Viewing entries tagged
Acceptance Tour


An Inspired Dream with Aurora Anaya-Cerda

An Inspired Dream with Aurora Anaya-Cerda

By Danielle Echols

As a company, we are committed to education in every aspect.  We believe the arts, in any capacity, can empower and uplift the soul.  So, when we encounter people like Aurora Anaya-Cerda, we have to share their story.  We all know the saying "knowledge is power."  Well, Aurora definitely took that to heart.  She was the founder of La Casa Azul Bookstore, an independent bookstore in New York.  Patrons could find every genre of literature, music, and fellowship with people from all over the city.  The store was so revered that in 2013, she was nominated and recognized as a 2013 Crowdfunding "Champion of Change" by the White House.  The store has since closed, but her commitment to education remains.

A native Angeleno, Aurora has returned to LA after living in New York for 11 years.  She has been a teacher, curator, cultural worker, and entrepreneur - and is currently a student at the USC Marshall School of Business.  She is passionate about art, education, literacy and the impact that social enterprises have towards a more just world.  Recently, she talked with Design Dance about social entrepreneurship and why she felt opening La Casa Azul Bookstore was so important.  See her story below.

Tell us a little of your backstory...

Books saved my life - they were my refuge, my escape, my safe space.    

At age 12, I read The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros and it was the first time I saw my reflection in a book: a young Latina, whose family and neighbors were so like the people I knew in my own life experiences.  The House on Mango Street was the first piece of culturally relevant literature I read, and it had a tremendous impact on me.  My journey as an educator, artist, and entrepreneur has been strongly influenced by Cisneros’ book.

When did you first recognize yourself as an entrepreneur?

I worked in education and the arts for 10 years before I considered becoming an entrepreneur. The idea for La Casa Azul Bookstore was born in 2006 when I signed up for a small business seminar.  I didn’t register for the seminar because I wanted to open a bookstore, I registered because I wanted to learn a new skill (entrepreneurship). That seminar changed the direction of my life.

For the next six years, I would lose track of time when reading, planning, strategizing and visualizing what the bookstore would be.  I felt like I had a purpose. I relied on those moments when it seemed that the goal was impossible to reach.  Finally, in 2012 I opened La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem with the support of 500+ funders that helped me raised $40,000 in 40 days.

La Casa Azul Bookstore reached incredible milestones in New York - not just as a bookstore, but as a gallery and cultural venue featuring writers, musicians, visual artists, and dancers.  We hosted 200 programs a year, sold books that reflect the voices of writers of color, transformed into a literary hub, a safe space and a platform for multiple audiences.

What was the inspiration for La Casa Azul Bookstore?

One of the reasons I decided to open La Casa Azul Bookstore was because Chicana/o literature was critical in my own education and identity.  Growing up, I read everything I could get my hands on, from cereal boxes to magazines and comics. When I discovered Chicana writers like Sandra Cisneros and Rudolfo Anaya, I connected to their stories and then began seeking out more books that reflected my identity and experience.  By then I was already in high school and I wished I had read about them earlier!

With La Casa Azul Bookstore I aimed to create a space for children of color to see their reflections, where diverse voices were celebrated and where neighbors could share resources and build community.

What were some of the challenges you faced when managing the bookstore?

Running the bookstore from 2012 to 2015 was the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my life.  The physical and mental exhaustion was expected but NO ONE told me about the emotional toll of running a business.  Most days I felt that I was on the right path, that running the bookstore was exactly what I wanted to be doing… and there were days when fear and anxiety crept in.  I was experiencing impostor syndrome and I tried to “do it all” -- until I couldn’t.  With support from friends, bookstore staff and family, I learned to lean on others, to ask for help and to take care of my physical and mental health.

La Casa Azul Bookstore was in operation until 2015, when I decided to close the store to move back to California, attend graduate school and plan the next adventure. It was not an easy decision to make, and I miss the bookstore every day -  but I have learned to have more self-compassion and self-acceptance in the journey.  

How did it feel when you were recognized by the White House?

I received two emails from the White House but I ignored them because I thought it was junk mail -  until a friend told me she had nominated me as a “Champion of Change”.  I was one of 12 people recognized in June 2013 as Crowdfunding “Champions of Change.”  The event focused on entrepreneurs who exemplified the promise of crowdfunding to fuel the growth of startups, small businesses, and innovative projects across the Nation.

I celebrated the bookstore’s first anniversary on June 1st in New York and took a train to DC the next day.  Speaking at the White House was one of the highlights of my professional career and it was the perfect way to celebrate our first year in business.

What are some projects you are working on now?

I’m a student again!

