Category Archives: Meet a Leader

A Look Back: JD Casto and what Pulse meant to him.

Flag and Sky

It has been a little over a month since my hometown community was faced with the country’s worst mass shooting, words I would never attribute to the city in the shadow of the Mouse. Below is the story of a dear friend of mine who pushed himself to exhaustion to be there for the Orlando community. 

While the world came together to mourn the tragedy of the Pulse nightclub shooting, Orlando resident, J.D. Casto opened his heart and home to anyone who needed a safe space. Originally from Ohio, J.D. attended Rollins College and since graduation has been building his career as a photographer, videographer, and community organizer. Having chosen Orlando as his home, the events of June 12 hit particularly close to home.

Gay Chorus and Anderson
J.D. Casto is here on the left.

Even though he did not lose any close friends that night, the attack was personal. Pulse to J.D. is “a safe place to have fun and not be judged” and was a welcoming place for all kinds of people. In fact, his first time to the nightclub was with a group of straight male friends later in his college years.


The last time he went to Pulse, he was invited by his straight guy friends to go out on a Tuesday. With excellent drink deals, the guys just wanted to enjoy a chill environment. J.D. remembers that the crowd was truly representative of the diverse community in Orlando.


As the dust settles and life slowly returns to normal, J.D. was quick to point out that while we may focus on the gun control debate now, there is a larger issue at play. “We need to reform our education system. Without that, our communities will continue to only see differences and continue to be divided.”

The images above were made possible by J.D. Casto Photography and you can find his work on Facebook and Flickr.

Helping Minority Women Bridge the Gap


We covered everything from professional disadvantages that women of color experience, family, the informal education that colleges and universities provide, and how she is evening out the playing field to give exceptional women of color a fighting chance.

It all started for Courtney when she was a scholarshiped campus leader as an undergraduate student at the University of San Francisco. During her years there, she continued working at a law firm to cover her education costs. Inspired by the events during Katrina, Courtney wanted to have a direct positive impact instead of operating behind the scenes.

Therefore, Courtney went to straight to Fordham and obtained a Masters in Urban Studies. While she was there, Courtney researched urban minority women’s ability to integrate into society. With the pervasive nature of violence against women, Courtney’s research illuminated that urban minority women lacked robust networks. Instead young minority women were being hidden away at home in an effort to protect them from the variety of dangers in their community. This layer of protection was in turn harming these women’s abilities to get out of those communities as they lacked the social capital.

I met Courtney for the first time in October and we brought together women who we thought were inspiring.
I met Courtney for the first time in October and we brought together women who we thought were inspiring.

However, upon graduation, Courtney was offered an incredible opportunity in New York and began her “adult” life. But, as is the case with all transitions, it was a significant challenge. Faced with this new environment, Courtney quickly discovered that she needed the guidance that many of her peers received. Seeking this resource, Courtney couldn’t find the kind of organization she needed. So, in true driven millennial form, Courtney started her own non-profit the Color MeB. “I remember there was a lot of snow that year in New York, I had lost my job and I was really down from all of these challenges. But, I really wanted to provide direct value and promote successful women.”

From that day forward, Courtney has been growing CMB to offer trainings, webinars, networking opportunities and an insightful blog created for minority women. When asked what has been her greatest success, “Getting an article published with Bustle and being asked to speak as an alumna graduation speaker were the external validation that we were going in the right direction with CMB.”

On the greatest lesson? “Take your time. There’s always this pressure to have the grades, experience, you had to rush. There isn’t a huge rush, take the time so you can figure our what you want to do.”

To check out Courtney’s work with TheColorMeB check out her site here and check  out her Instagram @thecolomeb or Twitter @thecolormeb.

It Takes Being Lean to Play Lean

“We’ve only just tapped into the beginning of the potential.” – Tore Rasmussen on teaching Lean Startup.
Test playing in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Photo Credit: Playing Lean
Test playing in Rotterdam, Netherlands with Co-Founders Tore and Simen.
Photo Credit: Playing Lean

Taking an idea and turning it into a business is risky and the likelihood that you will be successful by copying and pasting someone else’s business model will only seal your fate as another failed startup.But how can an innovative millennial founder-to-be get over this potentially idea killing situation?

