Studio IX : What’d you have for breakfast?

Hannah: I actually haven’t eaten yet. I thought I was gonna be late, so I got over here as fast as I could. But I did find, I think, some egg on my shirt this morning. I think that’s what it was, egg.

Studio IX: Hmm. (laughter)

H: I do have egg packed in my lunch. It could be that.

Studio IX: There’s evidence of egg.

 H: There is evidence of egg.

 Studio IX: Okay. First real question. Who are you, and what do you do?

H: Who am I, and what do I do? I’ve always considered myself a listener and a people watcher, and I think those two identities work in tandem. I’ve been fascinated by other people for as long as I can remember. In fact, I’ve probably been more interested in other people’s lives than in my own. But sometimes it’s stifling being the “observer,” rather than the “participant,” so I’ve worked in recent years to be more of the “participant.” I have a lot of things I want to do in my life. Even still, I love being quiet—just kind off doing my own thing and figuring out how I think about the world. There’s a balance there somewhere.

As for what I do, I’d say that I serve people, and I try to do it with a good attitude.

Studio IX: What is your actual title, and who do you work for?


H: I’m the Director of Employee Experience at Roots Natural Kitchen. I get a pulse on how our people are doing, how they’re engaging with their peers, their managers, and their work, and figure out how to improve their experience—before, during, and after their time at Roots. The goal is to make this the most fun, fulfilling, and empowering place to be, and be from.

 In short, my work is figuring out what it is we’re promising our people, and how we plan to deliver on that promise throughout the course of employees’ careers.


Studio IX: Awesome.


H: Yeah, it is.


Studio IX: Well, I’ll just ask it—you may have answered it, but what are you passionate about?


H: I’m really passionate about food and our relationship to it—including all the emotional, physical, cultural, political, and environmental ties to what we eat. I think I’m angsty, or let’s say, convicted, at my core, because I find a lot of injustices in the world, particularly in the food industry, and I feel a deep-rooted personal responsibility to right them.  

In college, I used to joke, though mostly seriously, that I was a poet and a “muckraker,” which was a term coined to describe the investigative journalists who exposed the evils of leaders, corporations, and political systems around the turn of the 20th century. Think people like Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle, and revolutionized American food safety with his words. It’s a lovely thought: these “muckrakers” digging up crap and exposing it. Bringing it out into the light, out into the open, to get some fresh air. So I would say that I was, and still am, a poet and a muckraker, because I believe that you can dig up truth and illuminate it in such a way that it is useful, invigorating, and beautiful.

I’m also drawn to healing, all kinds of healing. I think any profession can be a “healing profession” if you approach your work, and your people, with care, thought, and a sincere desire for wholeness and restoration.

 And I’m passionate about people. I’ve heard it said that loving others is the most creative thing we could ever do. I’ll add that I also think it’s the hardest, and the most worthwhile.


Studio IX: I feel that—


H: Yeah.


Studio IX: Does this play a part in your work?


H: For sure it does. Right now, I’m uniquely positioned to advocate for people. Something that I love about Roots is that we offer opportunity—a fresh start for a lot of people in this industry. I, or really, we as a collective company, are able to put under the microscope most jobs in the service industry and say, How can we make this work better, more humane and worthwhile, for our people? So in that sense, I’m taking the injustices that I see and doing what I can to right them, to offer people enriching work and translatable life skills. I often say that I feel experientially “rich,” especially at Roots, and I want others to feel the same. I want to make a tangible difference. One that others can hear, see, and touch.


Studio IX: Yeah. What do you enjoy most about work?


H: Word on the street is that this is everyone’s favorite aspect of work—but of course, the people. My coworkers are creative and wildly entertaining to work alongside. They play with words, and ideas, and norms, and to me this is the most fun. Being a somewhat recent college grad, I thought I was going to miss school, but this past year, I’ve found that my curiosity, my need for intellectual stimulation, is met in our corporate office. My mind has been changed and twisted and teased countless times—it’s been cool to have the boundaries of my brain just stretch. Not only have I gleaned a lot of professional experience in this role, but a lot of cognitive and relational experience as well. I really love that.


Studio IX: I mean, that’s a good segue to jump off the regular kind of scheduled programming and just talk about the show for a minute. So you have an exhibit here at Studio IX, in the gallery in September.

Can you talk a bit about it?


H: Yeah. It’s funny, because when I was talking to you earlier, I mentioned that this gallery exhibit was not the way I thought I was going to be “published.” This whole project started because one of our co-founders, Alberto, wrote an email one day—and the thing you gotta know about him is that he is very direct and succinct in his writing—and I was so struck by the cadence of his words. I don’t know if he intended his email to be that way, but it rhymed, and overall had the right tempo. I thought it was brilliant. So I wrote it down and played with the spacing and the line structure, and I was like, Shoot, this is poetry.

After that, I kept my ears perked. I started recording more and more quotes from my coworkers, and playing with them, thinking, “Oh, if I work with them, shape them this way and break down the words that way, I can recreate the experience of hearing them for the first time.” I started identifying as a scribe, a preserver of our open-office culture. You think of ancient cultures that tell their stories on wax paper and stone tablets—I happen to tell ours electronically. I had everything written down on a word doc. Like any other scribe worth his salt, I felt compelled to remember, and at some point, pass along, these conversations and comebacks. Each poem, then, encapsulates a very specific creative moment.

But the thing is, even in their specificity, these poems are broad enough where you can read them, relate to them, and think, “Oh, I see where you’re coming from with that.” Or, “You know, I’ve been there. I resonate with that.” That’s powerful.


Studio IX: Yes.

Studio IX: Could you share a memorable story?


H: Memorable story. hmm—?


Studio IX: If we take your writing, your love of the word, your love of people, your work with Roots—is there a memorable story that comes to mind?


H: I feel like there are a lot of memorable stories.


Studio IX: Something that stands out to you.


H: Let me think on it. I’ve been with Roots now for three and a half years, and for two plus of those years I worked in restaurant operations. Anytime you deal directly with the public, you get a lot of good stories. I’ll have to circle back on that.


Greg: What’s an aspect of what you do that people might be surprised to know about your job?


H: Hmmm. I’m on hold a lot.


Now I don’t mean that to sound diminutive. I work on a several “big picture” projects, and I love it when people say they’re different because of Roots. But a lot of times, I’m responding to emails, waiting on hold, doing “little” things well. Because when you pull back the curtain, you find that the little things are actually the big things, the world-changing things, if you do them proficiently and consistently. So I do my best to approach the little things with the same sense of faithfulness, and reverence, and joy, that I do the big things. I’ve gleaned a lot of this wisdom from my coworker Henry, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to experience it, and make sense of it, in my own way.


Studio IX: Well said, Han’


Studio IX: Any sense of where you’re headed, where Roots is headed?

What’s in the future for the company, or for your role in it?


H: In 2015, as you know, we opened the doors of our flagship location here on the Corner—and since then, we’ve opened five more restaurants. So we’ve grown quite rapidly in the first few years of business. I know the plan from a strategic perspective is to continue that growth. In 2020, we’ll have several new locations opening, and obviously, with more growth comes more opportunity.


Going forward, my role will look slightly different, in that I’ll be hiring, and working closely with, somebody new to ensure that the more technical tasks of my current role, including compliance, payroll, and benefits administration, are handled. All of us here wear a lot of hats, but for most of the time, the “humans” department is a one-woman department, so I’m thrilled to get some help in this area. I’m excited, also, to step into more of a managerial role, and work on my professional parenting skills, if you will. So my medium-term plans are to keep doing what I’m doing and then help our new humans department hire become acclimated.


Studio IX: Then, save the world.


H: Then, yes, save the world. Those are my long-term plans. (laughter)


Studio IX: What do you enjoy about being here in Studio Ix?


H: Something that drew me to Studio IX in the beginning was the atmosphere. I remember when we were touring office spaces, looking for our company’s new corporate home, I left Studio IX thinking, Yes, this is it. The space was so bright and warm, even in late October. For me, Studio IX was an aesthetic attraction and a gut sense.


Think of how you fall in love with a person. Maybe you’re attracted to someone because you’re a sucker for crow’s feet, but once you spend time with them, and you get to know them, you become enthralled with the other parts of them: the lines of their handwriting, the patience they have in traffic, the sun-burnt backs of their ears when you walk behind them.


