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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

 

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#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

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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

Instagram:@TheCandidProfessional

Twitter: @CorbinJPickett

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Gabrielle Valdes on Education and Opportunity

Gabrielle Valdes on Education and Opportunity

By Danielle Echols

Gabrielle is an entrepreneur, educator and community builder.  She received her BA in Communication Studies from California State University in Long Beach, with a focus on Women's Studies, Research and Media Analysis.  After working in Early Childhood Education in LA, she moved to Chicago and worked as a behavioral therapist to support children with autism and their families. Leveraging her experiences in education and empowerment, Gabrielle was brought on as Co-Founder of Prismatic, an education non-profit building access to project-based learning, to impact education in Chicago.  Here is a little of her story:

Tell us a little of your backstory? 

I used to define myself by the performances I danced in as an artist and ballet dancer before I knew what it was like to experience the rush of telling a story through a newspaper. I went into college not knowing who I wanted to be and left knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I developed my guiding philosophy as an early childhood educator valuing inclusive spaces that encourage individuals to show up as their true authentic selves. I took a detour after teaching to “do what I was supposed to do” by working a corporate job and then left a year later to get back on track. My curiosities exposed me to a wide range of experiences in the social impact sector, startup world and non-profit space which prepared me to take a leap of faith myself. I now leverage my experiences and expertises to co-run Prismatic, an education nonprofit that building access to project-based learning to teachers and administrators, in hopes to make small, but powerful incremental changes in Education.

How did moving to Chicago begin to change your narrative?

Moving to another city and un-familiarizing myself with my surroundings and my community allowed me the time and space to really think about what I needed for myself- being able to physically remove myself from an environment where I felt it was so easy to drown out my own voice in others’ opinions, perspectives, and lifestyles. Not to say that Los Angeles specifically caused me to leave, but instead, it was more so what LA represent to me personally. It was a place where I struggled to have a work and life balance was in a relationship where I completely lost myself and a time in my life where I valued the opinions of others before my own. Moving away from what was familiar and comfortable allowed me to reinvent myself, try out new personas, listen to my voice and truly advocate for my needs. I’m much stronger than I was before, and I attribute my growth to be the result of moving to Chicago.

How did you become involved with Acceptance Tour? 

I first became involved with the Acceptance Tour back in March when Debra (Giunta, Founder and Director of Design Dance) and Jonathan (Lazatin, Community Impact Designer of Design Dance) were making the video for the IndieGoGo campaign. During a conversation they were having around whether or not the tour was something that was helpful, I interjected and went on a long-winded tangent about how I wish I had something like the acceptance tour growing up. As a young dancer, I was deeply immersed in the dance culture and found myself never feeling good enough. I struggled with self-acceptance most of the time I looked in the mirror of my dance studio. It was not until I was 18 years old when I finally left the competitive dance world. It was the hardest decision I made during my young adult life and took me almost a year to make. In retrospect, it was the best thing I did for myself. Leaving the dance world, which was so intertwined in who I was at the time, created enough space for me to start working on myself. Eight years later, I can honestly say I have a newfound love for ballet and a more compassionate relationship with myself. Conversations around self-acceptance and body image that need to happen more often at a younger age.         

When you were in college, what was the vision for your life?  How has it evolved/changed?

Back in college the vision I had of myself changed often. I wanted to be a journalist, an event event planner, an anthropologist, a psychologist and a teacher. There were also multiple times when I wasn’t sure what career I wanted. I've always been curious about a myriad of subjects, but grew up in a household where changing interests meant you were lost. It wasn't until graduation that I was sitting in the bleachers as my name was being called to claim my Communications degree that I fully committed to the idea of becoming a teacher. With much resistance from my family, I decided to not pursue Public Relations and instead became an ECE Teacher. Figuring out my career path back then is still so relevant to me now. This experience has given me the confidence to feel comfortable to pivot career paths often. Every year I grow as a person, which only makes sense that my career grows with me.

