You guys… This week’s interview, is what this whole thing is about!
Personally, I have been struggling a little bit lately. Launching a new business, a new passion project, and generally trying to move forward in every aspect of my life while trying to positively process and learn from what just feel like these huge disasters and set-backs… is hard! On every level! Even if in your heart of hearts, you know what you’re doing is what you love and are supposed to be doing, even minor set-backs allow toxic doubt and fear to creep in. And before you know it, you’re questioning every decision you’ve ever made in your whole entire life and you can’t motivate yourself to put on pants, let alone finish the 17 projects due in a half hour!
To hear stories like the one today, is why I wanted to create Mean Hustle. I knew that there were women out there doing and creating things that I could not even wrap my mind around. Things that inspire and trickle down and give people hope. I knew they knew things that I didn’t, but that I could probably learn from. I knew they’d have skills and passions that were different from mine, and that our goals, end results, or products would look nothing alike. But at the core, the sometimes-difficult journey might kind of look the same. I knew my struggles and feelings were valid, but not entirely unique. The experience and advice that I knew was out there, is what I wanted to find. Sometimes a little, “Been There, Done That”, goes a long way.
If were being honest, when I first got today’s interview back, I didn’t have time to read it all the way through. While I had replied to the email and thanked Amy for being a part of Mean Hustle, I was so busy keeping it together that I didn’t stop and take the whole thing in. I skimmed it, and tucked it safely away in my “read” folder, for days. I wouldn’t normally out myself like this, but I have to tell you… I am glad I didn’t read it. I genuinely feel that when I sat down this morning, exhausted, to edit this post and was able to really read and absorb everything that there was to learn from Amy’s story… Was the exact moment that I was supposed to read it. It was when I needed it the most. And it helped! I could feel the dream of building a community of hustlers, empowering each other with their stories and advice, starting to wake up! Amy’s story makes me want to knock some sh*t out today!
Even though we know that things won’t always be difficult, and that no dream is too big to give up on, sometimes it’s hard to believe until you see someone who has been there, standing on the other side. I love Amy’s honesty and ability to acknowledge the struggle, give it credit, and then move on to bigger and better things! All the while empowering those around her.
Every week I’ll ask our interviewee about a woman on their radar who is fighting the good fight. Amy Young was nominated last week by Carter Sampson! I am fortunate enough to know Amy personally, have worked along-side her, and I am so thankful she agreed to be a part of Mean Hustle! She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the SixTwelve community education center, and this is her hustle…
Who are you? Where are you from? What’s your story?
I'm Amy Young. I grew up in Ardmore, Oklahoma, moved to Norman for school a loooooong time ago and stayed for 19 years. I taught elementary music at Lakeview Elementary School for 8 years before going back to school at the University of Oklahoma for a masters in Art History. I moved to Oklahoma City almost twelve years ago to work at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and in 2010 bought an old, run-down building to renovate and turn into a community education school, a non-profit that I co-founded called SixTwelve. I love to collaborate with other creatives on projects that benefit community and am currently working on a private studio project with four guys that I think the world of. I want to use my life to further progressive and inclusive thinking/action in Oklahoma. I also love my family, my friends and my dog, Willie Merle.
What is your 9 to 5?
I'm the Co-Founder and Executive Director of SixTwelve, a community education center in the Paseo Arts District. We focus on education in the areas of creativity and sustainability for people of all ages, providing a PreK program, after school program, camps, adult workshops, events, residencies, community collaborations and more. We offer a community garden, orchard, community kitchen, classrooms, event space, an outdoor stage, apartments, studios and are the only place in Oklahoma City with under an acre of property, with permission, to have urban chickens. We aim to encourage people to think differently about the ways that they live their lives in general and hope to empower them through education. Our mission is, "Sharing Tools to Build a Better Community."
Do you love your job? Or is it a means to an end?
I do love my job. It's the hardest job I've ever had, but it's also the most rewarding thing I've ever done. It's a real privilege to see a dream you've worked toward since you were 8 years old become a reality, but it comes with a lot of sacrifice and late nights. Totally worth it all.
What is your passion project(s)?
SixTwelve is my passion project for sure!
Do your day job and your passion project(s) overlap at all?
I worked for eight years in public education and four years in museum education. All of the educational choices I made along the way, even extra-curricular activities I took in High School somehow led to what I am doing now.
I think people are always interested in the "why" of work. Do you just love hard-work, and it's instinctual? Is it a necessity to maintain? Or is it one big push to arrive at an end goal. What is the "why" of your work?
Be it your “money job”, or your “heart” job. I definitely love hard work and am one that will do whatever it takes to get the job done with quality, but SixTwelve is more than just hard work. I don't and have never taken a paycheck for what I do because I would rather spend that money on helping SixTwelve to have what it needs - whether it be another person to take some of the work load, programming materials, building needs, health insurance for employees...the needs are limitless. I do this because I really believe in the power of education, community, the arts and sustainability to transform people's lives into a healthier and happier existence.
No one truly sees the blood, sweat, and tears that go into doing what you love. On your busiest and toughest day, gettin’ down and dirty, what are you doing?
On my busiest and toughest days, I'm teaching, managing people, mediating disagreements, cleaning toilets, handling customer service issues, meeting with community leaders to plan collaborations, performing all social media tasks, prepping payroll, planning and executing fundraising events, preparing for board meetings, making sure our bills and insurance are paid, meeting bank and insurance compliance, organizing tax preparation, planning programming, working with artists, making sure the building has what it needs, making sure our staff has what it needs, all while trying to balance it with taking care of myself and being there for my family and my dog. It's a lot, for sure, but we're just four years old and it takes a good 6 to 10 years to really get a business established, so we're still in the thick of building it and trying to keep it going.
