Category Archives: Millennial POV

Cornerstone Investments for Central Florida’s Start up Community

Since returning to my hometown of Orlando, I have been trying to check out all of the resources available to startups and enterprising individuals. Earlier this week, I participated in the Melrose Center’s General Orientation to gain access to their video editing resources and what I found literally blew my mind. Made possible by an extremely generous donation by Dorothy Lumley Melrose and her family, the Orange County Library in Downtown Orlando was able to build a $1 million tech facility for it’s patrons.

From the second you step onto the second floor, you are drawn to the smiling face of Dorothy Lumley Melrose and the inviting glass wall behind her. Once you step through the glass doors to the 26,000 square foot space, you forget that you are in a library and get the bug to build something. With your Orange County Library Card, or for a small fee, members have access to a live recording studio, a professional television studio with green screen, sound booth equipment, a photo studio, an impressive array of classes, a simulation room, and, my personal favorite, a 12ft by 8ft interactive media wall.

Although the specifics of what they offer is impressive, the fact that all of it is free (aside from the conference room) is game changing for startups in the area. Equipment and collaboration space are some of the highest barriers to entry when starting a business. Having free access to both? It’s a life saver. This access, in addition to a GoFundMe campaign to address Orlando’s seed fund problem, are crucial pieces building explosive growth in Downtown Orlando’s startup sector.

Are there any other tools that you believe are necessary to build a thriving startup community? Do you know of any other areas that I should feature on my quest to find some of the best resources for entrepreneurs? Post in the comments below or email me directly at marissa@millennialtakeover.com.

Want to help build Orlando’s Startup community? Donate:

For access to equipment and classes, the Friends of the Orange County Library provide financial support to make it happen.

To provide critical seed funding for Orlando startups, go here.

My Take on Central Florida’s Commuter Train – Sunrail

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It’s finally here!! After years of negotiating, being used as a political chess piece and deprived of federal funding the Sunrail is finally a running functioning commuter train. Last Friday, I rode it for the first time from the Winter Park Station to Church Street Station. Although there is plenty of room for improvement, overall it was FAR less stressful than driving and I plan to take it again in the future. Sunrail, here is my constructive feedback:

Things I loved

    • It’s sooooo cheap –  I paid $3.75 roundtrip, a fraction of the cost of parking in a garage downtown.
    • It’s so clean – Yes, I know it’s new, but I guess I was expecting litter or spill stains.
    • It makes you happier to ride it – In other cities you are traveling underground so you can actually see what you are passing.
    • It saves you from having to find parking … and then losing your car – Finding parking in Orlando can set off a minor heart attack. Then losing your white car in the huge parking lot can ruin any good day.
    • You are around people – driving in your car is a very solitary activity. It’s great for some alone time, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities in the Central Florida area where you feel like you are a member of a larger community.

Things that need improvement

  • Collecting fares To purchase a ticket, you go to a kiosk and use your debit or credit card. No cash option is a barrier, especially for tourists. Then, you have to find a cute yellow box to the left or right of the kiosk and tap your ticket before and after you board the train. The unmanned station, the lack of partitions makes for plenty of opportunities to grab a free ride. Admittedly, I had no clue how it worked so I didn’t tap in for my ride to Church Street. Small a request – have that friendly voice on the loud speaker go over those directions or have them written so people can actually pay for the service.
  • That good awful siren – that horrible fire drill sound had me looking for the nearest exit off the outdoor platform, until I realized that the train was approaching. A friendly voice announcing the arrival of the train might be enough and less torture on the ear drums.
  • Pedestrian walkways – moving large numbers of people around safely is one thing. If we are being encouraged to forgo our cars, more pedestrian crossings, especially when leaving the station, should be put a bit higher on the priority list.
  • Frequency – I understand that this is just the beginning, but trains have got to be running more often if you want community buy in. I had to wait 20 minutes on my way to Church Street and 30 minutes on my way back. If I had a tight schedule, I wouldn’t even consider taking the Sunrail.
  • It doesn’t run at night – The last train leaves Church Street at 9:25 pm. If you are going to a concert, a basketball game, or any other event, it’s not an option and a it is a missed revenue opportunity.

Have you ridden the Sunrail? Have you enjoyed the experience? Have I missed any areas of improvement? Comment below or tweet to @themtakeover.