When did you get involved with Prismatic?  What sparked your interest?

Ever since I was an early childhood educator, I saw the importance of student-centered, project-based learning. The kiddos I worked with had the opportunity to learn from authentic, personally crafted projects. They became curious about food so we co-created an entire unit about life cycles, gardening and cooking. Through this entire process the kids learned about the world they live in. More specifically the different seasons, insects, their community and themselves. They became more interested in learning, not to mention grew resilient to failure and more confident in their ideas and skills. These moments with students exposed me to the power of experiences and project-based learning. I wanted to continue this work from an advocacy position, and officially became involved with Prismatic in January when Debra brought me on as co-Executive Director. Debra and I align in mission and values, which make our partnership natural and fun. It’s a great working together, especially since we both are passionate about education, ideas and entrepreneurship. 

It seems like education is a common theme in your work.  How do you feel creativity and education are connected? In what ways do you hope to bridge this gap (if there is one)?

I truly believe that creativity is essential for students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members. Creativity is for everyone and is an integral part of learning and growing. I believe that one of the the obstacles to thinking you're a creative person is this misconception that you're inherently born with these qualities. But creativity can be learned, practiced and grown. Education should allow opportunities for students to try new things, become more resilient to failure and be creative. School had the ability to be an environment that encourages and empowers all students to act on their ideas, be vulnerable and take risks, no matter their background or experiences. We can bridge this gap by having ongoing conversations with parents, teachers, students and concerned citizens about how we can foster a more inclusive and safe space at school. Classrooms have the opportunity to act from a place of curiosity, empathy and trust. Together we should really think about what our priorities are in the long run for our students and our communities.

What have you learned about self-acceptance in your developing career?

I've learned that there are times to say “no”, that leaving doesn't mean you're a failure, and that it's imperative to schedule time for self-care. These lessons all stemmed from being able to accept and advocate for myself. Earlier in my career, there were multiple times when I wasn't getting paid on time, doing free work and working overtime every day. I honestly didn't have the self-awareness and respect to take care of myself at that time. I defined success by not having balance between work and play, putting others before myself and working long hours. I had to prove it to myself and everyone else that I could be successful. Eventually, I found myself completely burnt out, broke and depressed. Even though struggled during this time, I wouldn't change that experience. It taught me about resilience, vulnerability, self-compassion and acceptance. It’s what's made me who I am today.

What are some things you’re still hoping to learn?

I’m still hoping to learn what it means to be a wholehearted, holistic leader, who is able to comfortably blend the personal and public. I am continuing to learn how to show up authentically, in everything that I do, even if there’s a chance I’ll mess up or look silly. Being vulnerable and allowing myself the opportunity to connect with others and my work is something I’m still working on, and will always be. 

Currently, Gabrielle Valdes is working towards her M.Ed at Arizona State University to gain a deeper understanding on Curriculum and Instruction in the classroom.  She will be speaking at our Acceptance Tour in Austin on Monday, April 24th.

For more information on Gabrielle, visit her links below:

Instagram: @gabriellevaldes

Facebook: Gabrielle Valdes

 

 

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Encouraging Students to B*Tru with Aisha Melhem

Encouraging Students to B*Tru with Aisha Melhem

Encourging Students to B*Tru with Aisha Melhem

By Danielle Echols

As a company, we know the value of bringing arts education to our community.  We are so excited when we encounter other organizations that do the same, particularly when these organizations help young people.  It is through art that young people can learn how to interpret the world around them.  They learn valuable skills that will help them both personally and professionally.  There is no greater example of an organization succeeding in this work, than Austin-based nonprofit, B*Tru Arts.

Aisha Melhem is the Artistic Director and Founder B*Tru Arts.  Her multifaceted multicultural organization focuses on using the arts for the betterment of the community.  As a child in Austin she trained in several styles of dance, theatre and voice. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in acting with honors from St. Edward's University, Austin, Texas in 2008 and a Master of Arts in Theatre with an emphasis in directing from Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas in 2010.  