I recently completed my first year at USC Marshall School of Business, in the MS Social Entrepreneurship program.  I have enjoyed learning about social entrepreneurship, creative placemaking and the intersection of the two.  I learn from every workshop/class/book constantly adding to my educational toolbox. 

How do you define social entrepreneurship and why do you think it’s important?

Every action has an impact and it’s a matter of being intentional on having the most positive impact possible on people and the environment.  To me, social entrepreneurship means taking other people and the planet into account when making all decisions in an organization.

Not only is it important, it’s absolutely necessary!  We can no longer ignore social and environmental issues, we need to demand change from companies and use our individual and collective power to fight against injustice - knowing that all of our actions impact our society and the world.   

What is the legacy you hope you are creating?

A story can be a window into another person’s experience, or a mirror that reflects your own.  The majority of the books that I read as a child were windows -- an opportunity to look into the life/world of other people, other cultures, other experiences. When I read “The House on Mango Street”, I was looking into a mirror -- seeing a reflection of my own life and world.

Simon Sinek said, “Passion comes from who you are”. I am passionate about creating spaces where children can hold mirrors, especially for to those who have only seen through windows.

With La Casa Azul Bookstore we planted seeds in the minds and hearts of children who were exposed to books and stories that served as reflections of their own stories.  In future years I hope those seeds flourish and inspire kids to follow their own passions.  

Aurora Anaya-Cerda will be speaking at our Acceptance Tour in LA on Monday, May 22nd.  For more information about Aurora, visit her links below.

LinkedIn: Aurora Anaya-Cerda

Articles: White House Archives , Do What You Love




#BossMagic- Vibing Out with Diamond Greer

#BossMagic-Vibing Out with Diamond Greer

By Danielle Echols

As an organization, we are always encountering people who are innovative with their careers. Diamond Greer is definitely one of those people.  She is a  business professional, thought leader, and catalyst for social entrepreneurship from the Southeast Side of Chicago. Diamond graduated from Northwestern University with a mission unlock the potential of those around her.

In 2015, she founded Let’s Vibe LC3, a design firm focused on closing the global leadership and equity gap through human-centered experiences.  According to their website, she and her team create "experiences to connect and develop you, empower you, empower the organizations that attract and retain you, and build accountability in life and at work.” Through their experiences, Let’s Vibe hopes to encourage women to manifest and craft their futures.  When she is not hosting one of the Let's Vibe experiences, she can be found writing poetry.

Recently, Diamond talked with Design Dance about her definition of success and what being a "vibe woman" truly means.

How do you define success?

It’s a journey with moments that cause you to pause and go “Oh, snaps! That was dope!” or “Hmm, what can I learn from this?” It is not a destination; it’s a compilation of moments of actualizing an idea or goal and also moments of WTFs. Success is learning, owning more and more of yourself, and getting closer to trusting your true voice to direct your purpose in life. That’s how it’s defined for me.

What was the inspiration behind Let’s Vibe?

We (her team) transitioned both to college and out of college, and we found that there were no road maps for our next steps and barely any resources to effectively take the next steps at this stage in our lives.  Oh, and globally?  This was also the case; there was a serious gap in leadership and equity for women.  As women of color on a mission to actualize our goals in work and life, we needed guidance or at least a space to figure it out.  We wanted to connect with our peers to our share stories, gain access to resources to turn our ideas into tangible next steps, and thrive in an ecosystem as intersectional and fluid as possible that’s focused on our development.  So, we created it.  Positive vibes and all!

What type of events do you produce?

We go beyond the box of “events”; we produce human-centered experiences that inspire.  Each Let’s Vibe experience creates a brave space for connection, creativity, and workability.  From online ideation sessions to in-person workshops to downloadable content, each experience creates the possibility of actualizing an idea or goal for life and career.

How do you feel you are working to empower women?

We are working to empower women by (1) providing the platform to connect, inspire and develop while enabling them to manifest their ‘now’ and craft their ‘future’; (2) providing the space to define ourselves on our own terms and have our work follow; and (3) providing individuals and organizations with the tools necessary to begin to bridge the global leadership and equity gap.

Who are some people that inspire you?

My sister and my Mom, Oprah, Shonda Rhimes, Tracee Ellis Ross, Ce Cole Dillon, Barnor Hesse, Tim Schwertfeger, my Vibe women...and a bunch of others for every mood I’m in and every space I occupy.

What’s your “vibe” for the year?

Owning my #BossMagic and it holding me accountable.

What is a suggestion you have for a young person, especially a woman who is trying to be assertive in business?