That’s how it was with Studio IX. At first, I was drawn to the general appearance and atmosphere. But as I got to know the space, I found that I was drawn to its people, those I met by the printer and passed in the hall and learned by first name at the fridge making breakfast; drawn to its habits; drawn to the Van Morrison on Tuesday morning over tea; drawn its many Thursday happy hours. These characteristics and quirks come with a space once you spend time getting to know it. All of these things equally become it.

 And I don’t want to forget Sicily Rose, which, even after it no longer greets us here in the mornings, still has a home in my heart and my mind. The friendships I’ve formed with those at Sicily Rose, and the perspectives I’ve gained from having this place as a part of Studio IX, I consider not transitional, but pivotal, in my own personal development.


Studio IX: We’re honored to have you and the team here with us, Hannah.

Thank you.


H: Thank you.


Studio IX: Good morning, Jonathan.

Jonathan:             Good morning.

Studio IX:             So let’s break the ice. Tell us who you are and what it is you do.

Jonathan:            Yeah, I'm Jonathan Eldridge. I'm a product manager at a financial software company called SS&C technologies, which is a conglomerate of software. They purchased a bunch of companies, so my company was purchased three years ago by them. Previously, it was called Advent Software, based in San Francisco. It's the only job I've ever had, since out of college, so I've been there for 18 years.

Studio IX:             And what brought you to Charlottesville?

Jonathan:            Two kids.

Studio IX:             Gotcha.

Jonathan:              So I was in San Francisco and then New York and then once we had our second child in New York, in Brooklyn, our apartment became too small, and life became too tough. I knew the area (Charlottesville). My brother used to live here, but my best friend, and his family have since moved down here and I have some friends from college who live here as well. We had a good little circle of people trying to sell us on Charlottesville, once they heard we were wanting to move out of New York, pitching the Charlottesville dream. 

Studio IX:             Glad they did, it's good to have you here.

Jonathan:              Yeah.

Studio IX:             What are you passionate about? It could be work, could be life related, ..could dovetail.

Jonathan:             I'm pretty passionate about my job. I like working with my clients, with hedge funds and smart individuals that are overall pretty cool.

Jonathan:              I'm passionate about travel. We travel a lot. I travel a lot individually for work but then also as a family.

Studio IX:             Does that take you all over the world? Or is it mainly in the states?

Jonathan:              It’s primarily international. I go to Dublin every year. I went to Amsterdam this year. Munich previously. Hopefully Beijing later this year. But mainly Europe.

Studio IX:             Is Dublin personal or is that more work?

Jonathan:              All work.

Studio IX:             Cool.

Jonathan:              Personally we haven't decided to take the kids that far yet. My wife really wants to but I’m still hesitant on the overnight flight and timezone change.  They come with me to San Francisco a lot for visits to the office out there.

Studio IX:             San Fran’s a good spot.

Jonathan:              Yeah, it is.

Studio IX:             What do you enjoy most about your work?

Jonathan:             Helping other people do their jobs. We have a lot of developers and business analysts who understand how the product works as well as what the clients need. We have relationship managers to keep clients happy and make sure they're paying their bills. We have consultants that implement the products. And so I sit in the middle of all that trying to connect the dots and relay information.  I talk to clients as well.  My main responsibility is to figure out what we should build next. So what kind of crazy swap instrument or bond or whatever they're trading these days and how we can support that. And I just try to then figure out what we're going to build and then relay all that information and make sure everybody's connected on moving the product forward and keeping the clients up to date. That make sense?

Studio IX:             Yeah. I'm going to date myself here, but you're like Stockton to Malone.

Jonathan:             Yeah, yeah. A lot of assists. That's right. (Laughter)

Studio IX:             Can you share a memorable story from your work? Something that’s stood out to you, that might've been a turning point or just something that mattered.

Jonathan:              Let me think about that.

Jonathan:             Becoming a manager was eye opening. Being responsible for your team, for giving them paths to success so they can grow. It’s a big responsibility, especially for some younger team members that have so much potential. So allowing that potential to grow in areas that help the business and their career. And then, yeah, just making sure you're not holding them back and getting the most out of them and keep them happy and staying with the team. So it's a big responsibility and I kind of didn't quite think too much about that specifically before becoming a manager.

Studio IX:             How long have you been doing that?

Jonathan:              Managing? Probably the last five years. It's a small team, like four people.

Studio IX:             With that in mind, where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years? Where’s the industry's headed? Are things changing quickly or has it stayed relatively the same?

Jonathan:              For us, we've had legacy products. My product which is called Geneva has been 15 or 20 years now. It's gone through different evolutions like Java client, .Net client. So now the trend is everything moving into to the cloud, so we are moving to a web based UI (user interface). So that's a challenge, but also very exciting. 

Jonathan:              The other thing that we see as growth for us is we're building out teams in India to do manage services. So certain clients, like hedge funds want to go into new strategies like trading swaps or whatever it is, but they don't want to hire a big team to do all the reconciliation of the numbers and entering the trades and all that kind of day to day work that comes along with the strategy.  So we will provide them with a team that does that so they get to take the advantage of the new strategy that they're going after without having to onboard a bunch of people.

Studio IX:             Biggest shift from Brooklyn to here?

Jonathan:              As far as life changes, I mean, well, as a whole life is so much easier here. I do miss the food. We are getting used to it. The food is good here and I love the independent restaurants, but you know - you miss some of that. The biggest impact was moving here in the middle of all the craziness of 2017. We moved here in July and were still unpacking as all that went down.  There are still some things in the south that you just don't realize until you get here. But those specific events, we know that wasn't a product of Charlottesville, those were people from everywhere.

Studio IX:             It's been eye opening for a lot of people.

Jonathan:              Yeah. On the positive side, one of the biggest shifts is just for the kids. The pool scene here is incredible. Whether it's ACAC, Frye Springs, or the city pools. We're happy with the of ease of life, to do anything. Especially the kids. It's fantastic.

Studio IX:            Night and day.

Jonathan:              Yeah. Our biking commute is 10 minutes.

Studio IX:             Were you working in Manhattan?

Jonathan:              Yeah, yeah. Rode the subway to Bryant Park everyday.

Studio IX:             On that note — what do you enjoy most about being here at Studio IX?

Jonathan:              Well, I ended up having two friends that were already working here, Jed and Tiffany. So it was nice having some friendly faces that you could see. I think it's just a cool spot. It's got a cool coffee shop out front. I mean the IX area itself is just a great, unique location versus I guess what you would get in just renting out a stale office. I think you do a great job of bringing new things to try and get people together. Having that opportunity is good.

Jonathan:              And it's interesting, you hear these little conversations of people doing their job. Most people that do so many different things. You see the same people here for two years, which means they like it here too. It's not a constant turnover.

Studio IX:             Is this the first time you've co-worked?

Jonathan:              I've always been at an office, so yeah this is my first experience. 

Studio IX:             Beautiful. Well, — that's it.

Studio IX:             Painless.

Jonathan:            Yeah, it is painless. Way, way, way, way easier than going to the dentist.



Studio IX:                                All right. First thing's first. Who are you, and what do you do?

Tobias Noyes:                        My name is Tobias Noyes and I'm the founder of a small digital marketing and web development company called Renaissance Group.

Studio IX:                                And what does Renaissance Group do?

Tobias Noyes:                        We focus on two things. First, we design and code beautiful/intuitive websites. Second, we use a variety of digital marketing techniques, like search engine optimization, paid search, and Facebook ads to drive traffic to those sites.

Studio IX:                                Cool. We should get you working for us. (laughter)

Tobias Noyes:                       Okay, this is actually just a client meeting then.

Studio IX:                                Yeah. We're just recruiting, that's all we're doing. So, what are you passionate about?

Tobias Noyes:                        In regards to business, personal, or both?

Studio IX:                                Across the board.

Tobias Noyes:                        Interesting, that's a great question. The good thing about it being transcribed and not recorded is that it doesn't take in consideration pauses. I could pause for 10 minutes and think about it.

