Using a Gap Year to Achieve Non-Traditional Goals
Eliana spoke with Allie to discuss innovative ways they have cultivated academic and professional experiences. Instead of starting college immediately after high school, Allie took a gap year before college to create a YouTube beauty channel and advocate for transgender rights. Their discussion included many modern ideas that may not have been as common in the past, such as beginning college as an undeclared major, using makeup as a form of personal empowerment, or navigating their statuses as young women within male-dominated industries.
Disclaimer: the information shared here reflects the opinions of the host and interviewee and do not reflect the views of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs.
Eliana: You're listening to Youth Engaged for Change Radio, where youth empower you to improve your life and the world around you. This program is sponsored by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs. Welcome to Youth Engaged for Change Radio. This is your host, Eliana Marks. In this interview I talked with Allie about her interest in business. Allie is currently a waitress from New Hampshire. She will be attending the University of New Hampshire in the fall. Thank you Allie for taking time to talk to us today about your interest in business. So Allie, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, who are you?
Allie: My name is Allie Reyes. I'm originally from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but I reside in Dover, New Hampshire, which is one town over. I'm currently in a gap year, so I've just been taking this time to explore my interests, particularly in my interest in business, and social justice and stuff. Then, like you said, I will be attending the University of New Hampshire in the fall of 2019.
Eliana: When did you identify your interests in business? Was there an "Aha" moment?
Allie: So when I was younger, all the adults around me were in the business field. I thought that's what I wanted to do. So it's kind of always in the back of my head as I went through school, and then as I applied to college, I realized that I had a lot more interest than just business, so I ended up applying as undeclared. But recently, I've become aware of Nikita Dragun, who is a YouTube personality beauty guru, who is actually transgender, and she opened up, or she started her own makeup company for trans women by trans women. I'm also really inspired by Kylie Jenner. So just seeing their success, and also my past interest in business, has kind of led me to, "Yes, I'm going to stay on declared at UNH, but I'm also probably going to transfer to the business school soon."
Eliana: That's great. You mentioned before that you were also interested in social justice. Do you want to combine your two interests in the future?
Allie: Yeah, so I think the way that I would combine those interests would be that I would establish myself as a professional in the business world, and then I would kind of use my success to empower, and also pay for the generosity that I received from many people that have helped me achieve my goals.
Eliana:So the advocacy would come with your status as a business person?
Allie: I think so. I mean, I think I'm going to continue my advocacy all throughout my college experience.
Eliana That's interesting. That's awesome. So what's your plan for achieving your business goals? How do you see your school fitting into those plans?
Allie: Yeah, absolutely. So right now, like I said, I'm going to be entering UNH in the fall. Like I said, I'm going to be entering undeclared, so I'm going to have a lot of time to explore my interests. I plan on utilizing student organizations and checking out the student organizations that UNH offers, specifically the entrepreneurship club. What else? Like, Trans UNH, Alliance UNH. So, just I really want to explore my options, but I do see myself transferring to the College of Business, which is one of the best business schools in the country, top 50, gaining a undergraduate business degree, and then possibly moving onto graduate school and receiving an MBA.
Eliana: So you said you were interested in entrepreneurship. Do you have a certain type of product that you're interested in creating?
Allie: So, after spending a lot of time in restaurants, this is not my first restaurant job, I've actually worked in multiple restaurants. I just think that restaurants are super, super interesting. I think the whole creating a place for people to connect with each other. I mean, I know that's kind of a stretch to look at it that way. But after working in the restaurant industry, that really is what a restaurant is, it's a place for people to connect. So I think that that's super powerful, and I would love to open up a restaurant or a chain of restaurants. I can also see myself becoming involved in the beauty industry. I think makeup is actually super interesting. I think makeup is a growing industry. There's lots of money in it, but also makeup is an art, it's creative. So it's like melding together of a couple of different worlds. So I think that would be super interesting. I also definitely plan on not settling in one industry. I definitely want to vary my portfolio, and just experience a lot of different things.
Eliana That's great. Also because the restaurant and beauty industry are things that are only gonna get bigger rather than smaller. So on the topic of entrepreneurship, do you have any specific female entrepreneurs that inspire you?
Allie: Yeah, absolutely. So Nikita Dragun, who like I said, is a YouTube and beauty personality, on Instagram as well. She is amazing, couple million followers. Like I said, she just recently launched a makeup line by trans women for trans women, which I think is super powerful, especially in the age of LGBT awareness, how the LGBT community has been gaining visibility, which is awesome. I think in a world, especially the makeup world, where a lot of products are marketed towards the CIS population, CIS meaning not transgender, I think that that is super, super, super awesome. I mean, she sold out within a couple hours. So, yeah, I just thought that was super powerful. I mean, it was just so great to see. I'm really fond of my manager, actually. So basically the reason why I love my manager, is because there's lots of male energy, but I think that she conducts herself really well. I think that she doesn't let people walk all over her. I think that she's very stern, but respectful, and makes her employees feel appreciated. Yeah, I think that those are super great qualities. I really admire her for that, and I could totally see myself adopting some of her techniques and stuff in my own career.