Top 5 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Next Big Adventure

When I finally decided to pack my bags and move to Haiti, I didn’t just hop on a plane and wing it. I tried to be strategic enough to avoid hang ups while still keeping some available space for spontaneity. If you are considering on making the big move, especially a foreign country here are some helpful tips to save yourself some major headaches. 

ForiegnMoney
Photo Credit: epSos .de

1. Have enough money saved to pay your obligations. I have some pretty hefty student loan debt and while I often opt for the fun life adventure instead of becoming debt free in 3 years, I always, always, ALWAYS pay my loans. When I took the leap of faith, I made sure I had at least enough money to cover my loan payments for the next three months. You don’t want to be visiting your family on a break to then have the uncomfortable conversation as to why collections has been calling them.

AsiaFarmerPhone
Photo Credit: Ken Banks

2. Contact as many people you know there as possible, even if it is one person. Arriving in a foreign country with a month’s worth of stuff with no one to meet you or a plan, can leave you extremely vulnerable (more on how I learned that another time). Even if you don’t stay with this person, having a friendly face that you can communicate with upon your arrival will ease the already present anxiety. If you are looking for a job, this becomes extremely important as your contact can help you navigate the hiring system and maybe even help you network.

Passports
Photo Credit: J Aaron Farr

3. If you are going abroad, make sure your passport does not expire for at least 3 months. Most countries won’t let you through the airport if your passport is set to expire in three months so save yourself the flight change fees and up date your passport. Also make a copy of that first page. In the countries I’ve visited, a form of identification is needed to buy cellphones, change money, etc. Reduce the risk of losing your passport by carrying a printout, and it will save you time in case you need to replace your passport.

Photo Credit: JannRiik
Photo Credit: JannRiik

4. Give yourself permission to enjoy some of your favorite things. Moving to another country, city, or state will mean that you won’t have the same access to your favorite things. When you have one of those days where you the cashier gets frustrated with your thick American accent, or the power goes out while you were writing the longest email of your life on a desktop, an overpriced tub of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food may be the thing you need to keep you sane. You already get the gold star for taking the leap, so be kind to yourself and pay extra attention to self care. For me, reading books (thank you, Kindle), watching movies (thank you, Netflix), or “Hanging out” with a friend or two (thank you, Google) were my life savers.

Journals
Photo credit: Wen Long

5. Keep a journal, not only to help you remember the cool things you did 10 years from now, but to off load whatever you don’t feel like sharing out loud. It doesn’t even have to be full sentences, it can even be ticket stubs or business cards. There are a lot of changes that you’ll be experiencing so keeping track of them will help you track the progress you’ve made.

Keeping things open ended and keeping a positive attitude will help you bounce back from those days that just don’t go your way. Now get back to packing, your adventure awaits.

Leaving everything you know to embark on an adventure or just came back from one? Share your top tips for how you made it through. 

How Ferguson Protests Were A National Pressure Release

Jury duty. That dreaded piece of mail that induces anxiety and panic among every American citizen. Such feelings are probably due the unplanned disruption in the rhythm of life to potentially determine the fate of another human being. What if you get sucked into a 5 day murder trial? The possibility is unsettling.

However, when I was first selected, I was actually excited. I could finally see a trial in real life! Right off the bat, I was selected for a cocaine possession case. The defendant was arrested in that part of town where you double check that your doors are locked, and you hit the gas a little harder than you should. Although the police didn’t find the cocaine on his person, it was found nearby on the side of the road after he ran from the cops. We found him guilty and sent him right back to the jail that he had just left for other drug related charges. As time has gone on, I’ve often wondered what would have happened if he was white, if he had a better lawyer, if he was actually innocent. I think about him even more during these media storms: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the news stories of thousands of young men who die every year by gunfire, accidental or otherwise.

Courtesy of Common Dreams

While the media fixates on fanning the flames of the racism and police brutality, how are we as American citizens ultimately affected by violent protests in part of the country that many of us have never visited? What our society often forgets, or chooses to ignore, is that there are systems in place that keep groups of citizens in certain areas and the only way to get out is by luck or remarkable determination. As evidenced by the seemingly over the top reaction to a petty thief’s shooting death. Protests and violence never just happen, they are the result of years of pent up frustration with injustice. For example, the Occupy Wall Street protests were a response to years of abuse by the banking system that sent our once thriving country into a recession that we are still recovering from. 