First and foremost, I'm a Christian, and so the number one priority in my life is glorifying Christ. I’m also passionate about family, community, personal growth, and ultimately making a positive impact, which is why I love entrepreneurship. When you work for yourself, you’re able to steer the ship. I do a fair bit of work with nonprofits as well as donate 10% of gross sales to philanthropic organization. I’m able to do these things because I don’t have a boss or board to report to.

Studio IX:                                What do you enjoy most about the work that you're doing?

Tobias Noyes:                        I absolutely love my team & company culture. One of our core values is to “take things personally.” As the founder, my desire is to provide challenging & meaningful work to my employees, which I believe fosters a culture of excellence and commitment.

The average American will spend 10,000 hours “working” over the next five years. Because of this, I don’t really like the term “work life balance”.  If my team and I viewed Renaissance Group as a necessary evil, just to pay the bills, we’re doing something wrong.

My teammates and I sincerely care about one another, our work, and our clients. It’s not just a method for a paycheck. We take it personally.

I love having the ability to do enjoyable, meaningful work with some of the most incredible people in the world.

Studio IX:                                And when did this company start?

Tobias Noyes:                        I started Spring semester, my fourth year in college. So, about a year and a half ago.

Studio IX:                                And you are the founder?

Tobias Noyes:                        I'm the founder.

Studio IX:                                Awesome.

Studio IX:                                So let’s backtrack to your passions, and think about the work you're doing. Is there a place where those dovetail in some sense?

Tobias Noyes:                        That’s a great question. Going back to my number one priority, Christ, I see Renaissance Group as an extension of that, which permeates every part of the business from company culture, to quality of service, to our clients.

I have a desire to positively impact the world around me. I see Renaissance Group as a method to do that. Ultimately, I plan on moving into services like cybersecurity, IT optimization, finance, etc. Ideally, Renaissance Group will become a full fledged consulting firm that can help nonprofits increase their efficiency and impact.

Studio IX:                                What's an aspect of the work that you do that people might be surprised to know about?

Tobias Noyes:                        We do a really good job of showing clients what we do, how we do it, and what are the results. We have a commitment to transparency, which is very important for a marketing firm. We’re confident in our work and the results that we provide. Too many firms have metrics like “brand awareness” and “engagement rate”. These things don’t mean much. People care about conversions–sales, donations, volunteer signups, etc. To the best of our ability, we avoid these “micro-conversions” and measure real results.

Studio IX:                                Is there a memorable story that comes to mind from your work? A turning point, anything in starting the company that stands out to you?

Tobias Noyes:                        Yeah. I was actually just recently having this conversation with one of my employees about this. Renaissance Group’s first client was a small, family-run business in Richmond, VA... Now, one and a half years later, we’re working with much larger clients, one of them is worth roughly 100 million. Graduating from UVA, I felt pressure to land a high paying corporate job. There’s insecurity not knowing whether or not I made the right decision to start this business. It was almost surreal to have the realization that we’ve actually come a very long way.

Studio IX:                                Where do you see all of this headed in the next five to ten years?

Tobias Noyes:                        I have a passion for starting things, not necessarily managing things.  I love web development and digital marketing, but I don’t see myself doing it long term. My plan is to continue to grow the business and then hire a manager to run it for me while I start another company, probably cybersecurity.

In ten years, my hope is to have several “consulting” type companies: marketing, IT optimization, cybersecurity, strategy/operations, etc. I can use those different companies in tandem to add value to other organizations. That’s where the name Renaissance Group came from. Stemming back from a “Renaissance Man,” who is someone that’s an expert in a variety of fields, I want to run a company or parent company that has expertise in a variety of fields. So long story short. For me, it’s not so much about the what (i.e. digital marketing), but the how and why.

Studio IX:                                What do you enjoy about being here at Studio IX?

Tobias Noyes:                       Honestly, I just love it as a co-working space. I was initially running the business out of Milli, which was very inefficient. It’s surprising what a monitor or two will do to improve your workflow.

My biggest issue is that the coffee is too good–I love snowing in space! I’m pretty sure I’m paying more to Snowing in Space than I am to Studio IX. (Laughter)

Studio IX:                                Cool, that's it.

Tobias Noyes:                       That's it?

Studio IX:                                Clean and simple.



Studio IX:                              Can you tell us who you are, and what you do?

Lily Walton:                           My name is Lily Garcia Walton.

Lily Walton:                           And I do a lot of things.

Lily Walton:                           Most people when they ask you what you do are interested in knowing your primary source of income, that's what I've found. I always resist that because I don't define myself by my primary source of income. It's a part of who I am, but it isn't all of who I am.

So, my primary source of income at the moment is Chief People Officer of an education consulting firm called Education First Consulting. That is unique and interesting in two respects. One is, everybody works remotely. There is no headquarters, or central locus of control. The second is, it was founded by a group from the Gates Foundation. The organization has grown up in this space where they, primarily, although not exclusively, work to implement systemic change in school districts through funding from major donors and also the Federal government, although not currently because we don't align philosophically with the current administration.

That's my primary source of income, but when people ask me what I do at parties, I usually say something like, I'm a gig economy workplace expert,  because that is my interest. I'm most passionately interested in how to intentionally transform the concept of the workplace to make it a place that our children can happily inhabit, and transforming education so that children are prepared to do that.

So, I do other things that are related to that. One of them is I accidentally became the founder of DisruptHR/Charlottesville, which is an annual speaking event that brings a diverse and eclectic group of people together to talk about the future of work and talent. We happen to benefit Computers for Kids, which is a STEM mentoring program for low income youth in the Charlottesville area that is really focused on teaching kids how to have agency, and be self sufficient, and creative, and inventive, which is part of what I really believe the future needs. Kids really enjoy it, as well.

 I've become very much invested in, and involved with that organization, and I'm on their board at the moment. Part of what I do is help to support alternative pathways for K-12 education through my work with Computers for Kids. I'm also a serial entrepreneur. I just can't help myself. I didn't actually recognize that as part of my identity until, possibly, the past year. A friend of mine, who is similarly afflicted, called me out on it. I finally said, wow, you're right. I realized that I had started four different enterprises throughout my career. I hadn't given myself credit for a couple of them because I started them with other people.

One of those things was very successful, and remains to this day. It's a law related non profit called Corporate Pro Bono. It's a matchmaking service for in house attorneys to find pro bono opportunities. Two of those things were not successful, ultimately, for different reasons. Maybe I should reframe that. They didn't achieve the success that we expected. They turned out to be something else. One of them was a gay dating app called Stagg. The other was a new economy law firm called Clearspire Law Company. The fourth thing, with which I'm still involved, is a digital education staffing platform called Teamed. I'm a minority owner of that organization. I serve as a legal and HR advisor.

What Teamed is seeking to do is actually provide a gig economy workplace for the types of professionals who work on digital education and to provide a place where those who need people to create digital education products to go to find all the types of professional they need in one place. It is a very specific and formidable challenge for people who want to create digital education to find all of the different types of professionals they need, from instructional designers, to videographers, to writers, instructional technologists. It's complicated.

That's the market niche that we're seeking to address. We've had some moderate success. We have been around for about a year and a half now and are still considered in the eyes of the market more or less a regular recruitment or staffing agency.

The market hasn't yet caught up to the idea that they need something unique or different to fulfill their needs in the space.

Lily Walton:                           I'm also on the board of the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, which is fun because it's a hub of connection for me to the types of people in this town who are interested in transforming the workplace, specifically through technology innovation. That is another passion project that I think is consistent with my orientation.

Lily Walton:                           If you look at LinkedIn, you will see that I have very deliberately edited my tagline so it doesn't default to my employer. What it says is, "Humanist, Futurist, and Fearless Leader". I think, at a philosophical or a spiritual level, that is what I do.

Lily Walton:                           I think I'm a humanist in the sense that I am really excited about bringing out the potential in people. There's nothing that moves me more than seeing a person come into their potential, so that's what I do in different ways in all of the work that I do.

Lily Walton:                           I'm also very clearly obsessed with the future. I'm as interested in the present as I am  interested in how things are evolving, and what they're going to become.

Lily Walton:                           I have learned over the years to lead fearlessly, in different ways. I think that I've come to recognize that as a defining trait of mine in everything that I do. I really don't worry too much about the potential for failure. I actually tend to believe that it's just as likely, if not more likely, that things will turn out really well. I think that has worked to my advantage, and to my disadvantage. Remember I said I was a failed entrepreneur twice?

