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.

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1GEmI8E
Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/1GEmI8E

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.

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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.”
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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?

Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1DEAMtH
Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1DEAMtH

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.

Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/14xegGG
Photo Credit: http://bit.ly/14xegGG

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.

Why I Started this Blog

Going into 2015, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks thinking about what The Millennial Takeover has accomplished so far and where I’d like for it to go. Before I could even start to plan, I had to revisit why I started the blog in the first place.  It all started in the summer of 2011.

 

I had just wrapped up two summer classes, moved out of an apartment, into a new one and packed to go to Santiago,  Chile in the span of two weeks. For the first couple of weeks in Chile, I adjusted to life in the valley of the Andes as an Embassy intern. While I literally couldn’t stop grinning from the high of accomplishing a dream, that summer was filled with critics of millennials.

 

Granted there were several destructive protests, that summer had me feeling inspired by all that my young colleagues were accomplishing, especially Camila Vallejo the leader of the Chile protests asking for the government to redesign their management of the educational system. Every night the pierced nose, curly brunette made an appearance on the Chilean news eloquently leading the discussion.
Camila Vallejo Photo Credit :http://bit.ly/1BdO1jp
Camila Vallejo
Photo Credit :http://bit.ly/1BdO1jp
Sitting on the TV room couch, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the thousands upon thousands of millennials in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, England, Chile, and the United States, calling for a more equal world and were doing whatever they could to bring about that change. I wanted to know their stories, I wanted to know how they went from an ordinary 20-something to  toppling governments. But, those stories rarely made an appearance.

 

Upon my return to grad school in the fall of 2011, I had to set those thoughts aside to make it through my last year. But no sooner than I packed away my graduation garb, the drive to build a place to celebrate the millennials who are changing the world refused to be ignored. As they say, the rest is history.
Pucon 2011
Pucon 2011
In the new year, I hope to grow the blog so join the email list by signing up to the left, following us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

“Get Local” Your Newest Travel Buddy in Central Florida

Photo Credit: Get Local
Photo Credit: Get Local

Nothing compares to visiting a new place like a local. The killer food, the friendly conversation, and the opportunity to peek into the lives of others is something that tourists the world over are demanding. Living in an area dominated by Disney, Universal, and the others, to a one time visitor might seem that’s all there is to Central Florida. But like with any tourist destination, there is a local population that loves to live beyond the football field parking lots and nightly firework shows. But jumping into a city to get the local experience can be overwhelming and most definitely terrifying. Trey Dyer and Mike Black have solved that issue by starting Get Local.

High school friends and Central Florida natives, Trey and Mike grew up fishing, wakeboarding, surfing and taking advantage of the thousands of outdoor activities the region has to offer. After dating a pair of cousins, the two grew to become very close friends. When Mike (a University of Florida alum) decided to fulfill his dream of backpacking across Asia by leaving his accounting gig, Trey (an American University alum) was supportive and joined him in Vietnam. In Vietnam, the Florida boys went beyond the tourist stops on the map and traveled with a local guide named Ju Hai. They were so moved by this experience that immediately they started to think about how they could replicate this experience and become the Sherpas of Central Florida.

Since Mike’s return in May of this year, Trey and Mike have been hard at work launching Get Local. Using their personal experiences and recommendations from trusted friends, Mike and Trey have partnered with local businesses. Through these partnerships, they offer packages online and help drive traffic to these local spots. Ranging from paddle boarding and airboat rides to guided tours and art galleries, the duo are capturing what really sets Central Florida life apart from anywhere else.

Mike Black in China
Mike Black in China

While the serious upside to starting a boutique travel business is curating the experiences, the greatest challenge the duo faces is the aspect of self-promotion. As both members are working from home, the lakes they live on can be incredible sources of inspiration as well as distraction. “We’re just staring at this body of water that begs to be fished, or paddle boarded on, or wakeboarded on, all day. Right now, we’re just paying our dues to set the right foundation for the business,” said Trey.

Trey Dyer
Trey Dyer

Their approach to building the business is truly millennial. With a strong social media presence inspired by their travels abroad, Trey and Mike are living their dreams. But, what do they think is the greatest drawback for our generation? Trey believes that “our biggest drawback is how connected we are to the superficial things in life. It keeps us from really connecting to the world around us.” According to Mike, “We have a hard time focusing. It’s too hard to focus on one thing at a time because there are so many things to do and we are constantly entertained. But that is also something great, because it is pushing us to be better and greater.”

On the flip side, what excites these two about being members of the Millennial Generation? In Trey’s opinion, “We are already the ones trying to fix what our future problems are going to be. We aren’t waiting around for them to kind of take over.” For Mike, “our generation’s greatest attribute is that we are rebellious, not accepting of typical career paths, and that is allowing us to see a lot more of the world. We aren’t about please me, cater to me. We are more about show me who you are, be authentic, be real. It’s a healthier way to live and will serve us well in the future.”

Until the day Get Local is nationwide, those in Central Florida can access their services by going here. In the comments below, we’d like to hear about your favorite Central Florida experience or a time travel has inspired you to do something different.