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Now that the molotov cocktails have been put away and a civil rights lawsuit is being filed, will the fiery conversations and artistic performances come to an end? Will we continue to ignore the injustices our system encourages? Or have we gained a collective understanding that there is something very wrong with our system and we have the power to address it?   

Life Update!

Photo Credit: Miss Turner, Rekre89 on Flikr
Photo Credit: Miss Turner

There’s something magical to me about coffee shops. The constant din of coffee making machinery, the rumble conversations mixing together layered over mellow music has always been the recipe to help me focus on whatever work I needed to get done.

Returning to my hometown in Winter Park, Florida, I am sitting in the Park Avenue Starbucks that carried me through many of my college essays and job applications. Much like the rest of town, it has been updated to respond to the demands of its current clientele, but in many ways has stayed the same.

That’s what I am doing with the Millennial Takeover. After spending a year working in Haiti, and a mini hiatus, I am going to be writing about my observations from my time abroad, my insights on current events, and as always spotlighting incredible millennials. So keep an eye on this space for future posts and follow me on Twitter @themtakeover

 

The Return of Not So Common Advice

Most commencement speeches inspire their graduates to build their careers, reach for the stars, and do whatever it takes to reach their dreams. After all, they’ve accomplished the first part of that dream: getting a college education. However, my colleagues and I received a commencement speech a couple years ago about the importance of exercise and eating right and not… “letting yourself go” from an older gentleman who could very well have been speaking from experience. Naturally, we didn’t take too kindly to the speech and promptly demoted the bizarre experience to the “to shred” pile in our memories.
Ironically enough, a couple years later I find myself reflecting on that very commencement speech. I’ve been dwelling on the how to define what one needs to sacrifice to be successful. As they say one must sacrifice health, friends and finally family to achieve poster child success. But is that kind of sacrifice even necessary? Without those three things, what do you have? With the increased attention to what the Huffington Post calls the “Third Metric” how is it possible not to sacrifice one or all of these things when you are starting out? Climbing the career ladder often means late nights, early mornings, and often sacrificing the respite of the weekend. Accepting this reality has been difficult for me, because I just can’t help but feel that by now we would have found a way to not be “on” all of the time.
Maybe I struggle the most with this because participating in the Haitian work lifestyle often means having people come by to visit, grab a coffee, and eat up a good 2-3 hours of your work day. Although very nice, the decrease in actual work hours does cut into productivity, something Haiti’s economy most definitely needs. However, in that same breath I see this way of life slowly fade with the aging of previous generations. Life has become busier, people are more on edge, and the pressure that is often omnipresent in the States is increasingly claiming the lifestyles of the current population. Is workaholicsism, reserved for the select few? Or has it become a rite of passage for ambitious young professionals?
Whatever the answer, I have been keeping my sanity by spending my Saturdays with my younger cousins ranging from 17 years to 4 months. The constant energy and the simplicity of life as a young person has been such an outlet for me that Saturday lunches with them have become sacred.
Finding that outlet, even if it only takes place once a week for an hour is so necessary to not completely losing yourself in the work. What is your outlet, how do you keep yourself sane when work becomes overwhelming?

Long term benefits to Student Loan Debt?

Each generation has had an issue that plagued their thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. For our grandparents, it was managing a Post WWII world. For our parents, it was dealing with drug abuse and the now invisible color lines. What could possibly plague our generation more than the broken system that we inherited? The financial crater left by pursuing the one thing that marketed guaranteed success: a college education. 
 
An estimated 7 out of 10 graduating seniors in 2012 walked into the “real world” with an average of $29,400 of student loan debt. According to this Huffington Post article, the burden can lead to a loss of license in some states and most importantly prevents many young people from qualifying for home loans, personal loans, small business loans, and car loans: the bread and butter of the American economy. If you don’t really understand how it all works check out this infographic that breaks it down.
 Student Loan Scheme.
 
Whether or not you or your child are dealing with this type of debt, it has market wide effects. Think about it, with significant portions of 30 million salaries going to feed a collective financial crater, who is going to be purchasing the high priced credit based goods that serve as the metric for a healthy American economy? How can you breed healthy work habits when personal finance is always going to be a significant anxiety? 
 
There are hundreds of suggestions on how to cope with the pressure of dealing with student loan debt, and it deserves serious attention and planning. But once in this crater, why not wear the burden as a badge of courage? Presumably, students don’t take out loans unless they need them in order to get to where they want to go in their careers. As it is in life, taking that kind of risk has forced many in this group to make sacrifices and choices in order to survive. It will be lessons we’ve learned from those choices that will mold the next Great Generation.
 