Lily Walton:                           I'll probably try to start something again several times in my life before I'm done.

Studio IX:                                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lily Walton:                           That's a very long and detailed answer to what you perhaps thought was a simple and straight forward question.

Studio IX:                                No, it's great,

Lily Walton:                           It's funny. I have a website, I have an LLC, I have a “consulting business” where I've tried to turn who I am into something, and it's really hard to do.

Studio IX:                              Another of our members was saying the same thing. They said; “I don't know how to size it up in a CV”. That they tried for a long time to sew it together and to make it look as though it was consistent.

Lily Walton:                           Right.

Studio IX:                                But at some point they just gave up.

Lily Walton:                           Well, yeah. It's like, hello world. Here I am.

Studio IX:                                Twenty years of experience.

Lily Walton:                           Right.

Studio IX:                                Yeah.

Studio IX:                                I think that's true for a lot of us. That it's only in hindsight that we can look back and see how the connections came into being, right?

Lily Walton:                           Yeah.

Studio IX:                                I'm interested in this, and then this, which seems so random, then this over here. Then they all come to a confluence, a delta, or something.

Lily Walton:                           Yeah.

Studio IX:                                Is there a story that you could share? One that is memorable, a turning point in the course of your work.

Lily Walton:                           I'll tell you this. A decision that I made that was very important.

Lily Walton:                           In the fall of 2017. I decided to leave my big corporate job. I just took a buy out package. People talk about that as being their dream. Oh, I just wish somebody would give me a buyout package, and I could hit reset and start over.

Lily Walton:                           It's actually terrifying to do that.

Lily Walton:                           I felt like I had no choice because I knew in my heart I was not philosophically aligned with the direction that my job was going. At the time, I think I told myself that I didn’t have a choice in a way that was disempowering. Then, in the months that followed I captivated this important and deeper narrative that told me this was a very powerful choice, and it was a legitimate choice. I could have just as easily gone the other way and stayed on the train.

Lily Walton:                           I could have gotten off later, but that process of deprogramming myself from the idea that I needed to have a job that could define me, that had a great deal of professional and social currency, and that demanded so much of me on so many different levels that it was a container for everything I was. That idea, the death of that idea, was really important.

Lily Walton:                           Stepping out of that space is what created this compelling white board where I was actually able to narrate for myself what my life meant, and who I was. That was a critical pivot point.

Lily Walton:                           You were speaking earlier about mid life crises. Maybe that was my mid life crisis, right?

Lily Walton:                           It isn't just, oh, I left my big corporate job and decided to take a different direction. It's what that process meant, and what that did to me as a person.

Studio IX:                                Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lily Walton:                           I realized that ... This is going to sound terribly maudlin, right, but it isn't about the destination. It's about the journey.

Lily Walton:                           It's one thing to write that in a quote and enjoy it, and reflect upon it. It's another thing to really internalize it. This idea that we are all in a process of becoming, that is never ending. If we can give over to the journey, really give over to the journey, it becomes thrilling. That's what I have experienced. It isn't like I didn't have happiness or fulfillment. All the things that I've said about myself were true before that decision, and they remain true now. But it's kind of like my senses were dampened in a way that they no longer are.

And I know that there is more. I think that's part of where my decision to embrace this idea of fearlessness comes in. I think that's what comes to mind when you ask that question.

Studio IX:                               What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?

Lily Walton:                           In all of the work that I do, paid or unpaid, I enjoy being a part of seeing these serendipitous connections among people that cause unexpected things to happen. I've learned to follow the bread crumbs. If you told me, I have this friend, you really should talk to him, I would totally call your friend. Whenever anybody presents me with an opportunity to make a connection, or explore something ... If you tell me there's a podcast I should listen to, I write it down and I go and listen to it. I'm available for whatever messages come to me in life.

Lily Walton:                           That leads me to an experience of my life that is defined by these seemingly serendipitous connections, and the things that evolve from those connections. I think that's what I really enjoy.

Studio IX:                               What’s something about your work that people might be surprised to know?

Lily Walton:                           I have absolutely no system for managing my work.

Lily Walton:                           I keep five different journals. I have, literally, a drawing pad where I'll sketch things out with a marker. I have Post It notes all over my desk. I make notes to myself in my phone, I send myself emails. Somehow, it all magically happens on time and with quality.

Studio IX:                               Do you have a sense of, or can you see where you might be in five to 10 years?

Lily Walton:                           I have no idea.

Lily Walton:                           I don't like the idea of leaving this area. I love this town, I love the people here. If you told me I'd be somewhere else in five to 10 years, that might make me sad, but in five to 10 years maybe that would make sense to me. I know that I will continue to be involved with the cause of developing people in some way, for the rest of my life. That has been consistent. I can imagine that I will find ways to inhabit the world more creatively, as time goes on, but I don't know what that looks like.

Studio IX:                               Last question. What do you enjoy about being here, about working at Studio IX?

Lily Walton:                           The opportunity for connection to other people who, I think, also embrace the journey.

Studio IX:                               Well said.

Studio IX:                               Thanks so much for your time, Lily.

Lily Walton:                           Thank you.


Member Spotlight: Jed Verity

Studio IX:              Hey, J

Jed Verity:            Good morning.

Studio IX: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me.

Jed Verity: Of course.

Studio IX:              So let’s start at the top. Tell us who you are and what it is that you do?

Jed Verity:             My name is Jed Verity, and I am currently in my last two days at DigitalGlobe, which is a satellite company.

Studio IX: Two days. So there’s something new on the horizon. Say more.

Jed Verity: Well, I didn't ever intend to get it involved with satellites. When we first landed here at Studio IX, we were a Charlottesville-based startup, looking for a space to work. We were acquired by DigitalGlobe in 2016 at which time the rest of the team moved to Colorado, but I stayed here. I was excited for that whole trajectory of starting something up and being acquired. But now it's not a great role for me, so I'm moving on and I'll have a couple of weeks off before I start a new job at GitHub, which is a relatively well-known open source software hosting company, and then some, which has recently been acquired by Microsoft.

Studio IX:              That’s great.

Jed Verity:             Yeah.

Studio IX:              So let’s dive in to something a little more personal. What are you passionate about?

Jed Verity: Generally?

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jed Verity:             Well, I'm very passionate about open-source software, which I think has, for better or worse, and I hope for better, greatly changed the world. I think the Internet, as we know it, would not have been possible without it - and so GitHub's a recently exciting development for me because I feel like it’s enabled a lot of what we see out there in the world today.

Jed Verity:             I'm also passionate about Buddhism, which is a subject that I have been studying formally since my undergrad days, and then through a master's and PhD. & which, my mom will tell you, was kind of weirdly interesting to me from a very young age. In fact, all things Pan-Asian were interesting to me. I traveled there a lot as a kid, and the summer after eighth grade I lived with my family in Japan. That kind of put things into overdrive for me. My passion for the subject led to an interest in exploring how I could apply lessons from Buddhist philosophy and practice, and even, to an extent, history and culture, to what I do. Professionally, but also personally, there's a lot of useful practices one can apply when you're raising kids, trying to have empathy and compassion, to empower people, and to have a good perspective on things.

Jed Verity:             I'm also quite passionate about horror movies and heavy metal.

Studio IX:              Really? Wow! That’s surprising to me. Coupled with the Buddhism.

Jed Verity:            I discovered both as a teenager, horror movies and heavy metal that is. Kind of at the same time. They were both socially acceptable ways to sublimate transgressive energy, anger, frustration, aggression, things like that.

Studio IX:              Makes perfect sense.

Jed Verity:             Are you a fan?

Studio IX:              Metal? I know little about it.

Jed Verity:             Really?

Studio IX:              I mean, whatever was on MTV growing up, you know? Metallica, off-shoots, etc. But nothing much beyond.

Jed Verity:            Yes.

Studio IX:              But I'm fascinated by it. By all the things that are happening in the genre currently.

Jed Verity:             Yeah.