Eliana: That's great. In regards to advocacy too, the restaurant business is a male-dominated industry. Having you there to kind of lend your voice as a manager, or as someone who's really important, that would be really great, especially for female representation.
Allie: Yeah, absolutely. Because she's a woman, I mean, we've created a really great group of women who are there to support themselves and do what they need to do to further themselves. Like I said, our manager is female, and most of the waitresses are female, so we've created a really great support system, I think.
Eliana: That's great. That's awesome. That's really cool to hear it.
Eliana: So, talking about women, you're in the process of creating a podcast interviewing women in business. How did you come up with this idea? How have you kind of started this project?
Allie: Oh yeah. So basically, I was asked to create podcast content for the Youth Engaged for Change website. There's a local coffee shop in my town called Flight Coffee, and I had remembered, or I had recalled seeing an interview with the owners about how Flight is a woman-owned business. I just thought, I don't know, I guess just hearing woman-owned business just kind of set off a light in my head, and I was like, "Well, what if I interviewed her as a woman in business?"Because I was positive that as a woman in business she must have a great journey. I mean, like business obviously as a male dominated industry, and I just thought it would be really cool to hear her education pathway, but also her struggles, and her successes, and her future plans. I kept the idea, and I went around to a few different business owners on the sea coast. I thought it would be great for young people such as myself who are aspiring entrepreneurs, or just aspiring to be in leadership roles. I thought it would be really cool for there to be a location where you could listen to the interviews of women in business, and then compare and contrast their journeys and their struggles. I thought it would just be a cool idea to do a bunch of interviews and have the same questions, and then being able to compare and contrast after listening to the whole series, what was different and what was the same, and what you could learn from them.
Eliana: And you would have women from all different types of business ventures?
Allie: Oh yeah, absolutely. I have people from a coffee company, I have people from a juice bar, a financial money management company, and Edward Jones is owned by a woman right down the street. What else do I have? A dog grooming business, another coffee shop. So yeah, they're all in a lot of different industries.
Eliana That's great. That's awesome.
Allie: Thank you.
Eliana: So, do you believe that women feel intimidated in business or face discrimination? If so, what has been your experiences with these struggles?
Allie: Definitely feel like women can feel intimidated. I think that when there's so much male energy in, like I said, in a male dominant industry such as the business or financial sectors, I think that a woman or women, me in particular, can feel intimidated. Personally, my experiences with that, like I said, in the restaurant world where management is usually male, I've definitely experienced just not being heard, not even at previous restaurants. I've experienced not being heard, but then my coworker being heard at the same level with the same questions, or with the same concerns. I think that a lot of the time men in power tend to just brush away the concerns of females, but then they tend to listen to the same concerns when it comes from another male's mouth.
Eliana: Do you think the stories that you've heard about discrimination have propelled you to want to be in the business sector in a way, and work to kind of eliminate those struggles?
Allie: Oh, absolutely. I'm a very headstrong person, and I think that when somebody tells me I can't do something, or when I perceive that it's a challenge, it propels me forward to overcome it, and to achieve, to just say that I did it, and to say that it's possible for others to do it.
Eliana: That's great. That's awesome. That's really cool. So how would you define a great leader? And what are some traits you think great leaders possess?
Allie: Oh, a great leader. I think that a great leader is stern and commands respect. So what they say isn't thrown to the wayside, but I also think that a great leader can and should build those appropriate relationships with their employees. I think that making employees feel respected and heard is super important. Just respect and openness and respect. Just commanding respect. I think that if a really good leader commands respect, that makes for a really great environment. Respect for themselves, but also respect for their employees.
Eliana: That's great. Then last question.
Eliana:What is the best advice you've received about business? And then what advice would you give to other young women or young entrepreneurs, leaders, who are looking to become leaders and entrepreneurs?
Allie: The best advice that I've received about this, that's hard. I mean, I guess it wasn't advice directly given to me. As I mentioned before, Nikita Dragon, she did a whole PR video, so public relations video, about her makeup line, and about how when she started it, everyone told her that it wasn't going to pop off, and nobody was going to buy it because the trans beauty industry is a very niche market. But I think that she just looked them in the face and she said I'm going to do it. I think just how I mentioned before, just being told that you can't do something and then doing it is not also revenge, but it's just great. I think that stories like that are what inspire me, and is what is great advice. So I think that success, it's partly a matter of what people demand, but success is also part what you demand of yourself, and how much you're willing to make it work. Then that is the advice that I would give aspiring young adults, particularly girls, in my position or in a similar position, that success in business is half of what people want and half of what you command from people, and what you command from yourself. Yeah.
Eliana: That's great. So thank you to Allie for taking the time to talk to us about her interest in business and her women's podcast, business podcast. We learned a lot from talking with Allie and I hope you did too. I really appreciated learning about women that inspire her, especially Nikita Dragun and Kylie Jenner.
If you or someone you know is looking for resources on her interests in business, please visit engaged.youth.com, and youth.gov. Again, thanks for joining us today with Youth Engaged for Change Radio. You can find us online and engage.youth.gov, or you can find us on Facebook and Instagram. We hope to see you for our next conversation.
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