Decide. A wise mentor of mine once told me that deciding is better than not deciding and later regretting that your decision was no decision. You have to own your decision and prepare for what happens next. In business, decide. Then, prototype and do. Unapologetically. Give yourself permission. Period.

Recently, Diamond was named one of the Chicago Scholars 35 Under 35.  Diamond will be speaking at our Acceptance Tour in Chicago on Monday, June 26th.  For more information on Diamond and Let’s Vibe, click on the links below.

Facebook: @letsvibehq

Instagram:@msdiamondg  @letsvibehq

Twitter: @msdiamondg



Candidly Corbin, The Man Behind The Candid Professional

Candidly Corbin, The Man Behind The Candid Professional

By Danielle Echols

Corbin J. Pickett, also known as The Candid Professional, is a speaker, consultant, and youth coach. Originally a native of Southern California, he traveled to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College.  After graduating in 2010, he moved back to SoCal to began his career working in business development.  He loved what he was learning and felt compelled to transfer his business savvy skills to community building.  In 2013, he switched gears and began working in the nonprofit sector where he found a niche in youth development.  Today, he focuses on helping young people master business and entrepreneurial skills. Here is his story.

Where does your story begin?

After college, I started my more formal work experience in the business development space focusing on digital media and ecommerce companies.  Around 2015, I had my hands in different mentoring organizations, whether starting some or being on the board, just in different capacities.  More prominently I was on the board for an organization called Youth Mentoring Action Network (2013-2015) and I was partnering with the founder.  At the time when I was really frustrated with not having an impact in my formal work, I began to identify how I could use my skills in a nonprofit venture, have a positive impact in the community, and ideally build to a place of financial stability.  

So, I did undergrad at Morehouse, I did a very short stint of working in D.C., then I came back to Southern California and I started a nonprofit with some of my high school friends.  I did that for a few years, working with youth doing professional and personal development.  I’ve always been in this field of working with young people, tutoring, coaching, really being keen on professional development.  

During my time in undergrad when I was interning with different companies, there was no coach to say “hey this is how a professional environment works.” I didn't come from an environment where I saw someone dress up in a shirt and tie every day so there were a lot of new things for me.  I would stick out like a sore thumb trying to over improve in certain environments. (Later) I understood the value of having someone coach you through these different stages of transition.

What did you study as an undergraduate?

International Studies and I minored in Business, but not formally.  I started out as a Business major, but once I realized that the internships or companies I would go to would teach me how they operate, I decided "let me leverage this as a college student and focus on something else that will compliment what I want to do in the long run," so I switched to International Studies.  The ultimate benefit of switching majors was learning how to understand cultural relevancy: learning to validate people's background, what makes them tick and click.

What drew you to business?

It’s always been innate.  It started very young; lugging baseball cards from door to door asking people if they wanted to buy a baseball card for a quarter. So that entrepreneurial spirit was always innate.   In sixth grade my hamster died.  I asked my dad if I could get another pet and he said, if I made honor roll I could get any pet I wanted.  I did just that, and got a leopard gecko.  I showed such an interest in this pet, that the store eventually pitched an idea to me.  “You should get a female and you could breed geckos. Don’t worry about incubating the eggs, and I’ll buy the babies off of you when they hatch.”  He took away the fear and responsibility of having to incubate the eggs. He built this bridge which allowed me to ease into starting my first real entrepreneurship.  Because of that experience I’ve always understood that I didn’t necessarily have to work for someone else.  Let your passion become your profession.

What do you say to people, especially millennials, who are bouncing between passion and practicality?

It’s a lot easier than a lot of us make it out to be.  We are forced between two generations.  The older generation that says we need stability, we need to stay home and make our life.  Then we have our generation that loves mobility, loves flexibility, loves being able to make decisions on the fly.  What we’re missing is that when you sit across from someone you need to be able to say “I can make you or save you money via…”  Once you have that, you can leverage yourself into anything.  Say to yourself, "What are my hobbies and my interest, and how can I strategically explore them to become passions?" And then cycle that question back in your head, “how can I make someone money or save someone money doing this?”  Put yourself in a space where you can work and enjoy that learning, develop it into a passion and a skill and then transition. Identify in what environment you would like to leverage that skill.

Sometimes people say millennials are a “privileged” generation.  We have a lot more luxury when it comes to creating our own businesses that our parents did not.  How can we use that to our benefit?

When people think of privilege they either coward down because they have too much of it, or they get angry because they don’t have enough of it.  My outlook on privilege is that we should all wake up every day, see what privileges we have, decide how are we going to leverage those privileges today, and ideally use them for good.  

How do you feel your approach as "The Candid Professional" leads to self-acceptance?