Meet the masterminds behind the incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign for Playing Lean, the board game, Simen Fure Jørgensen and Tore Rasmussen. Based on the Lean Startup Method, Simen and Tore built a teaching tool that simulates the process of rapidly building a successful business. Made famous by Eric Ries in 2011 by his book, The Lean Startup, the Lean Startup Method is centered on building the simplest prototype, testing it and gaining customer feedback, and then applying those lessons to improve the product. Today, the framework is deemed an essential piece to building a successful startup.

How I found them

I discovered Playing Lean by participating in the Lean Startup Academy’s Meetup, “Playing Lean.” At the time, I had heard of Lean and understood the basic principles, of “build, measure, learn” but, wanted to learn more. As luck would have it, I was able to join a testing group for a board game, Playing Lean. After 2 to 3 hours of maneuvering the prototype and relentlessly trying to push the boundaries of the game, I gained a greater appreciation and understanding of the importance of Lean.

Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

This experience was not unique. For the past 18 months, Tore and Simen have been traveling throughout the U.S. and Europe testing low level prototypes. Organizing a variety of groups tests of the game and carefully documenting the interactions with the product led the duo to gaining 500% more than their goal on Kickstarter within a year and a half of the first prototype.

How They Started

But how did these two meet and create a game as well as an educational tool? Simen worked as an IT consultant and often had to teach the Lean Startup Method to groups within these larger groups. Simen searched for tools and teaching aides to help his clients grasp the concept beyond just reading the book. One night, while playing board games at home the idea came to Simen to create a board game version of the Lean Startup Method. Within months he had created tons of prototypes and gained some feedback, but it wasn’t until an inquisitive grad student, Tore, was able to join Simen did the team begin to assemble.

Bringing his programming expertise, Tore was able to help Simen address the technical aspects of the game. They wanted to build a game that would take 90 minutes to play while still allowing players the ability to firmly understand Lean.

More test play. Photo Credit: Playing Lean
Using Lean to build the game, get customer feedback often.
Photo Credit: Playing Lean

Lean Challenges

Through their first iteration they faced many challenges. First, they failed to raise capital through their first Kickstarter campaign. Second, they struggled to get the scenarios just right. To properly address it, they had to be willing to toss out good work, 200+ of it, all in the hope of building the right product. But through each challenge, Tore and Simen continued the process to build, test, learn.

By taking the game out into the U.S. and European markets to their ideal consumer, not only were they able to build a better game but they were also able to build a massive following. That following, paired with new team members and the guidance of Lean Startup evangelist, Ash Maurya, Playing Lean was fully funded in 10 hours and is now available here.

Lean Successes

Ash Maurya, Lean Celebrity Advocate Photo Credit: Playing Lean
Ash Maurya, Lean Celebrity Advocate
Photo Credit: Playing Lean

Although laden with challenges, Tore points to seeing people playing the game and have moments where they clearly see how their last project went astray. “It’s not like reading a book. You have the euphoria from winning and the pain of losing,” says the millennial co-founder. Seeing those moments, Tore hopes that Playing Lean will save entrepreneurs tons of money and time in their business’s future.

Lean Advice

Looking back, Tore’s greatest piece of advice is:
Really challenge yourself. For example, if in the testing stage ask if what you are doing is the absolute MVP (Minimally Viable Product) or is there a way you can make it cheaper and faster to get that learning.
For more information on Lean Startup visit Eric Ries or Ash Maurya or buy the game from Playing Lean here.