According to their mission: "B*Tru Arts aims to make a positive impact upon the greater Austin community by creating and providing immersive experiences in the arts. B*Tru Arts carries out its mission by holding public events and showcases, providing high-quality arts education, expanding performance opportunities for local artists and assisting local artists in the production of their works. B*Tru Arts serves to strengthen the local artistic community through hands-on support, artistic and cultural diversity, formal education and interaction with the public."

Recently, Aisha gave us a little insight about her life and why she decided to start the organization.

When did you first recognize your interests in the arts?

When I was 3 years old. I started dancing at the age of three and always loved to sing. I was accidentally placed in an acting class my 6th grade year and continued to take theatre throughout high school and college.  Here's a little more of the story:

I started studying theatre and acting at the age of 11. In fact it was an accident that I was put in theatre class. I signed up for choir and the school put me in theatre. I remember my first theatre teacher Mr. Smith (Dale Smith) and my 2nd theatre teacher Mrs. Alexander. Because of how passionate he was and how great of teacher he was I began to feel the same as he did for theatre and performance. I believe that is when I knew this was for me. I continued on in high school and later in college and graduate school. I started out as an actor and then later developed the love of directing and teaching. I believe my teachers made me love it and I wanted to do the same for others as they did for me.

As a theatre student in under grad and graduate school we studied theatre history, various acting styles and techniques, different directing methods and approaches etc... During and after school I was able to develop my own approach and methodology that incorporates:

-The use of more physicality “actions speak louder than words” as said by Plato

-Emphasis on collaboration/co-creation/originality

-Inspiration from Experimental theatre, such as: “Open Theater” techniques used in creative process

-More emphasis on the creative process-The journey in creating is very important for actors and everyone involved. Theatre is therapeutic.

-This allows the ensemble to discover new things through exercises focusing on high physicality and ensemble building.

-The use of the whole space not just stage, so that the audience feels as if they are part of the world. This can impact more, allow audience to have a visceral reaction, and a better understanding of the (subject, character, culture, etc...)

-Site specific work, street theatre (take performance to the community)

-Taking something traditional and reconstructing it- experimental adaptations (reconstruction of the play is the message it symbolizes the topic that would be presented)

-The use of theatre as a tool to bring awareness of social issues and self-awareness.  The audience will leave thinking about what they just saw and themselves. This will possibly lead to social change and better society.

-Collective theater works with writers, director, and actors to come up with original organic and engaging performance pieces.

When you were in college at St. Edwards University, what type of career did you imagine you would have?

I thought that I would end up teaching college level theatre. I never imagined that I would start a nonprofit.

How did the idea of B*Tru Arts emerge?

I've always been driven by my passion for the arts and my true purpose in life, which is to help others and to educate and inspire the community through the arts as well as promoting positive social change.  It started with the first annual Inspiro Fest and evolved into what it is today.  

I notice B*Tru Arts does a wide range of amazing activities (photography, videography,

performance, screenwriting coverage), why did you decide to incorporate so many different

fields as oppose to focusing on just one?

Through our work we are creating more job opportunities for local artists when we offer a variety of services.  Also, many artists need affordable headshots or actor reels etc...

Through our educational programs, we are not only involved in every single aspect of the development and representation of the arts in its truest form but also allowing true innovation to overflow in that of the individual naturally impacting our community.

Do you feel like the arts teaches self-acceptance? If so, how?

Yes, absolutely! Arts education gives students the opportunity to express themselves creatively and it also creates a safe environment for them to take risks.  It also helps build a sense of ensemble when everyone is working towards the same goal. This creates a sense of secure acceptance and helps the individual feel like they are part of a community. It helps build trust and it also helps develop interpersonal and social skills etc. A lot of what you learn in the arts is applicable to everyday life.