Trey and Family to the Left  Mike and Family to the Right
Trey and Family to the Left
Mike and Family to the Right

All photos courtesy of Get Local

Environmentally Conscious and Loving IT!

Clayton Louis Ferrera leading a session at the Hive.
Clayton Louis Ferrera leading a session at the Hive.

If you have never been to Florida, one thing that might surprise you is the abundance of wildlife. It is not uncommon for residents to come across alligators, squirrels, or the occasional bear. While for most this can induce cartoon-like freak outs, for Clayton Louis Ferrara it is just a part of nature’s beauty and fuel for his work to educate the community about our most precious gift, the environment.

Ferrera spent most of his young life volunteering at research facilities in Stuart, Florida like the Marine Life Center of Juno Beach under Larry Wood and the Florida Oceanographic Society where the young naturalist was able to establish his scientific foundation. From that foundation, Ferrera deepened his knowledge with dual degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies at Rollins College. Upon graduation, Ferrera had planned to pursue a Master’s in Science Writing at MIT. While volunteering at the Oakland Nature Preserve the summer before he was to start at MIT in 2009, Ferrera’s efforts to fund a Head Curator and Director of Education position came through.

After two years of leading the nature preserve, a group of students from UCF presented at the Florida Wildlife Federation’s Board meeting that was being hosted there. Since then, Clayton Louis Ferrera has been actively involved with IDEAS for Us, a UN accredited NGO that educates and empowers people to advance sustainability through action. Starting as the National Science Director, he then became the South Eastern Regional Director and ultimately took on the role of Executive Director on January 1st of 2014. His passion for IDEAS has allowed the organization to gain momentum in truly empowering citizens for sustainability.

Using a chapter model, the all volunteer staff has been able to grow IDEAS beyond the borders of Central Florida with members all over the world. Ferrera’s passion for IDEAS is contagious and the natural teacher has inspired students of all ages to reconnect with nature.

Map of IDEAS Chapters and Partners.
Map of IDEAS Chapters and Partners

Although Ferrera has many accomplishments of which he could place his walking stick, like being the first American to be named a Darwin Scholar by the Field Studies Council of London, Ferrera is quick to recognize those who have supported him along the way. From his parents to his teachers and peers, Ferrera believes that every person has the capacity to accomplish something incredible, they just need the support to recognize what is within them. “If we are able to do that, we could end poverty, we could improve our environment, and we could live happier lives.”

To capture the whole of Ferrera’s insights couldn’t possibly be contained in this space so if you would like to learn more about IDEAS for Us, like them on Facebook to stay up to date.

U.S. Police Officers Have a Bit of a PR problem

Central Square die in: Courtesy of Tim Pierce http://bit.ly/1wKsHDz
Central Square die in: Courtesy of Tim Pierce http://bit.ly/1wKsHDz
About a year ago, I wrote about how racism is still a relevant issue in recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Never in a million years did I think that within the year, that there would be consistent protesting in places like New York and Missouri with a march scheduled next week in Washington D.C. that revives memories of the 1960’s.
In some ways, one could believe that these protests are completely spontaneous, that these protesters don’t have anything better to do but take to the streets. Protests and social movements don’t just happen, there is always a history of frustration and then, a motivating tipping point. In this case, Eric Garner’s grand jury ruling was that tipping point. While the debates have focused on institutional racism and the corrupt legal system, I firmly believe that what’s being addressed here is not an effort to right past wrongs, but a need to see each other as human beings instead of the agenda we seem to represent.
For example, I’m afraid of police officers. I know it’s silly, but on the rare occasions I’ve had to interact with one in the States, my hands get all sweaty, I can’t look them in the eye and I am just waiting for things to get out of control. When I first arrived in Haiti, I had similar feelings, but they usually inspired a panic mode reaction. Influenced by the horror stories of police officers conducting check points that led to kidnappings, I often avoided police officers at all costs. But, I eventually had to go through a checkpoint and when I did I contemplated the following actions:
        1) Speed past them before they knew what happened.
        2) Let the car roll slowly, jump out of it and run to the                       nearest house.
       3) Cry and pray that they’d leave me alone.
       4) Just go with the flow and see where things would go.
As the first three would only make a potentially non-threatening situation worse, I opted for #4. After the cop checked my papers, he smiled and I was on my merry way, still in my car, still with my wallet, and in my opinion, safe. Over time, I gained respect and didn’t fear the police officers but saw them as people doing their job to keep Haiti’s streets safe. Not to say that are always successful, but little by little they are changing their reputation.
Returning home, that fear has returned. With the ominous blue lights, the incredible variety of weaponry that police officers have on at all times, and the overall aggression associated with law enforcement. It just makes me wonder, how is it that one of the most dangerous islands has been able to build an approachable police force, and the “land of the free” now has a system of terror? These are just my observations, but what do you think? Is our system justified or are our police officers addressing a threat that’s not there?

Embracing the Squiggly by Making Truffles

In anticipation of Small Business Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet Jenny of J&G Chocolate and Tea. A self-taught chocolatier, she used Youtube and Pinterest to learn the delicate art of making chocolate. While working in a traditional job, Jenny learned that she was actually pretty good at making tiny moments of delight with her creations. One thing led to another and then she was able to leave her job to start building the business with her sister Gina.