Jed Verity:             I think part of what draws me to metal is it's, in a way, sublingual. I've never enjoyed music for the lyrics. I appreciate that there are amazing lyrical, poetic writers out there. I just never understood, until later in life, the appeal of somebody like Bob Dylan. Where it's about the story, the songwriting itself, et cetera, because, for me the value of music and of finding my way into music was totally sublingual, emotional, biorhythm kind of stuff.

To the extent that metal does have lyrics, it's trying to connect to that primeval embodied experience, more than it's trying to weave some sort of narrative.

So bringing it all back, for me, I think what has enabled me to be a generally normal person in polite society has been these particular channels for transforming subversive transgressive energy. That includes things like horror movies and heavy metal, but also tantric Buddhism, which at its core is about recognizing the power inherent in so-called taboo subjects and practices and thinking, and transgression and aggression, all of that. Figuring out how to transform them into these things that are really elevated, like compassion and perspective on larger humanity and relating to people and connecting, and participating in productive ways in society.

I think that’s the common thread around a lot of my passions. They do not try to suppress so-called negative or problematic parts of us, but instead recognize the power of those things, and turn them in to cultural products and positive forces in our relationships.

Studio IX:              Well said.

Studio IX: Could you share a memorable story? Something in the course of your work, in your life. A turning point?

Jed Verity:           Yeah. There was a guy in my life who was very influential and still is. I worked with him in San Francisco, and he was the first person I'd met to describe a life project of trying to connect people to meaningful work, as opposed to just giving them a job. He attended UC Santa Cruz, majored in utopian thinking, or something like that. Clearly, he was bringing that out into the world.

Every person in the world, when given really meaningful, fulfilling work, if you could get to that state, then a lot of these other conflicts would just naturally fall away. He created an organization that was about finding people who are specially challenged in that way. Were either unclear about their own direction or just people who had trouble holding a job, who were challenging personalities. He was trying to give them a place to work & providing opportunities for transforming their lives into a new experience.

It was amazing.

And it was amazing to see. One of the great success stories was this total punk rock, fuck-all-of-you kind of character who he had been friends with growing up. Super-tattooed, gauge earrings, pierced everywhere. A total dismissive attitude. But he needed to do something to make some money. Julian hired him to just more or less help with some basic administrative stuff, part time, to give him something to do, and then to help out with the business side of things. In short order, the guy swiftly became the heart of the whole organization. He is now essentially the COO. To bring somebody like that in, and try to give them meaningful work and to take care of them, and for that to be the core of the mission of the company, was just mind-blowing. I think it changed the course of my life to see that.

I had a friend who went to prison a number of years ago, and he was a business owner at the time, so he had to give up his business. He had family, and he was going to be in prison for many years. I told Julian about this and about how sad it was that his family was sort of desperate and didn't know what to do. Julian's first thought was, "What kind of work can we give him to do that he could do from jail, that we could then pay his family for. His first thought was “here's somebody in hardship”, immediately just trying to put together a meaningful work plan that could then also support his family. So he's that rare kind of person who's just so committed to that.

Studio IX:              Amazing.

Studio IX: Let’s look forward a moment. Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?

Jed Verity:           Let me answer that by not answering it and instead sharing this. There was a Nobel prize winner who was asked ... I think it was actually Mother Teresa who was asked, "The scope of your efforts is so massive, you have helped so many people. How do you do it? It's one thing to help a person here and there. It's another thing to have helped now, thousands, tens of thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of people."

And her answer was, "Try not to think about numbers. Start by helping one person at a time. Start with the person nearest to you." For me, my story, and my resume, is a little weird and I've had to create lots of different frameworks to help it be coherent, cohesive for me and for potential employers and at cocktail parties. I've decided I'm going to stop doing that.

I've gotten to a point in my career, 20 years into this field, this industry, I know enough to understand things from a broader perspective, and most important thing I can do right now is help people who are starting out, help organizations that are trying to establish positive and empowering cultures. And try to keep people connected to the joy of building things and building them together. I have no idea what that might look like five years from now, but I know that those values will be the same. And the next way I'm going to do that is to go to GitHub, which already has an amazing culture, and try to contribute to that, the best way I can.

Studio IX:              That’s great.

Studio IX: Ok, last question. What do you love about being here at Studio IX?

Jed Verity:             So, I think there are a few different aspects to that. One is that it's really nice to be with people, even if you're not going to work with them. And so, there's some social contact that I really like, that I don't have working at home. It also makes me a healthier person. I gotta shower before coming here (laughter), as opposed to working from home. I don't eat everything in the pantry. Chocolate chips right into the peanut butter with whip cream on top.

Thanks to you and James, there's a real soul here that is absent from the more sterile co-working places that I've been. I think thats partly the design & the work you've done to curate really compelling pieces in the gallery. I think it's also an attitude and vibe that comes from your personality that kind of just trickles down into the space.

It all contributes to a really productive, comfortable, fulfilling, empowering environment. It's the most successful co- working setup I've seen.


Studio IX:                               So Jeffrey, tell us who you are and what it is you do?

Jeffrey Boynton:              My name is Jeffrey Boynton and I design lighting and I hold space for becoming more aware of embodiment…how we embody ourselves in this existence.

Studio IX:                              And those are two separate things. Two separate entities?

Jeffrey Boynton:                 They're two separate entities. Yes.

Studio IX:                              So what are those two entities?

Jeffrey Boynton:                 i5 Lighting Collaborative, which does the lighting design and then After Before Productions, which is the partnership I have with my beloved to teach 5Rhythms, a global movement meditation practice... I have no idea which to talk about.

Studio IX:                            Well, they probably weave in and out of each other a bit, yes?

Jeffrey Boynton:                They constantly weave. Yeah. In and out of one another.

Studio IX:                             This is probably a good question to get into that weaving. What are you passionate about?

Jeffrey Boynton:                 I'm passionate about the way that we experience and see things. Light is critical to that as is our sense of being in a body, which shapes our experience of how much we can sense from our environment, how much is available to us. On one level, I shape space through light and what we see, and on the other, I explore what is hidden versus expressed in the body. The way we move through the world.

Studio IX:                                 Let’s go off script for a second, how did those two things evolve? Let’s start with lighting. What’s the back story of how you came into it?

Jeffrey Boynton:               It started in theater and in high school. I got interested in theater and I got instantly interested in the technical aspect of it, which to me was very artistic but more craft-like…like these highly complex tools to produce light and dim in and out of scenes but the ability to create something that had a real attachment to the story and attachment to emotion for the viewer, that really appealed to me. So I thought I wanted to design the devices and I went to school for electrical engineering and then realized, I just want to be part of creating these experiences. So I started designing lighting for theatrical productions, for music events and then ultimately for dance, which then led me into experiencing more choreography and then actually being in dance pieces myself.

Studio IX:                               And where was that?

Jeffrey Boynton:                  Most of that exploration took place at Arizona State in Phoenix, AZ.

Studio IX:                               And then the other entity.

Jeffrey Boynton:                The 5Rhythms?

Studio IX:                                 Yeah, how did that evolve?

Jeffrey Boynton:                 I discovered that in New York City. I was involved in a lot of dance theater, a lot of authentic movement, contact improvisation, different ways of moving and being with oneself and others through embodied practice. It was not so much about performance at that point. It was more about knowing oneself through movement. And when I moved to New York City, I found 5Rhythms and just started going once, twice, three times a week and it was a way to get below the words and just flush through all the busyness of the city (in 2001) and a new career. At the same time I was stepping into this career in architectural lighting, which was a transition point for me.

Studio IX:                               If you could sum up 5Rhythms in an elevator pitch. How would you describe it?

Jeffrey Boynton:                  5Rhythms is an exploration of the way that energy moves in the body and the philosophy can be captured in five essential rhythms of Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical, and Stillness. Each of the qualities that resonate in that journey and together form a Wave.

Studio IX:                                Can you share a memorable story from your work? One that stands out to you? A pivotal moment. A great project. A personal epiphany?

Jeffrey Boynton:                One thing that stands out is how scattered my interests are, but how they're always tied to some basic curiosity about how things are. For instance, I've been posting a series of pictures of the view from my office. The idea of the office being the place where we do our work and how many different environments that is for me, how many different connotations it has.

Studio IX:                                Depending on the day, or your sate of mind, or the light in the atrium? Something like that?

