New Site!

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If you are landing here, thank you so much for checking out the Millennial Takeover! 2015 will be filled with new interviews and insights into the millennial generation. We have just moved the blog to it’s own domain at millennialtakeover.com where we can keep growing to become even better. If you have a specific question please reach out to us via Twitter or Facebook, @themtakeover or facebook.com/millennialtakeover.

Stay Awesome!

– Marissa

Environmentally Conscious and Loving IT!

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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

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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

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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.

Changing the World Shouldn’t Come Cheap

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Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

Image Credit: http://bit.ly/1GY4e0q

If there were no obstacles, how would you change the world? I, like many others, want to build a career on making the world a better place. Traditionally, building a career of service has meant working within the public and non-profit sector. In those types of jobs you are able to directly address the problems that companies simply aren’t interested in solving. Though admirable, with rising education and living costs, being a professional do-gooder has become an increasingly challenging career choice.

A few years ago, I had the chance to watch the TED talk above featuring Dan Pallotta. The fundraising genius introduced the world to multi-day human experiences that raised millions of dollars and propelled issues into the spotlight. Now a writer and advocate for the non-profit sector, Pallotta’s TED talk makes the case for why those choosing to pursue this career path shouldn’t be expected to earn and be valued significantly less than their private sector counterparts.

I raise this issue today in response to Kim Kardashian and Paper Magazine’s attempt to “break the internet.” While both entities are encouraged to push the envelope to gain attention, which turn into profits, non-profits are routinely capped by what society thinks they should be doing. Restraining non-profits in this way only stifles innovation in an era where this year’s technology is obsolete in a matter of years, not decades or even centuries. As described in Adam Davidson’s recent New York Times’ piece, for every successful tech startup there are many more that have failed. To investors, it is an accepted risk to starting a business. Why does it have to be any different for non-profits? Donations to a non-profit are just an older version of crowd funding. Why the uproar when one has an incredibly successful fundraising campaign? They did great work and should be rewarded, like a Facebook, Twitter, Uber, etc.

Do you think a non-profit CEO should earn a six figure salary? Personally, as long as the community that is being served is seeing the benefits, non-profit workers should be financially rewarded. They work just as hard, sometimes harder, and shouldn’t be worrying about their finances because they chose to help make the world a better place. What do you think?

Federal Employment and Why Millennials Want More From Their Work

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Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar from San Francisco Bay Area - California, USA

Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar from San Francisco Bay Area – California, USA

As the dust settles from the midterm elections, citizens far and wide return to their regularly scheduled programming. However, according to the Office of Personnel Management, for 4.312 million people these changes impact who are their coworkers and how their work is accomplished. Working for the red tape laden federal government, as one millennial working at the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has learned, can actually be the most rewarding job.

What is the FMC? Well. You know the screen you are looking at? It’s safe passage, like almost everything else we interact with daily, are regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission. Established in 1961 by President Kennedy, the commission handles tariffs, ports, and trade regulations to help businesses with the actual importation and exportation of their goods. But how does one get a job working with such an organization? Just ask my friend Jewel Jennings – Wright. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Jewel is currently a Counsel at the Commission, meaning she supports and advises a commissioner.

Jewel Jennings Wright

Prior to landing this dream of a job, Jewel received her B.A. in Political Science at Carnegie Mellon, then her Master’s and J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. With an ongoing interest in the strategic aspects of international security, Jewel first became interested in port security during her graduate studies in International Security and Intelligence. “We have ports leading to almost every major city, and almost anyone can ship anything” therefore creating a very murky security challenge. By interning for the Commission she was able to bring together her love for ports and law.

Upon graduation, however, a position was not available. Instead, she went to work with a private equity firm in Detroit. But, after about a year was able to return to D.C. to work with the Commission. “It’s rewarding, yet demanding work” as Jewel isn’t just pushing paper, but is actually making a difference.

Photo credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Photo credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Along the way Jewel has been able to learn some important life lessons. The primary among them being,

“Actually listen to your gut. If you are absolutely unhappy and upset where you are change your situation or make steps to change it that may mean changing jobs, it may mean moving (usually both), it may mean taking a leap of faith of some kind but actually try. If you feel it ‘in your bones’ that something is bad, it most likely is.”

When asked about millennials in the workforce,

“I think millennials often get a bad rep because people think that it’s a soft generation. We’ve seen the baby boomers and our parents work lives that didn’t necessarily lead to a good home life. There are a lot of people asking millennials to ignore that and do it anyway. For baby boomers, a hard days work sometimes was at a factory and it was actually hard. Now we’ve seen baby boomers come down with things like asbestosis, unions being busted, pensions going bust and our parents going through bubble after bubble. Are we supposed to do exactly the same thing?” 

Although early in her career, Jewel has found herself as one of the youngest counsels at the commission. With that experience she has identified the key issue that drives millennials. During our childhoods, we’ve witnessed the damaging side effects of our current systems and how our families have coped with them. Is it entitlement to demand for more from our professional lives, or simply a desire to avoid the terrifying challenges our families have had to weather? Post your thoughts in the comments below or tweet @themtakeover.

The Best Conference for Orlando Problem Solvers… EVER!