If there was one main lesson students could learn from B*Tru Arts, what would you and your team want that to be?

Always Be True to yourself.

What are some words/advice that have really inspired you throughout your journey?

“You don’t grow in comfort” “Follow your heart” “Never give up” “Just do it”

For more information on B*Tru Arts visit the links below.  They are one of the sponsors for our Acceptance Tour in Austin:

Website: BTru Arts

Facebook: @BTRUARTS

Twitter: @B_TRU_ARTS

Instagram: @btruarts

YouTube: Delusions of Despair

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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:

Website: www.RaisingSelf.com

Twitter: @RaisingSelf

Instagram: @raisingself

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

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Samantha Betzag- Creating Purposeful Living

Samantha Betzag- Creating Purposeful Living

By Danielle Echols

In 2016, Samantha Betzag was sitting at her desk feeling unsettled.  She was working at a finance firm in New York City but longed to have a more purposeful life. She desired to travel the world, share teachings of self-acceptance and self-love, but didn’t know exactly where to start.   As frustration began to build, she decided to take a chance on herself and take a leap.  She quit her job to travel through Europe and Asia for 8-months.  Today, with a new found life mission, she is working to start a community focused on empowering young girls and women called Jnana Community.  Here is her story:

Samantha, where did your journey begin?

I was working in private equity back in New York.  I didn’t hate my job, I actually had an awesome position, but I knew it wasn’t for me, I knew I had a calling.  I was going into a finance office every day trying to preach about love and acceptance and all these things- people would just laugh.  So, I made the decision to leave in April of last year and I went on my own spiritual pilgrimage because I was dedicated. (Now) It’s literally my reason for existing: to work with teen girls about self-acceptance and about self-care and self-love.  Accepting that power that is within you and accepting yourself is so scary. It requires connection and community.  So this is what I set out to do for the past year.  I want to be the clearest vessel to work with girls and women.  

How did you know it was time to start your organization, Jnana Community?

I came back to America just a few months ago.  I was receiving so many signs from God, the Universe, whatever you believe in, that it is time to start now!  I thought I would work, and save up, and do something down the line.  I set roots in Austin, and it’s just been happening!  I’m still in the beginning stages of creating my company (Jnana Community).  Jnana means self-knowledge in Sanskrit.  The best way to know oneself is through expression and self-connection. When you accept yourself, you free yourself of the shackles and beliefs that aren’t even your own.  So that’s my mission.

Where do you think the lack of self-acceptance starts especially for young girls and women?

To be honest with you, it is society a little bit.  Our society is through social media, advertisements, and even through our pop culture.  The general public doesn’t understand that these performers are putting on a show.  The teenagers and the young adults watching think those things (that celebrities do) are what give you worth, and then when it doesn’t play out like they expected in the real world, they’re let down.  It’s a compilation of so many things, but to answer your question it’s really being out of touch with who you are.

When you were in corporate America, was the desire to travel something that built up over time or was it more like a moment when you knew?

So funny story, I had just signed a lease, and I knew that travel was brewing.  So in December, I got bed bugs and it gave me a way out of my lease that I had just signed. I got bed bugs, and my initial reaction was “Oh my God I’m about to travel the world!” For me traveling the world signified accepting myself.  So, it was a Sunday afternoon I was downtown in SoHo, I was getting coffee with my dad and I said, “Dad today’s the day,” and he said “OK.” I sent my boss a text message and we met for coffee and I told him “it’s time for me to pursue my path and get the balling rolling on the reason why I came to this Earth.”

What does acceptance mean to you?

Acceptance doesn’t mean condoning and it doesn’t mean passively accepting.  Acceptance means acknowledging that something just is, and that it just is this way, and it takes a lot of courage and self-acceptance to acknowledge that you feel unsettled in your heart.  

What is the purpose of your company?