Closing the Deal by Disrupting the Sales Community

“Take action! A small step is better than no step at all and you learn so much along the way. Take those steps.” – Ian Adams, Senator Club
Photo courtesy of Ian Adams
Photo courtesy of Ian Adams

Open up your newsfeed and you literally can’t escape the overnight success stories of today’s startup world. It seems like every enterprising millennial is solving a problem and in turn, making a six to seven figure payout. But, with our rapidly shifting economy those of us who aren’t giving up stability to pursue an idea, can be left in a vulnerable position. In a time where one is lucky to find a job, especially with benefits, figuring out how to stay two steps ahead to be ready for the next job isn’t a hobby; it’s a survival strategy.

Laying the Groundwork

No one has figured that out quite like Ian Adams, the founder of the Senator Club. Senator Club is a social club for junior sales professionals who want to get ahead. Inspired by the popular corporate sales incentive of President’s Clubs, Ian created a way to help junior sales people get the tools they need to meet or exceed their sales goals. Starting out as an informal meetup group, the Senator Club now caters to over 400 members. With networking opportunities and expert speakers, Senator Club has helped members find new jobs, develop new skills and simply get ahead. Focusing on the needs of this demographic has allowed Senator Club to develop a following beyond who goes to their events. A growing Twitter presence as well as being featured on Inc.


Taking the Leap

Quickly, Ian realized that the heroic tales of overnight startup success couldn’t be further from the reality. For a year and a half, Ian watched his first two ventures fail and learned a wealth knowledge from it. The most important lesson for Ian was the importance of work/life balance. Ian had left finance to get away from the 60+ hour work week and working as a startup founder did not meet that goal.

Following the end of his second startup venture, Ian decided to look for work at an established company in sales. With his experience in the startup world and finance, Ian believed that his transition would be a smooth one. However, in the span of 3 months, Ian went to 27 interviews and received one job offer. Those odds left Ian shocked and decisive that he would not let himself land in that position again. Like many millennials, he found tight competition at every turn and tried to make a diverse work history fit a narrow job description.

Steli Efti for the Senator Club.
Steli Efti for the Senator Club.

Reeling from the  arduous job hunt, Ian realized he probably was not the only career changer to go through that experience. By establishing the Senator Club in July 2013, Ian has been able to build a growing and supportive community that has helped younger professionals strengthen their ties, close deals, and play a crucial part in their career development.

But, building a community of sales professionals is filled with its own set of challenges. First, and by far the most challenging,  is identifying a specific vision. At the beginning, clearly defining what resonates with his audience and creating value based upon those findings required a lot of testing and trying what worked best. Once Ian found that vision, conveying a relevant message that would have value 5, 10, 15 years from now became his second most pressing issue. Once, messaging and vision became clearer, Ian has been faced with managing business operations. These challenges allowed Ian to learn his greatest nugget of knowledge,”there is always more to learn, there’s never a point where you stop learning.”

Hiro Rodriguez at Senator Club
Hiro Rodriguez at Senator Club

While frustration may mount as Ian navigates the issues of early business implementation, his greatest success has been witnessing the genuine relationships that develop within the group. This was never more evident for Ian than when he was laid off from his first sales job. At the time Senator Club was just gaining traction. Let go from his job just days before the next Senator Club meeting, Ian shared with the group that he was back on the job market.  Within days a member of the club connected Ian with contact that lead Ian to find his current job. Witnessing the value Senator Club has provided to Ian and other sales professionals to the Bay area has made the journey all worth it.

From investment banker to founder to sales professional, Ian Adams has gained a wealth of knowledge and insight through his various experiences. His goal setting advice:

Really be clear in your big goal in what you want to accomplish, people fail get too into the details and not the big picture. When you keep an eye on the big picture the pieces will come together.

If you would like to connect with the Senator Club, you can check them out on Twitter, their website, and Youtube.

How Improv Comedy Is Changing Lives

Be Present. – Coonoor Behal

Photo courtesy: Coonoor Behal
Photo courtesy: Coonoor Behal

Some of the most iconic comedians to the millennial generation (i.e. Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and Joan Rivers) have built incredible careers on their early careers in improv. While it’s most common use is to entertain in shows, like Saturday Night Live, one millennial has harnessed the power of improv to help her clients gain a more collaborative perspective on their work life. Improv comedy is centered on the ability to communicate and innovate with others. By learning how to accept the creativity in others and use it to build a story, improv comedy can often adjust the way we see working with others.  But how can improv principles be used build better organizations, better communities?