”…it's vitally important for you to have trust in yourself in order to see your dreams through. Do what you need to do get past that self-doubt!”
What is the biggest obstacle you find yourself dealing with in trying to get where you want to go?
I believe that our three greatest resources are time, energy and money. There's never enough to do all of the things that you dream of, but if you can pace yourself and build each year toward the fleshed-out dream, you'll get there eventually. There is also a HUGE need for self-love and self-confidence. Both are very important. Without them, it's hard to trust your gut and decisions, but it's vitally important for you to have that trust in yourself in order to see your dreams through. Do what you need to do get past that self-doubt! (I find that yoga and meditation are so helpful, but the most valuable thing is to honor your choices and don't abandon yourself or give your power away. Stay true to your dreams, vision and plan.)
In your down time, how do you treat yo’ self?!
Like I said, yoga and meditation have been a huge part of self-love for me. I also try to get a massage at least once a month. Spending time with those who build you up and make you feel like you can reach your goals are also a gift, but in the true "Treat Yo' Self" sense, I take trips and get away - either by myself or with people that I know won't suck my energy - and explore. I've realized over the past few years that I need this. I love to travel and I need to travel. It's the explorer in me that needs to be fed. It brings balance and peace to my life and inspires me with new ideas for what I'm doing at home.
Often times the passion projects that we hurl ourselves into, are inspired by something that has impacted us directly. Are there events from your own life that have determined the projects you've picked?
SixTwelve is such a comprehensive project that everything I choose to do now relates to it in some way. I told my mother when I was 8 years old that I wanted to have a one room school house when I grew up. I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher and when I left teaching in 2004 to go back to school, it was to get more education so that I could be an even better teacher and open a school. My mom, dad and grandmother were all teachers. It's in my blood, but actually reaching the goal of opening a school and seeing the ways that it benefits the community are things that make me so happy. While I was teaching, I kept a list of the things that I would if I could have a school of my own someday. Working in public school where music was secondary to other curriculum areas and working in a museum where the education program was secondary to the collection or exhibitions was fine and still meaningful work, but I wanted to establish a place where art education was valued as much as anything else in the building. After researching other activities and programs that help children to learn more about our world and encourage empathy and kindness, adding in the sustainability side of things - gardening, composting, reducing waste as much as possible, providing eggs with chickens, etc., was just as logical to include in the curriculum as art, music, film making, dance, and writing.
”Take it one day at a time and know that if this business you've started came from your dreams, you don't owe it to the world to provide it immediately. You owe it to yourself to chase your dreams and to do what you can. No more, no less.”
Is there one piece of advice that you wish someone would have given you in your formative years, that you’ve had to learn the hard way?
I wish someone would have told me that everyone struggles in the beginning of building a business are normal. I thought I was supposed to be perfect from the start. I encountered so many different challenges, split with a partner, took over by myself and thought I had failed right out of the gate because things looked different from what I had expected or envisioned. The truth is that every business has a life, just like us. It will go through different phases, and you will learn different things during each of those times. Be patient with yourself and know that with every heartache or disappointment, you are growing and becoming exactly who your business needs to be. And it's OK to let it become what it will as long as you are the ones making the choices and decisions. Don't let other people's expectations determine what you do, unless it's just to provide better customer service and to make choices that will better allow your staff or processes to flow with goodness. Take it one day at a time and know that if this business you've started came from your dreams, you don't owe it to the world to provide it immediately. You owe it to yourself to chase your dreams and to do what you can. No more, no less. Find peace in growth and progress, not perfection, because perfection will never come. We're all human and doing the best we can. Also, it's OK to only work with those who you find a "fit" with. Life is too short to work with jerks, but you have to get over yourself and out of your own way to see if they're being the jerk or if you are. :)
Can you think of a time in your life when community was key to your success, or even survival? And has that impacted your decisions moving forward?
Community is everything to SixTwelve. We wouldn't have opened our doors, built this business or made it this long without community.
What is the most important “tool in your toolbox”, physical or otherwise?
I think my ability to keep going and not quit on my dreams, my friends and myself - sheer determination and will - is the most important thing I have going for me. The fact that I've been dreaming about this business and life for so long doesn't hurt either.
How do you define success for yourself, and are you there yet?
To me, success is not only keeping our doors open, but for people to feel loved and respected at the same time too. This includes the kids, parents, staff, community members and even me. We all need to feel supported and to find connection. If that happens and if I respect myself in the process, I feel that I'm a total success. And I feel that I'm there - most of the time.
You have to teach someone a random skill that you are knowledgeable in, in 5 minutes or less. What is that skill? Novelty skills absolutely count!
I would teach someone the chords and songs I know on the ukulele. That instrument is so therapeutic and fun!!!
The whole world has gone dark. No technology, no electricity. You have to pick either a hammer or a lighter as the only tool that you are allowed to use for the rest of your life. Which do you pick? And why?
Is there any light at all? I guess I would pick the lighter so as to bring light to the world.
If there is anything else specifically that you would like to talk about, please do!
Learn how to love yourself more and more every day. Get in touch with what makes you happy and feel at peace. That will guide you in the direction you're supposed to travel. Life is beautiful and there's so much to take in and experience. We're meant to live with joy, not stress. Take time for yourself and try to enjoy what you're experiencing. You deserve to love your life.
Thank you for being a part of Mean Hustle and sharing your story! One last question. Is there any one specific woman on your radar right now who you look up to in terms of mean hustling, and/or doing impactful work?
I have asked Amanda Zoey, and she would be open to doing this, and honored!