It’s Jnana Community.  Basically, we are empowering young women to create their own reality and achieve their highest dreams by recognizing the power of their beliefs and the power of their mind.  My values of the company are connection and expression.  We’re creating an environment where these girls can take the walls down that are in front of their hearts, and express themselves freely and in a healthy way, and let them know who they are at their core.  Everything that you dislike about yourself becomes your greatest asset and your greatest gift.

What does your organization offer now?

Right now, I offer circles (basically meditation and talk therapy) and one on one sessions.  With the sessions, I offer mentoring and Theta Healing, it’s focused meditated prayer.  I’m in the early stages of really learning the best way for the girls to interact and express themselves.  By the end of the summer, I will be holding educational workshops which will be a 13-week series.

Samantha is looking forward to what the future will bring.  She is excited to speak at Acceptance Tour and to grow her organization, Jnana Community.  For more information, visit her Snapchat and Instagram

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

Snapchat: @JnanaCommunity

Instagram: @JnanaCommunity

 

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Finding Confidence with Catia Holm

Finding Confidence with Catia Holm

Catia Holm wants everyone to feel confident.  She strives to “to encourage people to not only be their authentic selves, but to then take their authenticity and flourish.”  After trying various careers including working as a restaurant/bar manager and working for her parents' business, she found her true purpose is to uplift others as they travel their life journey.  Today, she does just that.  Her positive attitude radiates through her writings which can be found on her blog, #ConfidenceRevolution.  In addition to blogging she is an author, television personality, proud wife and mother.  Here is some of her story:

What are three words that come to mind when you describe yourself?

Hard working, Kind, Evolving

It seems like you’ve had so many careers in your life, (managing the 5th street Eddie V’s, working for your parents) where did writing fit in or did it? When did it become a priority?

I have been writing and enjoying it since I can remember. My Dad was (is) a good writer and he taught me what he knew. We would spend hours crafting the perfect essays. I would write a draft, take it to him, he would give me constructive criticism and I’d go back and hone the piece. We’d do this 2 or 3 times until it was just right. And that set the writing style for my entire life.

In 2006 writing resurged as part of my life in the form of blogging. I had gone through a bad breakup and instinctively turned to pen and paper to try to figure out who I was and what I was feeling. After posting one or two vulnerable posts, friends started to write back to me and the thread woven through each messages was, “thank you for sharing, me too.”

Six years later after blogging as a hobby alongside my career, my then boyfriend and now husband asked me if I really wanted to be a writer. I told him I did and he replied with, “then you need to write.” He had written and published a book and knew the rigors it took to be a writer full-time, meaning how to write EVERYDAY, not just when inspiration strikes.

And so in September of 2012 I set some small goals, posted them on my wall and began writing daily, rain or shine. And then after building some discipline and feeling good about it, I had an idea for book – and that’s when my relationship with writing went to another level.

In the haze of new motherhood– I committed to writing for 60 minutes a day. I’d set the stopwatch on my phone and start and stop as many times as I needed to accomplish 60 minutes. I kept hard copy calendars on my wall where I would reward myself by shading out each day. (So tech savvy!) Eventually, the outline became chapters and the chapters became a book – me also morphing in the process.

That’s when spreading inspiration + hope became my career.

How do you define courage?

My favorite definition of courage is, fear walking.

I have learned to become comfortable with fear and uncertainty and regard myself as courageous in quiet ways. For me it’s never about proving others wrong, it’s about proving myself right, about pushing a little further. A courageous moment can be speaking my truth when I’m unsure how it will be perceived, or it can be jumping over a burning stack of wood.

About 10 years ago I read, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, by Dr. Susan Jeffers and her insight was my entrée into learning about fear and how to deal with it, and then when I read The Gifts of Imperfection, I really started to get comfortable with walking through fear and vulnerability into courage.

How did the idea for your #ConfidenceRevolution emerge?

After finishing the first draft of my book, The Courage to Become, Stories of hope for navigating love, marriage and motherhood. I sat with my Mom in my childhood home and thought of the themes running through the book. Some of the themes were hope, change, transition, and they all lead toward a more confident me.