Mindhatch in action
Mindhatch in action

Meet Coonoor Behal, the millennial mastermind behind Mindhatch, an organizational and customer insights firm that is guided by the principles of improv.

Offering services in design thinking, innovation facilitation and organizational improv, Mindhatch is impacting the way team members collaborate with each other. She does this by walking groups through a variety of games and then moderates a debrief with the group. No session is ever the same as she tailors her workshops to the needs of each client.

Coonoor at Work. Courtesy of Mindhatch.
Coonoor at Work. Courtesy of Daian Glover Photography.

For Coonoor what inspires her most is seeing her clients’ moments of clarity, where she can see them actually shifting in their perspective. The most noteworthy moments have taken place during the games, “Yes, And…” and “Solution Circle.” Although each game has a unique approach, both games are used to teach  what happens when we justify other’s ideas. “Spoiler alert, everyone immediately recognizes that more ideas and more fun happen when we say ‘Yes!” Learning how to engage and support, even the craziest of ideas has allowed participants to experience a collaborative and innovative culture. That type of culture, often attributed to hip tech companies not non profits or traditional companies, can be applied to any work environment. As Coonoor demonstrates, it is simply a change in mindset.

The Prologue

But, Coonoor wasn’t always crafting improv inspired ways to foster collaboration. In fact, Coonoor started her professional path by searching for a way to impact the world. By obtaining a Master’s in International Affairs, Coonoor then chased her dream of creating change in the world with her first job at a non-profit. Stifled by the inflexibility that often comes with grant funded work, Coonoor left the non-profit world to work as a consultant with Deloitte Consulting.  Through a variety of projects, Coonoor grew within Deloitte and perfected her abilities in a variety of ways, specifically design thinking. Her most significant experience came Coonoor landed an opportunity to work with the Deloitte Global Innovation team. With Deloitte Global Innovation, she helped clients find the connections between business and creativity.

At the same time, Coonoor began taking improv lessons in her spare time. She quickly discovered her talent and passion for improvisational comedy. Inspired by improv and finding a market demand from her work at Deloitte, Coonoor began to feel like she was ready to start her own business. By “focusing on merging business and creativity through design thinking, organizational improv and facilitation” Coonoor was ready to launch Mindhatch.

Photo Courtesy of Mindhatch
Photo Courtesy of Red Turtle Photography.

With Mindhatch, Coonoor has built a diverse clientele list and creates unique tools for each one to help her clients address their most pressing needs through experiential learning. For example, one of her clients wanted to master the art of going “off script” at donor meetings. Using the principles of improv, together they were able to build up that’s client confidence in that skill as well as engaging in more informal conversations with donors. Another wanted to set the right foundation for her new team. Desiring a creative and innovative team dynamic, Coonoor designed a workshop that helped them set that tone. Through Coonoor’s work, her clients have been able to sharpen their abilities in connecting and working with other people .

Looking back, Coonoor’s winding journey had many stepping stones leading her to start Mindhatch. Like many millennials, she is driven by the need for impactful work that allows her to be challenged and creative. By starting her own business, Coonoor has been able to meet her professional needs and in turn , is creating value for communities actively looking to change things up.

If you want to connect to Coonoor and her team at Mindhatch, you can follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her website here.

How to Break into the Media Biz, Nicely.

I remember being in front of the camera one day saying to myself “I’m a smart guy, I think I can learn how to do all of this.” So I did. – Carson Nicely


Photo Courtesy of Carson Nicely. Behind the camera.
Photo Courtesy of Carson Nicely.

I first met millennial entrepreneur, Carson Nicely, when he was studying Psychology at Rollins.  Born in Michigan, but came of age in Knoxville, Tennessee, Carson Nicely has been developing his career in the media world since before he graduated. Since I last saw him, Carson has lived in New York, Miami, Dallas, Nashville until he finally starting Nicely Made Media, a content media company  in Los Angeles.