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Entrepreneurship. A buzzword that either inspires like a life changing lecture or spooks like a perfectly executed Halloween prank. But what does it really mean? Can it be experienced without risking it all? And what would happen if a variety of fields came together to innovate? In 2007 the brainchild of the Kauffman Foundation, Global Entrepreneurship Week, was announced as the world’s opportunity to celebrate the entrepreneur in every person so they could provide solutions to the world’s problems. At this time, 77 countries have officially joined the movement. For the first time, Orlando, FL will be joining with a collaborative week long un-conference and partnership events called: The BIG Exchange.

How It Started in Orlando

Co-organizers Shea Glenny and Ryan Mickley attended a conference together and walked away, well, yearning for a bit more substance. Discussing it at a local coffee shop, Shea and Ryan identified that they wanted to host their ideal conference. It’s mission would allow anyone to explore their entrepreneurial spirit while addressing some of the community’s most pressing problems. Encouraged by a neighboring customer, Ryan and Shea discovered they were on to something pretty big. Less than a year later, the duo have pulled in 4 other millennial visionaries from a variety of fields to pull off this year’s celebration of entrepreneurship. With a focus on the power of bringing the unique gifts of each participant, the ultimate goal will be to create a sort of cross-synergy that allows true innovation to occur.

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The Run Down

Once registered, participants will self identify as Makers, Artists, Thinkers, or Educators. Then at the kickoff, participants will form groups of 8-12 and creatively solve a problem during the week. In addition to problem solving, participants will have access to workshops held throughout the greater Orlando area and partnership events throughout the city. At the Friday Showcase, teams close out the week with a presentation of their solutions and be in the running for a $30,000 prize pack.

Why you NEED to be there

First, just to meet the organizers and the people they have brought together. Aside from the fact that the Vision Board has developed into a close knit group, every sponsor they approached loved the idea and have found a way to support them. Second, the format of the conference will allow participants to come out with as Christa Rensel, a Vision Team member, stated, “A healthy rolodex of some of the most amazing people in Orlando.” Third, being an entrepreneur is risky business. Participants can try it out in a safe environment while learning processes on how to build something from a tangible idea. As Shea has been known to say, “you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to use entrepreneurial principles.” And if nothing else, $30K of prizes are at stake here. That’s better than any costume contest.

What if you can’t be there?

The whole week is being recorded, live-streamed, and live-tweeted. Also, anyone can submit a pressing problem that they believe should be addressed by November 10th. Get ahead of the game by following @Big_Exchange on Twitter and liking Big Exchange on Facebook.

If, somehow, you aren’t convinced check out the video below or peruse their website.

A Life Changing Experience that Gave This Founder His Most Important Skills

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Mack Profile

Ask Mack Kolarich about his most significant memory of his time as a backcountry ranger in Washington state and you’ll hear the torment in his voice as he debates between two of them. The first, a hazy smoke filled sunset walk in the woods and the eerie howl of the not so distant wolves, the terrifying beauty of it being something he’ll never forget.  The second, was a trek to Horseshoe Basin where a couple thousand waterfalls, snowpacks and glaciers provided the most incredible connecting to nature experience.

Cascades Park Photo credit: Mack Kolarich

Cascades Park
Photo credit: Mack Kolarich

Embarking on 8-10 day long treks to maintain a national treasure, is something Mack’s dad always wanted to do. In true millennial fashion,  Mack took the hint to avoid living life with regret and spent a college summer putting out fires (literally) and underwent worldview shift that resulted in a stronger sense of self reliance. That self reliance has served the Political Economy major from Carleton College as he is now building his third startup company, Scenesquid a D.C. based company that handles posting event information on the behalf of its clients.

The founding organizer of DC Start Up Weekend, is by far one of the greatest advocates for young people striking out on their own and starting their own business. As we have seen how “the man” has become increasingly less reliable and less caring of their employees, starting your own business has become somewhat more reliable. In a world that is becoming more competitive as exceptional talent from other countries come online, having the control of your own destiny is becoming increasingly necessary.

scenesquid landing page

Although a stress inducing idea, Mack is optimistic about the outlook for millennials. “The number one edge millennials have is growing up in the digital world. It’s important for our generation to grab onto tech skills, know basic coding. We need to have that baseline of tech savvy as that is where our world is heading. As they say in hockey, don’t skate to the puck but skate to where the puck is going.” With those skills and flexibility, no matter where the economy goes those skills build much needed resilience.

However, millennials face several serious challenges. Student loan debt increases the perceived risk for an already risky endeavor and motivates many to find more stable jobs until they can pursue other projects. Competition is only going to become harder as India and China produce more graduates than ever before. Short attention spans and armchair activism generates a level of complacency that could impede creativity.

But, for all of these drawbacks millennials possess several qualities that are creating a demand for a drastically different lifestyle from our parents. The insatiable curiosity and willingness to try new things will naturally push our generation to constantly innovate and allow for new companies, products, etc. gain traction much faster than in the past. As Mack said, “that is our most valuable edge.”

Would you agree with what Mack has to say about Millennials? Post your comments below.

Cornerstone Investments for Central Florida’s Start up Community

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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.