I’m all about being yourself, being open, being able to share your experiences, and allowing others and yourself to learn from those experiences.  A large part of the work that and who I am is about overcoming a goofy black kid who loves basketball, loves being a nerd, loves history but yet can also stand in any business arena and get work done.  I wanted to be able to sit across from young people and say, “you have a goofy hair style like I do,  you can be unapologetic about being urban or having a certain swag.  You can go after what you want.” I really believe in being able to be yourself in what you're doing and what you’re bringing. I think that’s when we’re most powerful.

Corbin is in the midst of choosing a graduate program.  Eventually, he wants to create an organization that focuses on human-centered design thinking and helps combat social issues.  He will be speaking at our Acceptance Tour in LA on Monday, May 22nd.  For more information check out his links below.

Website: The Candid Professional

LinkedIn: Corbin J. Pickett


Twitter: @CorbinJPickett



Samantha Broxton on Learning to Enjoy the Journey



Samantha Broxton on Learning to Enjoy the Journey

By Danielle Echols

Samantha Sophia Broxton is a blogger, photographer, storyteller, and self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur.  She shares an intimate portrait of family life in her candid blog Raising Self.   As a first generation American and the first college graduate in her Caribbean family, she spent many years trying to blend in.  She graduated from the University of South Florida with her “safe” finance degree, but was always drawn to narrative writing.  During her time in college, she had several business internships and eventually landed an amazing position with a banking leadership program.  Today she balances her time with a career in finance analytics, managing her blog, and raising her family.  Here is some of her story:

When did you recognize your interest in narrative?

Having immigrant parents, they’re very strict.  I couldn’t do anything except read books and watch a lot of movies.  There was a place near my house where you could get 10 old movies for $10 for 10 days, and I would watch and really just be in the narrative.  That’s really where I think my storyteller brain was honed- reading books about history and watching movies from every genre.

You describe yourself as a serial entrepreneur, what are some ventures that you’ve tried?

I had a first startup that was kind of like Yelp.  It didn’t really work for me because I look back now and I just didn’t have the resources I didn’t have the education.  They didn’t really have all the resources they have now to support minorities in tech and entrepreneurship.  I didn’t even know I was minority in tech, I just knew I had a good idea.  I also have a journal of other ideas that I’m always thinking “how I can make it happen?”  So, my serial entrepreneurship really comes in the form of really dreaming up ideas and trying to execute.  Even today, I’m always thinking “how can I make these things a reality?”  I also do photography and my blogs.  I think those things are a type of entrepreneurship as well because these are things that are yours and that you own.

Your blog, Raising Self is very candid, how do you decide what you will and will not share?

For me the key thing is always is it edifying? That means ten years from now, even if it makes me cringe a little bit…I want to be able to say, “this is where I was, this is what I meant.”  If it’s not edifying then I just don’t move forward with it, sometimes I’ll shelve it.  I just put something aside and say, “I think there is something there, but this might be too messy… but maybe there will be something there that I can return to.”

What made you decide to join Acceptance Tour?

People see success or they see failure and they just see a byproduct.  They want to know “how can I make a million dollars?  How can I change the world?”  I think with people, they don’t really understand the importance of hearing the journey, respecting the journey.  Respecting that at the end you may not know that you’re already on the path to changing the world.  I like the idea of having a conversation about understanding yourself, understanding what your true worth is, understanding what you really want and need to do to get yourself to the next step in your life.

Do you feel that your blog is a part of self-acceptance?

I think so.  I think what people don’t do enough of is seek personal revelation.  For me writing these stories, reveals certain things to myself.  It helps me to understand why I made certain decisions or why I felt a certain way.  It also allows me to reflect on things I did and gives me the opportunity accept or reject that (reaction) as appropriate and move forward.  It’s not a continuation of bad behavior and I also get to celebrate things that I did well and I need to continue in life.  It’s funny how writing does that for you.

What’s a little nugget of advice you would tell your younger self?  

If I could go back, I would tell myself to save a little bit more money. I would tell myself to love myself a little bit more.  I really think the things I’ve been through have helped me grow into who I am today, even my most painful moments.  I really love science-fiction, so there is this unique idea about the time paradox, if you attempt to change one thing, then nothing else changes, that in fact you traveling in time is a part of guaranteeing your future.  When I think about the time paradox, I have to consider would I change it if I could?  Maybe I wouldn’t have the kids I have or maybe wouldn't have stumbled into the conversations that I’ve stumbled into… but if I could  (I would) just maybe change the internal dialogue I had with myself through the journey and enjoy it more.