Jenny and Gina
Pictured: Jenny (left) and Gina (right).

Having launched J&G at the beginning of the year, the startup chocolate shop has seen success pretty early on. With an ultimate goal of being a chocolate and tea cafe, the sisters have grown their reach by selling online and at farmer’s markets throughout the Central Florida area with new locations to be announced.

While many may pick up chocolate making as a hobby, Jenny’s commitment to building a business took timing and “growing a pair.” Not a natural risk taker, Jenny was encouraged to take the leap by her supportive husband and sister. With their backing starting a chocolate and tea company seemed completely doable.

Photo Credit: J&G Chocolate and Tea
Photo Credit: J&G Chocolate and Tea

At first, Jenny didn’t completely realize what kind of risk she was taking by leaving her stable job to start a chocolate company. That is, until people started to say, “Wow, you are so brave” and other things that made her take a second and question the path she had already taken. For example, challenges with figuring out the permitting rules, red tape with licensing, and the very steep costs when it comes to shipping chocolate. These constraints led the sisters to start doubting what they had already accomplished and the research they had done.

But then Jenny had a moment of clarity, “until you know what you are going to do, you can’t do the research.” It took making the mistakes to learn how to ask the right questions so she could get the right answers and get the business to where it is today.

Photo: Jenny at a Fall Pop Up Shop
Photo: Jenny at a Fall Pop Up Shop

In addition to being in a constant game of trail and error, Jenny noticed how at times she felt like the odd duck in her circle of friends. To have a work schedule where she may not get started until 10am but was working until midnight in the kitchen, sometimes did not come across to anyone else as work. That simple difference in schedule can be hard for others to understand. However, for Jenny, having that flexibility is one of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur.

Another challenge that almost every female business owner has dealt with is the self imposed need for perfection. In Jenny’s case, she learned to overcome getting bogged down with the details through the valuable experience of planning her wedding. “As the planner you can get all wrapped up in the teeny tiny details, but no one else will know but you if it is missing. Now with J&G, time is what influences how things will get prioritized and accepting that has allowed me to keep getting our product out there and refining it as we go along” and it might come out even better than planned.

When asked about the greatest piece of advice she would give to anyone who would want to start something like J&G,”research and testing are the most important things for anyone developing a product, especially a food product. Get the feedback of your family, your friends, everyone you know so can be confident in your product.”

Photo Credit: Candace Dyer at http://bit.ly/12cYvU0
Photo Credit: Candace Dyer at http://bit.ly/12cYvU0

Now I had the chance to eat one of J&G’s Caramel Pretzel and Bacon Apples and I can honestly say it was one of the best things I ever ate. But don’t just take my word for it, check out Candace Dyer’s review on her dessert blog Dessert Geek. And if you are interested in purchasing any of their chocolates or teas go to their online shop here or visit them at these locations.

Healing the Community through Holistic Counseling

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Changing the world often comes in the form of improving foreign policy and informing how the United States interacts with other countries. As rewarding as that field can be, the results of that work could take years or even lifetimes to be seen. Navigating the governments, trade deals, and other institutions can hold up a project for years, so patience and trust in that process is crucial. But what if you doubt that process or want to directly help people?

Zac Dodson Meet Zac Dodson, serial entrepreneur and owner of HD Counseling, an Orlando based holistic mental health service provider. Zac initially went to graduate school in Geneva, Switzerland, the heart of international policy making, and within his first semester felt that he needed to make a switch. So, he went to the Counseling department and just asked if he could transfer into their school. Since it had never been done before, he met little resistance and within the year was studied his way to becoming a licensed mental health counselor.

Upon graduation, he set up his own practice and moved to Orlando, FL. Within months he learned that most of his patients were coming to him with “co-morbid” issues or environmental factors that kept them from living their happiest life. So, Zac began a holistic practice that brought in healers of all kinds to an affordable workspace and require that they are active in the community. What first started out as a 4 person practice flourished into a team of 18 practitioners in just 3 years. With offerings beyond counseling, such as meditation, acupuncture and art therapy workshops, HD Counseling provides less intimidating experiences to better one’s mental health.

HD Counseling Team
Inspired by his work with clients who live with PTSD, Zac noticed that workers who burnout are dealing with this trauma that goes on to turn these professionals towards private sector work and ultimately harming the whole non-profit sector. Now that HD Counseling has reached a level of stability, Zac has found his way into addressing this millennial issue: burnout. Most common in non-profit workers, Benefact is Zac’s next project in helping others. Non-profit managers tools and workshops to help their employees avoid burnout to remain engaged in the often grueling industry.

Zac’s work is impacting an aspect of our society that often is overlooked or stigmatized, as evidenced by the shooting this week at Florida State University. By going out into the community and offering workshops, seminars, and other services, HD Counseling is creating safer places for people to get help.

If you want to learn more about the incredible work that HD Counseling does click here or post in the comments below if you have any questions.