Jeffrey Boynton:                More like it's the lighting booth at the Lynchburg's Academy Center for the Arts one day, then it's here and I'm looking out through the atrium to the sky and the following day, it’s the dance floor at Fry’s Springs and then last night it was a site visit. It's fascinating to me right now, how many different places I do my work, how it doesn't really have a boundary or container. That it has many containers.

Jeffrey Boynton:                It's kind of an observation than a story.

Studio IX:                        I like that.

Jeffrey Boynton:              I enjoy seeing something created, something’s that ephemeral, that won't be there for long. I've always loved that about the theater, but then I also have this love of architecture, where I'm building something and defining something that will hopefully be around for a very long time. So permanence and impermanence at the same time. There's a lot of paradox.

Studio IX:                            Yeah. There does seem to be a connection between lighting design and 5Rhythms in that regard. Something that's a medium & experiential. You're not building something solid but creating an experience through the sense, through the body, per se..

Jeffrey Boynton:                And after 18 years of practice, 5rhythms has really become a primary philosophy, a spiritual practice for me. One that informs the design work and the way that I do business. Because it’s a philosophy, I can apply what I know in the body to what I see in the world & thereby how I am approaching a project.

Studio IX:                             What's an aspect of your work that might surprise people to know?

Jeffrey Boynton:                 People seem surprised when I tell them where my projects are. I'm working on a project in town for the ballet, getting ready to teach a class, and then working on a project in Riyadh and having a conversation with people in a Dubai office.  People are surprised when I say that that’s what I’m doing here in my little cube.

Studio IX:                              That you're all over the world, while staying in one place.

Jeffrey Boynton:                Yeah, just the global nature of it. When I'm in New York I’m dropping in and doing 5Rhythm classes and seeing people from Germany that I know. And when I go to Frankfurt for a conference, I go and dance there. So that's also part of it.

Studio IX:                            Where do you see yourself and your work in the next five to ten years?

Jeffrey Boynton:               I have no idea. (laughter)

Studio IX:                            Yeah, I can't answer this question either.

Jeffrey Boynton:                  I mean when I started in lighting design it wouldn't have seemed that way. It would have been like…Oh - these are the sources, here's what we can do with them. But the advent of LEDs in the industry has changed things. The things that you can do with light, it’s just that I have no idea where it's going because it's changing so fast. I just came back from New York and seeing how much has changed in six months. It’s amazing. And so I love to say — I don't know but I'm curious, I'm totally fascinated by where it's gonna go.

Jeffrey Boynton:               I’m also not sure whether I’ll be designing more projects or moving more bodies. I don't know which direction that’s gonna go.

Studio IX:                                 Last question. What do you enjoy about being here, working in Studio IX?

Jeffrey Boynton:                In all of my work, it can be kind of isolating. The flip side of working with people in Phoenix and around the world is that we don’t share an office. I love being here and just seeing other people doing whatever they're doing. Occasionally having a conversation and getting a glimpse into what other work is going on here. There also seems to be a kind of shared intention. To come here and get ones work done and be a part of a larger community. It fascinates me, even though I don't get enough time to engage with everyone.

Studio IX:                                Well, I’lI just have to drag you out for happy hour more often (laughter).

Jeffrey Boynton:                 Okay



Studio IX:             Who are you?

Denise:                    I'm Denise Stewart.

Studio IX:             And what do you do?

Denise:                    I'm a theater artist. I do playwriting, acting, directing, devising. I'm also a coach, I coach people on wellness and creativity, and I coach businesses on using improv skills and public speaking. I'm also an instructor. I teach at UVA in the drama department.

Studio IX:             What are you passionate about, and does it play a part in the work that you do?

Denise:                    For sure. I think I'm passionate about creating, and it seems that that is ... that seems to then manifest in lots of different ways, so whether it's creating bonds within a classroom, and then, also creating a stronger love for an art form, say, something like improv. So creating an atmosphere where people can work freely, and really release, or even get back to a place where they're more, just, a time when they were more freely creative, and didn't feel so self-conscious. I really take it seriously to provide those spaces and show myself as somebody who works like that, as a way of giving permission to students of any age, giving them permission to create.

Denise:                    And the same thing happens when I'm talking about, when I'm coaching with somebody one-on-one — creating an atmosphere where somebody could talk about what they really wanted, or talk about what they really hate, or talk about that ... something they really need to change, and then we could share stories and strategies. And that's an environment, too, that's why I'm creating that ability for somebody to say, this is gonna be ... this is what my life's gonna look like going forward.

Studio IX:             I see that. What do you love most about the work?

Denise:                    You know, I love all ... there's ... I just love all the moments. There are so many indelible moments in my life in theater. When I've looked back at a production that I was in, no matter what I was doing in it, it's less about that whole thing and more about these really particular moments throughout all of it, that are very clear images to me. And so, watching students... just, for instance, I'm directing a piece with teens at Live Arts right now, and we haven't been able to get together very often because they are very busy in their classes and their extracurricular activities.

Denise:                    But when we do get together ... and then, we're working on something, and then I ask for a change, or I say something else, and maybe we all have a big laugh, or, there's just that, something about that moment. It's just so perfect or so funny, then I think we all remember those. We all leave every experience with a little catalog of moments, and I love that, no matter what I'm doing. So I think about that for my whole life, like, the catalog of moments. That's what makes it so fun.

Studio IX:             I see.

Studio IX:             I love that. Well, that's a good segue. What's a memorable story that you could share from the work?

Denise:                    Hmmm ... a memorable time is working on my one-woman show, Dirty Barbie and Other Girlhood Tales. So it was a process that ... I had never worked solo like that. Of course, I’m a playwright, but I had never worked on a solo show in any capacity. And so, working on that solo show, eventually, there came time where I had to start to show it to people. I was showing it to my coach, who was really wonderful with me, Bree Luck.

Denise:                    And then, I started showing it to my son, and then to small groups of friends who saw it and gave me feedback. I brought in people that I trusted, and when they would say, do this, or do that, I just did it. I did whatever they said because I was hungry for collaboration at that point. And then, I remember the week I took it down to North Carolina to open it, and I still had about four days left where I could rehearse, and I brought in other people that had worked with me years ago to see it and then made little tweaks. Whatever they said, I just did it.

Denise:                    Every one of those, I think ... I think everything anybody told me in those days became part of the show. And that’s really wonderful, because sometimes when I’m rehearsing a moment, I remember the exact moment between that trusted audience member and me. And opening that first week in a town that was only 20 minutes from the town that I grew up in, and having a lot of people that had known me and my family that ended up showing up, that I didn't know were coming, and I didn't know the word had spread about the show, and that it worked, that that show worked.

Denise:                    I cried a lot in the bathtub when I was building that show, not knowing, what have I got? What have I got? What is this? And then, gradually, when I was rehearsing, I knew it was coming together, but it wasn't until really that first week of that run, and I was like, oh, shit, I really made something. And I've been touring off and on for nine years, that show. Maybe I'll be 80, and I'll still be playing my seventh grade self, throwing tantrums onstage

Studio IX:             I hope so.

Denise:                    There have been so many memorable moments from that show, that I think have encouraged and shaped me as an artist in ways I couldn't have predicted.

Studio IX:             Yeah. What's an aspect of what you do that might surprise people to know? I think that's the hardest question I ask, because it's all like nose on face, because we know everything that we do, but other people don't.

Denise:                    So the question is, what is an aspect of what we do that might surprise people.

Studio IX:             To know.

Denise:                    I guess an aspect of something I do is I record a lot of things, and that I only wish I could record more. I think it would surprise people that I read the Daily Progress every day. Some articles or tidbits I find it so hilarious and ridiculous, but every ... other, you know, more lofty papers are so scrubbed free of what really a town is, and it's a town paper. And I've always been fascinated by town papers. I think people would be surprised is, maybe surprised to know that, if I'm riding in the car, and there's a commercial like, Charlie Obaugh Chevrolet, I strive to get that accent right for that commercial and see if I can do the whole commercial with him with his accent. Maybe people would be surprised about where I go in terms of the grotesque or the ridiculous or the everyday super regular moments. That stuff's really ... that's really interesting to me. I just tear out stuff. I find pictures, and I don't know what to do with 'em. I stick 'em in my notebook, I keep a daily journal. I only wish I ... I get mad, 'cause I'm not doing it more, and I feel like all this is leading to the next show, but I've been keeping a journal since I was nine years old.