How did you get into modeling/acting/photography?

In college, I was on the varsity swim team for Rollins. During a practice, one of my teammates told me there were Abercrombie & Fitch recruiters wanting to talk to me. I thought they were joking, so I dove into the pool to start swimming. It wasn’t until a few laps later when I looked over and saw a man and a woman in their late 20s wearing all A&F that I believed them. I ended up getting out of the pool and talking to them, which led to me being in 3 campaigns for Abercrombie over the next 3 years. After college when I lived in Nashville, I found an interest in acting where I would eventually be cast for over 20 music videos – mostly country. It was when I moved to Dallas that I started working behind the camera as a photographer. I remember being in front of the camera one day saying to myself “I’m a smart guy, I think I can learn how to do all of this.” So I did. I took it upon myself to study every resource I could whether it was an online YouTube video or meeting with professionals in the region to discuss their work flow.

What has been the greatest challenge in starting Nicely Made?

Courtesy of Carson Nicely.
Courtesy of Carson Nicely.

The hardest part of starting Nicely Made Media has been finding clients that trust my abilities. Even though I have credible work and examples to show them, I haven’t had the long running track record or any famous names to put behind my brand, yet. It’s getting easier the more established I am, but it will always be an uphill battle.

What has been the greatest success?

The greatest success for Nicely Made Media has been working with small business owners to create their online web content that they never would have been able to do before. In the past – they never would have never been able to create a quality video for their website or yelp web page. I’m happy to say we offer an affordable option that can fit all of their needs into a package that can also fit in their wallet.

Photo Courtesy of Carson Nicely.
Photo Courtesy of Carson Nicely.

What is the greatest concern you have for the Millennial Generation?

One of the largest concerns I have for the millennial generation is we are unlikely to have a better standard of living than our parents. With high levels of unemployment coupled with crippling financial costs for schooling, it leaves the millennial generation at a loss, even when working as hard as possible. The millennial generation thrives on change and innovative technology, but resents the baby boomer generation for their lack of interest or dedication to understanding this. This leaves a gap in the work force between newly recruited employees (millennial generation) and their bosses (baby boomers) which can hurt the bottom line of a company. Millennials believe success and upward mobility should be based upon knowledge and not seniority or time.

What is your greatest hope for the Millennial Generation?

With this being said – I believe the millennial generation has a lot going for it. They truly understand that a single voice can determine change, as can be seen throughout the social media outlets of today. With regards to business, they are not afraid to try out new ventures on their own despite the large risks of doing so. With this type of risk come many failures, but from these failures, new ideas are created and refined to a point where amazing products, services, and companies have emerged. A millennial may not have the same position in a company for more than 2 years, but they are interested in gaining upward mobility as quickly as possible. They would like to see their boss more as a mentor or friend, instead of someone who pushes papers onto their desk and says “do it”. While the unemployment rate of millennials is quite high – they are the most optimistic of any generation.

Courtesy of Carson Nicely.
Courtesy of Carson Nicely.

What is your advice for anyone looking to start a company like yours?

My biggest piece of advice would be to gain insight from anyone you can. Talk to the professionals in the industry, set up meetings, work an internship…etc. Literally everyone will have some opinion on what you can do better or worse, and you should take all of it into account before setting out on your own to create something. You may not agree with everything they have to say, but you should be able to learn something from everyone you talk to whether it’s a peer from college or a CEO of a fortune 500 company.

To connect with Carson check out Nicely Made Media on Twitter @CarsonNicely, Instagram @CarsonNicely, and Facebook.


Saving the World One Massage at a Time

“I feel fortunate to be able to unite both of my passions into my dream job and my business.” – Felix Estevez
Photo Courtesy of Felix Estevez of FeelXtra
Photo Courtesy of Felix Estevez of FeelXtra

As a millennial, finding your professional path is an overwhelming experience filled with self doubt and cues from competitive parents. For many, that experience follows the basic formula of graduate high school, get into an excellent college, graduate again and get an excellent job so you can join the successful people table. While many of us try to pursue that plan, others know that true happiness comes by  following their gut to take a slightly different path.

