How Being Foolish Can Pay Off

Nestled in between an antiques store and a bike shop, Bikes, Beans and Bordeaux pairs the coziness of a local cafe with tastiness of your favorite sandwich shop. A cycling themed cafe, it attracts the full range of patrons making it the ideal location to meet with the inspirational Alex Hanse. Balancing a full time job with a clothing company, Foolies, and a podcast, Dream Without Limits Radio, would lead anyone to see this young man as a magician.

Photo Credit: Carey Mays
Photo Credit: Carey Ebanks

By inspiring young people the world over, Alex Hanse has staked his claim as an influential millennial leader driven by one thing: changing the world by inspiring others to follow their dreams.

Originally from Miami, Alex developed his talents in Sports Medicine at the University of Florida. After working in a variety of roles, a co-worker during his AT&T days encouraged him to pursue his dreams of working in the arts and entertainment industry. Taking that leap of faith landed Alex at Full Sail University where he truly explored his creative skills.

Driven to promoting powerfully positive messages, Alex and a friend took the risk and invested in their clothing company Foolies. Over time, they have built a variety of shirts that inspire with messages like “Have Faith without Fear” and “Dream without Limits.” Although his shirts were gaining traction, Alex kept finding other people who were also chasing their dreams. He was so inspired, that he decided that he had to share their stories through his podcast, Dream Without Limits Radio (DWLR). Since then, Alex has been giving back to his community by sharing his story by visiting schools, through his ebook A Shot of Espresso: Motivational Thoughts to Pick You Up, and a variety of other ways.

Photo  Credit: Carey Mays
Photo Credit: Carey Ebanks

While Alex’s wisdom is overflowing, the three top  lessons he’s learned along the way. First, pursuing your dreams isn’t hard, but you have to commit. Sleeping in until 11 am, isn’t going to get you there, you’ve got to put in just an hour a day and you will be able to move your project along. Second, if you want to engage a celebrity, or other higher level person with your project, you have to bring them an idea that has a plan behind it. Busy people don’t have time to engage in something that isn’t concrete. If you want that celebrity to get involved, make it so all the person has to do is say “yes” and participate. Finally, never underestimate the power of word of mouth. If you are working on something that you are passionate about, talk about it, get the word out there. If you find out about someone who is doing something interesting, talk about it. Don’t leave all the goodies for yourself.

Photo Credit: Carey Mays
Photo Credit: Carey Ebanks

Divulging every bit of Alex’s wisdom would probably break the limits of this blog post, but if you want to learn more about Alex and subscribe to his podcast follow this link here. If you want to check out the clothing that is impacting lives, check out his site here.

Are there other lessons that you have learned in your path to following your dreams? If so, share them below in the comments or on our Facebook page.

New Transportation Option Locks into Orlando

Visit any major city in the world and you will see hundreds of people using a bike to get around. In the wake of traffic, crumbling public transit, and a push to be healthier and more active, biking has grown in popularity. According to a U.S. Census Bureau study of commuter trends, Americans who biked to work increased 60.8% from 2008 to 2012. With Orlando leaders wanting to address it’s traffic issues, the demand for transportation solutions has become a key piece in its development. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when I was at an IDEAS monthly meeting and Peter Martinez was presenting on the latest trend to hit Central Florida, Orlando Bike Share.

An Iraq war veteran, Peter found an escape from his rough Miami neighborhood in the Marine Corps. Gaining a variety of experiences from up-armoring Humvees in the daytime, and providing convoy security in Fallujah at night, Peter learned the ropes in a variety of fields. As part of his final assignment there, Peter assessed vehicles destroyed by IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and re-utilized parts that were salvageable to maintain the Marine Corps’ mission in Al Anbar Province. Coming face to face with how short life truly is, he left the Marine Corps and moved to Orlando and found work as an automotive mechanic. Concerned by the potential physical toll of being a mechanic, Peter started his college education and tested out a couple business ideas.

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Photo Credit:

While doing some research, he went to Washington, DC to search out the Travel Channel’s Jumbo Slice in Adams Morgan. It was then Peter noticed the hundreds of red bikes that cover our Nation’s capital through Capital Bike Share. Inspired, Peter tried to get public transit services to start the program locally in Orlando. Peter decided to team up with Tampa Bike Share’s operator, CycleHop, to develop Orlando Bike Share that launched earlier this month.

When asked about his greatest  challenge, Peter is quick to point to working with any new project: “all stakeholders must understand, that in order to move forward, the status quo, must go”. The “red tape” associated with starting a new project, has required constant perseverance. But as for great successes, obtaining sponsorships has been critical in bringing the Orlando Bike Share to fruition.

Peter’s experience has allowed him to develop a variety of perspectives, and notes that the Millennial Generation has inherently adopted the Marine Corps attitude of  “Semper Gumby”: always flexible. This attitude is especially fitting in Orlando today, where almost every empty parcel is ripe for development.  Peter adds that “We must make sure that we don’t go back to our past habits of creating places that are homogenized, single-use, and designed with the car in mind. Instead, lets focus on creating neighborhoods where we feel comfortable walking to the market into our 90s, where we can age in place.” Peter’s insight echo’s the new direction of urban redevelopment of walkable, concentrated cities.