Studio IX:             So good. Where do you see yourself in your work, like, in the next five, ten years?

Denise:                    I see myself with two more solo shows coming out, and a stronger coaching and writing business. A writing business sounds weird…what I mean by that is more ... that I’d be writing, publishing, and performing, and creating workshops…maybe on autobiography, helping people work with their own stories to create whatever it is. I created a one-woman show based on true stories, but maybe people want to create something else — I think I could be of help with that.

Studio IX:             Okay. Last question.

Denise:                    Okay.

Studio IX:             What do you enjoy about being here at Studio IX?

Denise:                    I love being here. I feel I'm the most productive here than where I am anywhere else. And I love coffee, that's really important to me, actually is really important to me.

Studio IX:             I'm gonna put that in all caps.

Denise:                    COFFEE!!! And I love the friends that I've met, and the people that I’m not friends with (yet), but we nod at each other in the hallways, and I love that we don't work together, so we don't bug each other. So we can be friendly, and I can watch them working, and their work inspires me to work harder, and we have wonderful conversations, but we don't bother each other. Right now I'm really into how I can create more deep work…spaces of time where I can work longer without worrying about the clock, because I haven't set my schedule up very well that way, and yet, I know my work needs that. So that's what I'm really working for in 2019, is to have bigger chunks of time, and I think Studio IX can give me that.

Studio IX:             Rock on, sister.

Denise:                    Yeah, thank you.

Studio IX:             That's that.

Denise:                    There are more things to love about Studio IX, but ...

Studio IX:             No, that was ...

Denise:                    ... that was good. It was good-


Studio IX: We'll start simple. Who are you and what do you do?

Alberto Namnum:             My name is Alberto Namnum. I was born in Mexico, moved to New York when I was young, came to UVA for school, and I started a restaurant called Roots Natural Kitchen. It's a healthy, fast casual restaurant.

Studio IX:                              What part of Mexico?

Alberto Namnum:              Mexico City.

Studio IX:                               Amazing place.

Alberto Namnum:              Yeah, I go back three times a year, four times. I love it.

Studio IX:                              What are you passionate about?

Alberto Namnum:              Oh, that's a good question. I think I ... ooh, I've not ever been asked this.

Studio IX:                               Take your time.

Alberto Namnum:              I do think a part of me is passionate about restaurants, but I think there's a reason why I always wanted to open a restaurant. I was in this class at Wake Forest my first year, and they asked us, what's your goal? And then it was weird because the rest of the class then got to ask you questions, and then would assign a percent likelihood that you achieve your goal, which is a weird concept.

But my goal was to open a restaurant, and then I only got assigned a 1% chance, I remember. Because I guess I didn't like to cook, which is why they only gave me 1%. I think the reason I like restaurants is because, it's all a really emotional experience. In a way there's certain, you go for the entertainment of it.

The food is part of it. The service is part of it. I guess I'm passionate about making people feel good. I've never said that out loud though, so that may not be true. I don't know, but it's interesting. I feel like our restaurant's a really big part of that, like natural food is a really big part of that. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe I should go with that.

Studio IX:                              Did you have experiences growing up in Mexico City, where you thought, "I want people to feel this?" Or did you come to this more recently, due to the culinary boom, new concepts, etc…

Alberto Namnum:              No. I'm actually Lebanese, and food was always at the center of everything. My Dad's mom was a phenomenal cook. When I would go down to Mexico for four months, the entire summer, and we'd just hang out the whole time, There was just the details, the sensitivity around how food was prepared and presented.

There was always something so exact and beautiful about the attention and detail to food,. It seems liked half of it is like one part of the brain, which is how things look and feel, and the other part is lharder to put a finger on. It's like ordering things, and having them for people prepare ... I don't know. It just seemed more complicated. I guess that's why I was interested in it. And then my family, well my dad's uncle, owns four taco restaurants. They're sit down, but it's Mexican street food in a sit down setting in Mexico.

Studio IX:                              What's the name of it?

Alberto Namnum:              Casa Del Pastor

Studio IX:                              Sounds good.

Alberto Namnum:              Tastes good.

Alberto Namnum:              You can always tell, the smaller the tortilla, the better the taco.

Studio IX:                              What do you love most about the work that you're doing right now?

Alberto Namnum:              You can affect a lot of people on a daily basis. The people that work at Roots, but hundreds and hundreds of people that walk in every day. If it goes well you can do something awesome. If you run poorly one day, you can ruin it all. It's really intense, you have an influence in the world. When people describe their day, a lot of people will mention where they ate or how they felt after what they ate. For 1,000 people in Charlottesville, for a part of their story to be at Roots that day, is cool. And that's each day.

Alberto Namnum:              So it does feel like we're changing things. Even though it's slightly, we are doing something.

Studio IX:                               Influencing the culture and the community.?

Alberto Namnum:              Yeah.

Studio IX:                               Absolutely.

Can you share a memorable story?

Alberto Namnum:              Yeah.

There's a lot. I think one of the funniest stories for me, well, there's two. I remember the argument over whether we serve romaine or not was a good one. It was like, "You have to serve romaine, you're a salad restaurant. I was actually heading more to the other side of it.

And to Alvero, my co-founder, to his credit, he was like, "Well, we're not. We don't have to do anything." I just remember that was probably days and days, had this session over romaine lettuce. It's so funny. If you walk into Roots now, you don't even think about it. There's so much thought in every single detail ... and romaine is a big one.

The other one that's memorable, is when we rolled out our app. We were doing dollar bowls, and the app was supposed to limit how many people could order. Because otherwise thousands of people would order, and we didn't know how to make 1,000 bowls. But some part of the code didn't work, it kept letting orders in.

And then before we know it, we're there, it's 10:30 and we're starting to make the orders for 12:00, which is the first pickup window. It's only supposed to be 10 orders, and it was actually 987 orders. So we had a line that was literally six people wide. I don't even know where you'd put 1,000 bowls let alone how you would make them. So we had to give out so many free bowls. We also let everyone into the restaurant.

Out of that $1 bowl, some people ended up getting three free bowls. Because we refunded everyone. We printed everyone's name, and they could come into the restaurant, we gave them a free bowl card, and we give them food. But that moment of going through the iPad and scrolling, and realizing that the scroll bar was the size of a cell. I was like, "Oh, something didn't work." That's a very vivid moment.

Studio IX:                               Great problem. (laughter)

It's very obvious to me as a customer that everything is considered, because I walk in there and it's just right. Everything flows, and all the flavor profiles and all the options, as far as greens and bases and all that.

Alberto Namnum:              A lot of credit there is due to the chefs we hired, the Zocalo guys.

Studio IX:                               They're the ones who came up with the menu?

Alberto Namnum:              They designed it. Yes. We were super involved but a lot of credit is due to them.

Studio IX:                               It's so good.

Alberto Namnum:              Thank you.

Studio IX:                               What's an aspect of your work that people might be surprised to know?

Alberto Namnum:              Let's see. I think most would know that it's hard, they know it's stressful. There's a lot of moving pieces, that they all know. It's hard to think about what's going to be a surprise to others. What did I not think was in restaurants, before I did this?

There's just a lot of processes to every single thing, like how many rags you order, and where you store the rags. How wide apart you put the shelving. If you hide pita chips behind the line, or under the line? Do you break down the lid boxes before you put them under, or not? Every little thing, because there's so many moving pieces and it's all going so fast, has to be considered.

It just seems like, I don't know, before when I would walk into a restaurant, I thought, "Oh this is just how they put it up and this is what they got." Maybe some places do that. But there is just a lot of thought to even the smallest thing, which is kind of funny. Because it's helping set up the staff for success. Otherwise, there will just be frustrations and stresses, at every point of the day. You don't need that.

Alberto Namnum:              I don't know if that's the most exciting answer.

Studio IX:                               It’s great. The importance of the little things. Because you're only working with a footprint of maybe 30 feet? Right?

Alberto Namnum:              Yeah.

Studio IX:                               A tight space that all of those people are working in.

Alberto Namnum:              Particularly in this restaurant, yeah.

