly animal tests not required by law.

As for women’s rights, I educate people and try to teach myself of how women are still treated unfairly compared to men and what we can do to change that, as well as why men have no right to dictate what we can and cannot do with our own bodies.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend my free time writing, editing, writing, critiquing, writing, watching my favorite TV shows, writing, and fro-yo dates with my friends. Oh, and writing.

What motivates you?

Love. The simple concept of love motivates me in my life every day.

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

Don’t let the opinions of others slow you down; be who you are, because there is only one of you and only you can be the best version of yourself.

Anna Browne Qs

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

As Online Content Lead at General Assembly, Candace Williams has a lot of responsibility. She keeps the content moving along, interacts with all of her teams, and has long days that vary in tasks. After spending time earning her Masters in teaching from Stanford and then becoming a teacher, Candace knows quite a bit about education. Paired with her love for technology, Candace is a perfect fit as an Online Content Lead. Candace advises to not stay on one path, to take advantage of opportunities, and to hustle hard. We are inspired by Candace’s work ethic and her passion for both teaching and learning. 

Name: Candace Williams
Age: 27
Education: Bachelor of Arts from Claremont McKenna College, Master of Arts/Teaching Credential from Stanford University
Follow: Twitter / General Assembly

How do you define ‘seizing your youth’?

Seizing your youth means trying new things and hustling hard on something. Even if it doesn’t work out, try new things and learn about yourself. Be willing to push the envelope.

What did you major in at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) and how did you determine what to study?

I applied to Claremont McKenna College for the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) program. I loved the tutorials, and the amount of writing that we did upped my writing skills. PPE was one of the main reasons why I applied to CMC.

Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?

I didn’t study abroad, but I worked abroad a lot.

Where did you intern and how did you go about securing those internships?

I have interned at a lot of places. My first internship was during the school year at Claremont McKenna College. I did tutoring and was a lab tech and resident tech assistant. During the summer, I worked for my Congressman at his campaign office in my state. I got that internship through CMC’s career services. I looked through the postings, applied, and they gave me a stipend and class credit.

The second summer, I was a teacher at a juvenile detention facility, and CMC gave me another stipend and a fellowship. I wrote papers and got some class credit. After that, CMC gave me a grant to work in India for human rights work.

I graduated the following summer and went straight into my teaching program.

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What were you doing before General Assembly?

I was in social media, so basically I was paid to be on Facebook and Twitter all day. Before that I was an elementary school teacher and I taught K-5 science in the south Bronx. Before that I went to grad school while teaching at the same time. I have a Masters in teaching.

You are an Online Content Lead for General Assembly. What does being an Online Content Lead mean?

It means that I am an instructional designer. I make sure that what we put out online really helps people learn. I also help source instructors and I am like the glue that holds our teams together. There are a lot of teams that put our content together. There are video teams, the design team, marketing efforts, and I am the person who keeps the content moving along.

What does a day in your life look like?

It really depends. What I really love about this job is that it is so flexible. Yesterday I was in Washington D.C. I got up at 5:30am, went to Penn Station, and took the three hour train to D.C. I met with people there, filmed at the New America Foundation, hopped back on the train, and got home around 8pm.

The day before that I was at work filming something until 9pm. During the day I have a lot of meetings and we talk about the redesign of the website. Sometimes I come in early, sometimes I come in late. It really just depends.

What should a teenager or young adult who wants to be an online content lead/producer do to set themselves up for success?

The number one thing is to hustle hard and work hard and to seek out different opportunities. I wouldn’t get trapped in one path. It may seem like everyone is doing the same thing, such as finance or going to the same college, but I would actually look for things to do that are different and that are off the beaten path so you can learn about yourself. People will take notice.

I never imagined that I would be an online content lead, but it really fits my experience because I’m passionate about tech and teaching. When you’re passionate about something, those jobs and opportunities will open up, but you have to show that you are passionate. You have to find the right opportunities.

If you were hiring an intern, what are the top 3 traits that you would look for?

1. Working hard. That doesn’t even mean staying at work until it is late, it just means doing a task and doing it well.

2. Collaboration. I want people who work well with others.

3. Being a fun, nice person to work with. At work you should be able to enjoy spending time with people.

You’ve been out of school for five years. How did you transition from college life to “the real world?”

I think school life is real. If you’re creating the right life for yourself at college, it should be hard and it should mean staying up late and working. I feel like the things that I did at school were not that different than what I do now. At school, I was waking up early and going to work and working on a lot of different projects. I had a lot of deadlines and worked with many people. Be flexible and realize that you’re going to be terrible at a lot of things.

You went to the Stanford University School of Education. Where does your interest in education come from?

I’ve always been into education, even in elementary school and middle school. I always tutored kids and had an interest in education. I’m very passionate about it.

How did you decide where to go to grad school?

I care about education so I took some classes at Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and it was going really well. When Stanford came to campus, I was on my way to England for a debate tournament. I had my big suitcase but I was the only one who showed up to meet them. I met the head of admissions and she was excited to meet me. They had to sell me on the program, like why would I go to a program that was more expensive?

It came down between Stanford and CGU, which are both great programs. For me, I realized that their ideology was the same about teaching so I decided that it was time to try something new and get out of Claremont.

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

A lot. I was president of the tech association, editor of the paper, I played the bassoon, and I volunteered a lot. In college, I was involved in debate and tech. With debate, I started teaching kids who were new to debate. I started debate my first day of college.

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

I like feeling like I’m making stuff that matters. I like to have fun and I like to be with friends and family. I like feeling like I’m connected to people.

Who is your role model?

My mom, of course. She’s awesome. She works very hard, she’s smart, and she works very well with kids.

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

Nothing. I made mistakes, but you just have to do it.