Meet Felix Estevez, a Founding Partner and current Client Relations Manager at FeelXtra Mobile Spa, Orlando’s leading mobile massage therapy company. With a team of about 15 to 20 therapists and technicians, FeelXtra brings the power of massage to any location in the Orlando area. Established in 2011, Felix has grown the company from running it by his self and his girlfriend to firmly gaining a place in Orlando’s small business community.

As a young boy, Felix started selling candy in middle school as well as customized t-shirts. Learning how to hustle allowed him to learn the persistence needed when becoming an entrepreneur. Then, in high school, Felix discovered he had the power of healing when he used to ease his sister’s severe back pain with  massage.

After he graduated high school, he tried community college for a few semesters. He knew almost immediately that he wasn’t going to get what he really wanted from a regular community college.  Instead he left pursue a career as a therapist at the Florida College of Natural Health . Before he even graduated Felix had already had a good sized clientele list and a variety of offer from several companies.

Felix and his girlfriend. Photo courtesy of Felix Estevez.
Felix and his girlfriend. Photo courtesy of Felix Estevez.

While at first he enjoyed the stability, it was during his first time travel to Colombia in 2011 that he realized that he was missing something in his work at home, something many millennials can relate to. It was then that he realized that he was ready to launch his own business. With the economy in the tank, starting a mobile massage business was extremely tough. Luckily for Felix, his girlfriend believed in his business and the two established FeelXtra.

At first, Felix spent a year trying to get FeelXtra into the Orlando malls. But during that time, Felix started researching ways to overcome this setback through business building tips and becoming an industry expert. In his research he discovered that the greatest challenges faced by customers was getting to their appointments. It was then that Felix decided to switch his business model and go mobile. As FeelXtra refined their model, they landed their first big client: a conference hosted in Orlando where 20,000  participants could get massages, mani/pedis and facials. It was a significant challenge that proved to Felix and his team, that FeelXtra as on the right track.

Photo Courtesy of Felix Estevez.
Photo Courtesy of Felix Estevez.

Since then, Felix has graduated from Valencia and moved on to getting his business degree from University of Central Florida.  Finding value in all the resources available to student entrepreneurs, and is living proof of the Grant Cordone’s Ten X Rule: When opportunity meets hard work you have to be prepared when that opportunity comes up you are ready for it. That kind of commitment to hard work is a quality Felix sometimes struggles to find among his peers. He often worries that they have given up on pursuing their dreams. On the other hand, he notices that there is a community of Millennials who are rabidly pursuing their dreams and doing whatever they deem necessary to get where they want to go. Seeing his peers at UCF showcase their companies and accomplishments affirm to Felix that millennials are on track to becoming the next great generation.

To contact Felix and the FeelXtra team check them out on Facebook, Twitter and Instragam @feelxtra_ and join their community.

Enamoured with Millennial Fashion Designer, June Cruz

Enamour Denim Dress from the most recent collection.
Enamour Denim Dress from the most recent collection.

For most people, science and art are two career paths that should never intertwine. But, millennial fashion designer,  June Cruz it was her love of science that led her to her current business venture.

June always wanted to be a marine biologist. All through high school she spent her time learning all should could to become a researcher of the animals who exist just below the ocean’s surface. But her ever present creative side demanded her attention in college where she went on to also major in Fine Arts. Within her Fine Arts study, June dove into mixed media and learning how to bring textures and colors together to share a story. Never dreaming that her two passions would come together, it was through an internship at Baltimore Medical Center that allowed June to invest in her two passions; through producing anatomical drawings of the human body.

Now, while this may have been a dream come true, graduation was fast approaching and June had to choose: chase the dream or be practical and find a stable way to pay the bills? After her college years, June chose the practical path and started teaching Art.