Not that I had MASTERED confidence, but I had definitely done work on myself, sloughed off the unnecessary and really started to feel comfortable in my own skin. And I wanted to SHOW OTHERS HOW.

It was like I found a water well and I wanted to share the good news with everyone I knew.

It took me years of reading and learning and seeking to learn how to feel good about myself – and I wanted show others so that it didn’t take them as long. I wanted to show them the short cut to the water well.

So I looked up at my Mom and said, “We need a revolution, a confidence revolution!”

I didn’t do any research or lookup the hashtag or anything like that – I just knew – that was it.

I committed to a yearlong series and gave my readers all I could on growth, love, spirituality, communication – anything and everything that would help them feel GREAT about who they are.

If women feel good and deserving – so many of life’s troubles fall away. There are so many of us walking around feeling less than, and I want do my part to change that.

What do feel your gift to the world is?

Hope through seeming failure. I have learned and enjoy talking about the times I get it ALL wrong, about the times I stumble and about the times I could have done better – and crafting them into moments of hope for folks going through similar situations. Because, if I got through it, you can get through it too. God has given me the grace to share raw, vulnerable moments and still hold my head high.

What does self-acceptance mean to you?

Self-acceptance means not only being comfortable about who you are and your gifts, but relishing in it and celebrating it.

What is the most inspiring experience you’ve ever had or words you’ve ever heard?

I am motivated by the greater good. I am all about goodness and progress and team. So, the most inspiring words I’ve ever heard were spoken by Admiral William McRaven. He was speaking to the 2014 graduating class at The University of Texas.

Admiral McRaven’s graduation speech was about the lessons he learned during Navy Seal basic training.

Each point was wonderful, but my favorite was #10.

“Finally, in SEAL training there is a bell. A brass bell that hangs in the center of the compound for all the students to see. All you have to do to quit is ring the bell.

Ring the bell and you no longer have to wake up at 5 o'clock. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the freezing cold swims. Ring the bell and you no longer have to do the runs, the obstacle course, the PT — and you no longer have to endure the hardships of training. Just ring the bell.

If you want to change the world don't ever, ever ring the bell.

To the graduating class of 2014, you are moments away from graduating. Moments away from beginning your journey through life. Moments away from starting to change the world — for the better. It will not be easy.

Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.

And what started here will indeed have changed the world — for the better.”

I loved his words so much I listened to them for HOURS during my first labor (which lasted 25 hours!). I also printed his words and have them taped to my desk. They bring me back to center when I feel like ringing the bell.

If you could tell your younger self something that you now know, what would it be?

  • Each of us are made uniquely for different purposes.  I would tell my younger self that I have ALL that I need to live out my purpose and experience joy. I just have to tap into it.

  • Competition is an illusion. All of angst and suffering comes from attachment to form. And if we mirror nature, the way nature just IS, the way nature comes and goes, the ease and flow with which nature moves, there is more joy to be found in the day to day. We don’t have to fear being more or less or different, because it’s all an illusion. We’re all connected, we’re all just different colors in the same painting.

  • Kindness and honor are THE WAY. It took me a while to learn how to truly be kind and honor myself, but once I did – so many terrible habits went by the wayside and my life started feel lighter, more joyful, and I began to experience deep love and freedom.  

Catia will be speaking at our Acceptance Tour in Austin on Monday, April 24th.  She has recently completed her first book: The Courage to Become, Stories of hope for navigating love, marriage and motherhood.

For more information on Catia visit her links below.

Website: http://www.catiaholm.com/

Facebook: Catia Holm

Instagram: @catiaholm

Twitter: @CatiaHolm

Youtube: Catia Holm- YouTube

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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:

Twitter:@Sastre_desastre

Website: About Taylor

YouTube: Level Up Impact: Engineering Social Change

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

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