Lessons in dedication, perseverance, resourcefulness, and long term thinking will only serve us in in the long run. Our generation has already claimed the superlative “most entrepreneurial” and “most diverse” in U.S. history, once we have claimed positions of power these lessons will only make stronger leaders and truly change the direction of the world.
 
Have student loans impacted your life planning and decision making? If so, how?

Burying Dr. King’s Dream

“Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 20th for many in the States is a day of sleeping in, catching that movie on the “must see list,” and spending about 30 minutes thinking of the momentous impact of the life Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although this is a testament to how far the U.S. has come from the painful pre-Civil Rights Movement, it also illustrates how well the mainstream has been able to downplay the conversation about race in the States and making it seem that we have become a “post-racial” society; especially when it comes to discussing the Millennial generation.

With the continuing existence of “yolo” culture, living a life of excess is not only presented as desirable, but attainable. With an 11.1% unemployment rate of 20-24 year olds, recent college grads are left in this drastic gap between the new American dream and reality. Most T.V. shows, movies, and music focus exclusively on the experience of the upper to upper middle class white demographic (a la Real Housewives or the Kardashians) or objectify the honest struggles of lower middle to lower class Americans (a la Teen Mom). With such an overload of superficial mainstream media, where is the space for showing a bit of the honest American experience, peppered with some people who are the new face of the United States?

By masking the reality of the life of the minority in the United States, we are burying the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In reality, he was just a member of a thousand person, decades long movement. However, his ability to move all kinds people to action created the catalyst the movement needed to end segregation and ultimately move the United States to a more equal society.

But what does this have to do with today’s conversation about race? Today, prejudice has evolved from violent crimes to more subtle exclusions from jobs, social gatherings, and justice. Just look to the reaction towards the recent verdict of the Trayvon Martin case to understand how deep are the wounds of modern racism in the United States. But much like every other major news story, it has faded away something that would surely disappoint Dr. King.

What is encouraging is the openness in which the Millennial generation approaches the discussion of race and diversity in the United States. Even though it doesn’t immediately change policy, talking about what it means to be a minority has the potential to change a mind at a time. Better representation in the media is slowly providing stronger role models to help frame the aspirations of younger generations. Change is painfully slow and requires constant attention or else we risk repeating our history.

ImageTallahassee, Florida 1963 – a demonstration outside a segregated theater.

Sacrificing for the Balance

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Photo provided by Flickr and Pink Sherbet Photography
 
With the taking down of the decorations and repairing whatever damage was incurred from the holidays, comes the familiar call to action to improve yourself with a new job, a new life; a new everything! For someone who has recently embarked on trying something new in a huge way, this kind of sent me into questioning the merits of changing everything in your life at a time that boasts the importance of tradition and things staying the same. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made the right choice in abandoning the privileges of First World life for to chase a dream that was providing more stress than that expected euphoric “I just mastered a this really cool trick” feeling. 

 

Then my friend Darrell Kinsel sent me this link to an NPR interview he was featured in and it hit me like a fatal coconut falling from the top of a tree: things are unbelievably difficult for our generation EVERY WHERE IN THE WORLD. Every one is making or has made incredible sacrifices just to nudge their careers forward, because that is what we have to do right now. Although we were promised this was going to be easy, and social media lets us portray our lives as flawless, beautiful and inspiring, there are an incredible amount of tears, self doubt, and drunken binges behind every story. Each person interviewed reminded the audience that our generation was handed an incredibly difficult hand and that things are going to take a lot longer to accomplish, but they can be accomplished. The shear optimism in every response was enough to get me to take a look around and realize that things are the way they are right now because they have to be, its an incredibly frustrating step on my path to go wherever I am supposed to be going. 

For me, I thought moving to Haiti would be easy since I have such strong family support and I’m was familiar with the country. I never dreamed that I would feel the void of the incredible friends that I left behind or come to expect the statement, we don’t have gas, desk planners, etc. because there’s a hold up somewhere in the supply chain. Though these things were unexpected, I know that I need the work experience and very few other places can offer it while I live with my grandmother and my uncle. This sacrifice is what I needed to do and it will pay off. In many ways, it already has. What have you sacrificed this past year so you can move your dream forward?