Models Backstage Photo credit: Enamour Clothing
Models Backstage
Photo credit: Enamour Clothing

Although she loved her students, she often felt frustrated with the politics and felt that she just wasn’t at her best. It was only when she was designing clothes that she felt happiest and most confident. After a lot of deliberation, and some nudging from her now husband, June decided to get her design degree in a part time program.

Successfully balancing work and school, June was thrilled to receive several offers to work with larger design houses upon her graduation. Having always made the practical choice, she decided to finally go on her own and in October 2010, she started her own brand: Enamour. Since then, she has learned a whole host of lessons and refined her designs as well as her business savvy.

Her greatest lesson has been to enjoy and celebrate all of the little successes, “they are what keep you going.”  Recently, for June those successes came in the form of being featured in Style Week in Rhode Island, and having one of her creations at the Grammy’s. But June is quick to point to the importance of celebrating every success along the way.

The Grammy Dress from Enamour Clothing
The Grammy Dress
from Enamour Clothing

But with successes, come… growth opportunities. June’s first growth opportunity happened when she started getting orders for her first independent collection.  At the time, June didn’t know about how to go about buying her fabric in bulk. She was so excited about creating 12 perfect looks that when it came time to sell, four or five could not be replicated. Either the fabric was sold out or too expensive to scale. With her heart in her throat, she had to go back to those customers, explain what happened and deal with the consequences. Losing some customers and taking a couple hits to her reputation, June chose to learn from the experience. Now her designs are centered on the availability of fabrics to ensure she can deliver cost effective fashions, while building  credibility with her customers.

June and her daughter at a fitting.
June and her daughter at a fitting.

Looking past the cringe worthy experience, June takes pride in her successes. Her most significant has been starting a company in this economic climate. June now advocates that while starting a business isn’t easy, it’s completely doable. Knowing your market and connecting to your community are crucial for building your business. Making face time with her community a priority, June regularly volunteers for local organizations. Staying people centric has allowed June to focus on identifying who is her customer and finding those customers.

After going through this experience, June grows increasingly concerned about her fellow millennials. Will developing their passion projects on the side be enough, or will it negatively impact their desire to invest in their whole community? At a time when communities are defined by how many neighbors you can trust, June hopes that her daughter has a future where communities blossoming from the investments of it’s citizens, rather than decay from fear.

To learn more about the June and her brand Enamour, check out her site here and her Facebook here.

The Journey to Achieving Balance

Some might see graduating with a degree in English or Creative Writing as, well, extremely foolish, especially in our STEM focused society. But for Rochester based Liz Furl, to give up on writing would mean giving up on a critical part of her identity. Now, the Editor in Chief of her own magazine, Real Talk, and co-host of the rebranded Getting There podcast, Liz has crafted a life where she is chasing her dreams and keeping up with her career.
Liz Furl Photo Credit: Liz Furl
Liz Furl
Photo Credit: Liz Furl

Liz discovered her love of writing at the precocious age of 7. When she finished up her assignments before the rest of her classmates, her teacher asked her to write up a poem on happiness. She enthusiastically dove into the assignment, and then fell in love with writing. She went on to major in English and Creative Writing and upon graduation, hoped to continue developing her career as a writer.

But, the tough reality set in and Liz focused solely on finding a job and stopped nurturing her writing. When she found a good paying job as a customer service representative, Liz couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing, that she felt incomplete. So, she started to invest more in her writing. She pitched to a variety of publications, and soon was overwhelmed by writing commitments, performing at her job, and having time to spend with friends. One day, at her wit’s end, she had to face the reality that she couldn’t have all of that pressure to succeed at everything and still be happy. She started dialing back and evaluating what exactly she wanted at that moment. Frustrated by “click bait” pieces and “nostalgia porn,” Liz wanted to create pieces that people would find useful as opposed to something that would fill in their time.

Getting There Podcast
Getting There Podcast

That goal drove her to develop two projects: the Getting There Podcast (formerly Lady Bits) and Real Talk Magazine. Although both provide honest, real perspectives on the struggles that many of us are facing on a daily basis, Getting There is an uncensored collaboration with her friend Sarah Stewart. The weekly aired podcast started as a small project for the two friends, but through the power of social media, Liz was able to reach out to the executive producer of 5by5. Two and half months after they started the podcast, they were asked to join the network and have been hitting their stride ever since.