“Orlando has many cool and funky ‘third places’ such as coffee shops, restaurants, and bars, but the streets of these third places are not enticing for walkers or bikes” says Peter. In a city that relies on the car, people rarely get a chance to see how their favorite spot fits in with the surrounding community, almost developing a patchwork view of their city instead of being able to see the big picture. How can you change that perspective?  Peter believes, “get out there, on a bike. If you don’t have one, rent one and start to see people, eye to eye.”

Taking on Student Homelessness: Lauren Cantrell

A couple minutes drive from one of the largest universities in the country, and you arrive to what many deem a standard Florida strip mall. But, a look beyond the colorful walls and plentiful parking, will take you to a unique craft coffee shop known, as Vespr. Once you enter, academics aspiring and established alike,  claim their tables in this modern oasis. Sitting at the windowed bar, Lauren Cantrell, a Jacksonville native, was waiting for me. A mutual friend had identified her as the local millennial who was working to improve the student homelessness issue. Simultaneously working as an AmeriCorps Vista and obtaining her Master’s in Public Administration and Non Profit Management, Lauren has been developing her expertise in poverty alleviation.

Lauren Cantrell on Graduation Day Photo Credit: Lauren Cantrell

But, what does student homelessness even look like? While the stereotype dictates an image of living on the street and attending classes, homeless students are typically those who are couch surfing, living out of their cars, or have some other sort of temporary unreliable housing. Usually students become homeless in the wake of something like a car accident or medical emergency for students who survive off of loans and other college assistance that don’t have incidentals built in. Often, these students don’t build a cash cushion into their budget reducing their resilience to life’s obstacles. Usually, all these students need is access to a couple hundred dollars to make rent or pay for food.

UCF provides students in need with access to a food pantry through the Knights helping Knights fund, and there were over 11,000 visits to the Knights Helping Knights pantry during the 2013-2014 academic year.

Dealing with this population is tricky, due mostly to a variety of stigmas. First, understanding what student homelessness is and knowing how to get assistance. Second, the belief that if students can get to college, then they will be fully capable to stay there. Third, as a  student the need to fit in can often delay asking for assistance. Although a nationwide problem, research on the topic has been minimal creating a challenge to identify the needs of this population. However, social media has provided the platform to share these stories and bring awareness of the issue.

While most professionals working with homelessness point to specific successes, Lauren’s most successful moment took place when she was fundraising for the Covenant House, a non profit that provides “shelter and services for youth or at-risk youth.” While tabling outside of Burger 21 in the UCF area, a gentleman approached Lauren and explained that he had received his GED from Covenant House many years ago. What struck Lauren most was how this man was a living testament that people can make their way out of homelessness, they just need a little help. “When you are working behind the scenes, you don’t really get a chance to see the direct impact you are having. So when you get the chance to talk to someone who is directly benefiting from the services you are providing, it is really rewarding.”
Photo Credit: Lauren Cantrell (Center)
If you are interested in learning more about this issue or find resources check out this article from CNN Money. Lauren and I discussed the need for financial literacy courses in colleges and universities across the country. What other ways could help address this issue?

How to Get Started

Now that the confetti and glitter has been successfully cleaned away, you’ve got to be 40% or 50% of the way to accomplishing that killer new project that’s on your 2015 vision board. Right?

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Well if you are,  CONGRATULATIONS! You are one committed go-getter!

If not, don’t despair, knowing how to start is the hardest part of any project, especially one that may be outside of your comfort zone. The gnawing self doubts, the fear of failure, make even saying your idea out loud about as enjoyable as getting your blood drawn.

I know that fear all too well and that fear kept me from starting the blog for a couple years. And if I’ve learned anything at this point it’s that when it comes to building anything, you don’t have time to waste. So, if you have a fabulous idea, but don’t know how to start, here are the five things I did to start the Millennial Takeover.

1. Talk about the idea with close friends, family, and trustworthy strangers. Their feedback will help you gauge what might be your target market or if your idea even has legs.

2. Get an account using the name for your idea, even if it’s just a Gmail account or a twitter handle. Just signing up for a Gmail account created a sense of accountability for me.

3. Find your cheerleaders, those first few steps require a good deal of vulnerability, especially if you are going into something you aren’t as familiar with. My incredible friends who were there at the beginning to kept me motivated and dreamed with me. Those late night bar planning sessions really allowed the idea of the blog morph into a plan for the blog.

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Photo Credit:

4. Start identifying who is out there in your intended field and build from there. Knowing your competition will not only give you a source of inspiration, but it could also lead necessary partnerships down the line.

5. Be patient and kind to yourself. There is still an extremely long laundry list of things that needs to take place every week to keep this blog going and at least 70% of it are things I don’t know how to do. But, with patience I’ve taught myself many of the skills that I needed to have things like a logo, or a website.

Now that you have my list, what’s on yours? What are some things that have helped you start a project? What project or idea are you working on 2015? Post your answers in the comments below or tweet us @themtakeover or on Facebook.