Samantha will be speaking at Acceptance Tour in Los Angeles on Monday, May 22nd.  You can learn more about her by clicking on the links below:


Twitter: @RaisingSelf

Instagram: @raisingself

(This interview has been slightly modified from its original recording)



Taylor Schrang Ready is Ready to take on the World!

Taylor Schrang Ready is Ready to Take on the World!

By Danielle Echols

After having a “quarter-life crisis,” Taylor Schrang Ready did what a few adventurous 20-something year olds do and joined the Peace Corps.  While working with the Peace Corps in Paraguay, she launched a successful youth program and explored the concept of social entrepreneurship: the idea of using business techniques from the private sector to find solutions to social, cultural, or environmental problems.  Most recently, she completed her tenure as the Sales and Marketing Manager of Symbology Clothing.  This unique clothing line partners directly with female artisans from around the world to create textiles that can be used in fashion-forward clothing.  

According to their mission, “Symbology aims not only to produce beautiful clothing but also to preserve traditional art forms in each garment — from Indian block printing to Palestinian weaving and Native American embroidery.”  Taylor’s passion for social entrepreneurship can be seen in everything she does.   Currently, is preparing to begin a new venture in her life: starting graduate school.  Read more of her story below:

Tell us a little about yourself.

My adult life can kind of be defined in two chapters: pre-Peace Corps and post-Peace Corps.  It was a really defining moment in my life.  Prior to Peace Corps, I was working in media and advertising, sports media specifically.  In a lot of ways I really loved it (I’m a jock).  That job went away so I did the obvious thing, had a quarter life crisis and joined the Peace Corps.  

What was that experience like?

I get there and I equate it with taking the Red Pill in the Matrix.  My eyes, all of a sudden, saw the world in a completely different light: understanding what global poverty looks like, what global inequity looks like.  By seeing an individual who was smarter, harder working, or more capable than I was, living a dramatically different life with much fewer opportunities by the mere fact that I was a college educated American and they were a school teacher in Paraguay, that really shifted a lot of my thinking.

I really found my footing in Peace Corps when I started engaging with the idea of entrepreneurship as a way of creating economic development and prosperity for marginalized groups.  While in Peace Corps, I developed a youth business plan competition with other volunteers.  We gave away $2,000.00 in seed money the first year and it has now grown to a national initiative of Peace Corps, Paraguay that has a $60,000.00 budget- it’s just totally beyond my wildest dreams of what I thought I had started.

What are some of the challenges you faced when you returned?

I came back to the states, talking about social entrepreneurship.  In Dallas, Texas people looked at me like I had 3 heads!  I literally got laughed out of rooms.  My favorite was when someone told me my ideas were “tangential to the business ecosystem,” which is the nicest way someone can tell you they don’t care about what you’re talking about.  During that experience, self-doubt really started to creep its way into me “Am I crazy?  What did I do for two years in Paraguay?  Are there even jobs in this space?” When no one understands what you’re saying, you start feeling crazy.  I kept sort of shoehorning myself into positions because I needed a job, and low and behold I was really not successful in most of them.  It was very clear I wasn’t thriving in those positions.

How did you feel when you found Symbology?

It was really just phenomenal when I found myself working for a social enterprise working to take artisan textile crafts and infuse it into fashion forward designs, and making something that would be saleable to a broader Western Market.  I was able to help grow the company’s revenue by 100% over 10 months, I got us national account which was really transformational for the company, and we some national brand recognition.  I really started finding my footing again.  During that process, I also started applying to business school.  I had the social impact side down, but I decided I needed that technical business acumen, expertise and quite frankly the credibility. I put my message front and center “I’m here because I think social innovation, and social impact and marginalized opportunities present the next wave of innovation and growth in business.”

What are some things that you’re really hoping to get out of business school?

I’m hoping to get that technical business know how that will allow me to transfer my ideas.  I really want to learn the language.  When you know the language, people really start listening to what you have to say.

It sounds like where you are now with is very rewarding.

It’s really rewarding, it’s validating after a long time of having doubt and wondering is there a place for me?  Is there a place for my ideas?  It was great to say “...well we just doubled our revenue this year (with Symbology)” -people start listening, and that was the most validating thing.

Right after you left the Peace Corps, if you could have told yourself one thing, what would that be?

That you’re good enough exactly as you are.  Just feel like you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and you don’t need anyone to tell you otherwise.

Taylor will be starting Business School at the SMU Cox School of Business in the Fall.  She will be speaking at our Acceptance Tour in Austin on Monday, April 24th.   You can learn more about Taylor here:


Website: About Taylor

YouTube: Level Up Impact: Engineering Social Change

(This interview has been slightly modified from its original recording)