In addition to the successful podcast, Liz started her first magazine, Real Talk. With life inspired pieces from up and coming writers within the millennial generation, Liz is able to curate the honest writing she craved. Through developing both projects, Liz has found the creative outlet she needed as well as staking her claim in the millennial conversation.

And while Liz’s resume of accomplishments are impressive, they came about with their own fair share of challenges. For Liz, the greatest challenge came in the form of developing and adhering to a schedule. As most of her friends had structured and routine activities, Liz had only herself to get things done. Developing the discipline and the balance of paid work, passion project, and her relationships took a while of trial an error. Now, she sets aside her evenings for her new husband and to recharge for the next day, and leaves working on everything else for mornings and weekends.

Real Talk Magazine
Real Talk Magazine

Finding that balance was a tough process for Liz, and while she has finally found a way to make things work, she often worries about her peers. Having been told by parents and supporters their entire lives that they could do anything, millennials are often unprepared for what happens when life does not follow the plan. “The term the quarter life crisis has been created for our generation, because we are struggling with the disparity between our dreams and what it takes to reach that dream.” But as many millennials continue to develop “side hustles” and invest in passion projects, Liz hopes that millennials can find fulfillment in that way. Her advice for passion seeking millennials? “Just start it, and don’t be afraid to ask your idols for advice. They are your idols for a reason.”

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The Millennial with a Possible Dream

Volunteering. Its something that was weaved into our DNA from our very first bake sale fundraiser. With such an early practice of engaging and giving back to the community, millennials have earned their place among the most civically engaged generations.

While this usually leads to high political involvement, modern politics has turned into an awkward dance for most millennials. Not entirely pleased with available leadership options paired with an oppressive amount of misinformation, the data and facts driven millennials are often opting to tweet their views in lieu of casting their votes. And while we could point to a “tech addiction” among millennials, the big business of political campaigning creates a far less friendly climate for millennial involvement. Can it be fixed? If so, how?

Photo: Rio Tazewell
Photo: Rio Tazewell

For Rio Tazewell, regulating how political candidates can use donated funds will be the key to breaking down this barrier for all voters. As the Campaign Coordinator at People for the American Way, Rio has been building a movement to pass a constitutional amendment to regulate campaign spending.

But before his big move to Washington D.C., Rio started gaining public policy experience while in college. As a student he was involved in advocacy work to address climate change. Impressed by his dedication, a professor approached him upon graduation with the opportunity to help develop the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy (AIRE).

While working with AIRE, he realized that there were so many great resources, but the community needed a way to connect with each other. He then founded the Boone Community Network, a social media platform designed to help community members build relationships. After years of personal and financial investment, and significant growth with the organization, Rio began to look for the a way that he could impact the world beyond the Boone’s borders. Having visited the nation’s capital on multiple occasions, Rio decided to pack up and move to the nation’s capital. A couple of months of job hunting and he landed his current position with People for the American Way.

Tasked with getting a constitutional amendment passed, Rio and his team are planning a campaign to get two thirds of Congress on board. If you’ve been paying attention, getting Congress to do anything is already difficult, but to get a solid majority? And while the challenges are countless,  Rio looks to the smaller successes. For example, about 6 months ago, their sponsors in the Senate presented the resolution called Democracy for All and it passed with by 54 to 42 vote.  That success serves as an example that an amendment could be possible.

But while this career success for Rio keeps him moving forward, nothing disappoints him more than millennials who give up on their dreams. Understanding that our generation is faced with unprecedented challenges, he also fears that we will run away from change as opposed to embracing it. And while Rio has his concerns, he hopes that we continue to explore and engage in our communities. Already we have more socially conscious organizations and people, that continuing on that path can only lead to a better society.

While the movement is still in it’s beginning phases, you can get involved with Rio and his team by joining their movement or donating.