Studio IX:                               And the volume of customers coming through. When I look at the tongs straddling the glass at the base of the greens — it just makes sense.

Alberto Namnum:              Yeah.

Studio IX:                               Efficiency.

Alberto Namnum:              Every little thing you see had a whole thought process behind it.

Studio IX:                               Where do you see yourself, the company, this industry in the next five to ten years?

Alberto Namnum:              Oh Wow. Let's go with industry first.

Studio IX:                               Okay.

Alberto Namnum:              Food is definitely going to become on par with how people see medicine and nutrition. I think the concept of going to a doctor, getting your blood checked before you have something occur. Trying to eat more blueberries in your diet to deal with blood pressure, then getting your blood checked. I think it'll become more mainstream to eat foods targeted at what your potential issues could be.

I feel we're going to start thinking about food beyond the obvious. We all know it's important to be healthy, but it's still a little bit of this concept of you eat healthy in order to live to 90, as opposed to living well and you eat unhealthy and you live to 80. I think we're going to go past that, past the 10 year difference, and realize the immediate benefits — things you start to feel.

Same with supplements. It's really hard to know what supplements you're meant to take. I was looking into it for a long time. I'd be like, "Who's meant to take Tumeric?, who isn't? Who's meant to take vitamin D, who isn't? I didn't know you need vitamin K in order to properly take vitamin D, because it helps the body to process it. This information is really hard to find. Why is it so complicated? So I just think it will become much more accessible. Everyone will start to know this stuff, and it'll be tailored to who you are and what you need.

Then hopefully, we'll have a lot more Roots locations. And potentially be doing a lot of fun stuff with catering. I think being industry leading in catering could be really interesting. Exploring these avenues of where I think the future of the industry is going. So on the app, and Alvero talks a lot about this, what kind of foods are people eating? How did they sleep that day, based on what they ate, etc ...

We’re starting to explore & go one step beyond the restaurant. Starting to get into where we think the industry is heading. It's like food as a tool. It's every day that you see it. I was on iTunes last night, and you're just starting to see the signs everywhere. The more popular documentaries, four out of the 10 were all about healthy eating. I get that it's January, it's still a resolutions season. But still, every day there are more people that want eat this kind of food.

The concept for us is in the attempt to make it actually taste good. If taste didn't matter, it'd be really easy. Everyone's just walking around with rock Kale. It'd be like, "Yeah, that food looks great." But sadly, unhealthy food has been made to taste so good, that you have to get somewhere close, to make it work.

Studio IX:                               So it's almost like dialing in impact versus efficiency? You need to produce food that can sell, that tastes good and moves, but it also has an immediate and positive impact on one’s energy and health?

Alberto Namnum:              Yeah.

Studio IX:                               It does seem to be catching. Even high-end cuisine. You see it in shows like : “Chef's Table”, “Ugly Delicious”, all these superstar chefs who are coming to a point of, "Oh, we have to bring this into a more mainstream impact." To make it not so exclusive.

Alberto Namnum:              Exactly.

The information is so exclusive right now. It's so hard to know what supplements you're meant to take. I actually do believe in supplements. They work. It's just difficult to know what you're meant to take.

It just seems that the way the medical field works is, “ I'll take your blood, if anything is wrong then I'll tell you to do something. If everything is okay, I won't tell you to do anything”. But things could be better than okay. I do think there's a range where we can do more to feel even better, even though technically there’s nothing wrong.

Studio IX:                               Yeah. That's a whole different view.

Alberto Namnum:              Yeah.

Studio IX:                               Which is amazing. It's not just preventative, it’s seeking greater potential.

Alberto Namnum:              Exactly. What's the line, where you go into the doctor, and say, "Oh, I'm having trouble sleeping." They would go probably go with the traditional route. I mean you can google it. It's like, are there too many screens you're watching before bed, or drinking coffee too late? But what have you had for dinner?

Studio IX:                               Yes!

Second to last question. Who came up with the pickled jalapeños??

Alberto Namnum:              Did they tell you to ask that?

Studio IX:                               No! (laughter) I'm a heat junkie.

Alberto Namnum:              Did you actually just ask that?

Studio IX:                              I always get sriracha, always get the hot stuff and I love the jalapeños.

Alberto Namnum:              I came up with it.

            I tried them at a local place here in town, something similar, and I was like, "We have to sell something like this." They're the greatest thing ever.

Studio IX:                               So good!

Alberto Namnum:              Did they tell you to ask me that? (laughter)

Studio IX:                               No, I mean, I told the team "I'm a heat Junkie, and I love pickled jalapenos." They're like, "You've GOT to ask Alberto about them. He's gonna shit."

Alberto Namnum:              The running joke is that I asked Henry what he thought of them, and he said, "They're normal jalapenos." Since then, the joke has continued that I'm really waiting for someone to write a review, whether on yelp or Google, that exclusively says, "These are the greatest, most irregular jalapenos I ever tasted?"

Studio IX:                               Yes! (laughter) .

Studio IX:  Okay. Last question. What do you enjoy most about being here at Studio IX?

Alberto Namnum:              It's awesome. You know what? Now that I think about it, it's something about the design, the layout or the interior, I feel this peaceful energy. Maybe it's atrium? It's good vibes. All you really need is this much space to be at work. But it's about the stuff around you, right? It affects your mind and your soul. I think there's good energy.

Alberto Namnum:              And maybe the very cool coffee shop (Sicily Rose) with a rose logo. I have very few stickers on my computer, but I put that one on. Because it reminds me of here.

Studio IX:                               Totally agree.

Alberto Namnum:              I missed it, being in *Pittsburgh.

Studio IX:                               So great to hear.

Studio IX:                               That’s all she wrote! You crushed it.

Alberto Namnum:              Was that helpful?

Studio IX:                               It was great. Such a pleasure. Thanks, Alberto.

Alberto Namnum:     Thank you.



Studio IX:              Good morning, Tiff!

Tiffany:               Good morning.

Studio IX:          So let’s jump right in. Tell us who you are and what it is you do?

Tiffany:                    I'm Tiffany Pillifant. I'm the Marketing Performance and Insights lead for one of the three customer segments within Thomson Reuters. My job is to understand our customer and our market, our competitors, and how we best can position ourselves for differentiation, and then measure how well we're doing after the fact. So, I work with stakeholders in strategy, throughout marketing, and in the product development teams to figure out what they need to know from the market, and figure out if we're doing well.

Prior to that, I did broad business operations and special projects, so any time our executives needed a town hall presentation and a speech written, I would do that. And likewise, if we needed a location strategy for hiring people, I would research the pros and cons of hiring in, say Brazil versus Poland. And, prior to that, for 15 years I was in software development, so I did user experience, product management, and product strategy.

Studio IX:              What do you enjoy most about the work?

Tiffany:                    It's changed over time, but what I really enjoy about what I'm doing now is that I'm not exactly job-hopping, but every couple of years I get to take on a new role for the business, and I love being thrown into the deep end of something I know almost nothing about, and, you know, just learning alongside my teams, so I love the uncomfortable feeling of learning and a challenge. Yeah, I like not having the answers and trying to figure it out on my own. I love cleaning up big messes at work. So those are the things that I'm really enjoying right now with my job.

Studio IX:              What are you passionate about?

Tiffany:                    At work or at home?

Studio IX:               Generally.

Tiffany:                    Generally. 

Tiffany:                    That's a hard question. So, I was listening to a lecture at UVA the other day by a man named Dan Pink, and he's done a lot of research and written a lot of books on timing and leadership, and he said, The question is not what are you passionate about. The question is what do you do when you're not working? What are you thinking about? What are you waking up in the morning and wondering? When you're at the gym, what is running through your mind? And that really leads you to what you enjoy.

Studio IX:              Wow. Yeah. That makes sense.

Tiffany:                    And what I'm thinking about, besides, which is always the case, my kids and do they have the right clothes? And are they fed? And should I be challenging them more academically? And do I have the energy to do that? And thank God for the people who help me teach them. But outside of that, it's mostly about how I can do better, both professionally and personally. In a professional sense, it's a lot about cleaning up messes, either that I've made or somebody else has made. How do I take something and make it better than it was before I saw it?  A process at work, a presentation, or a marketing campaign. At home, you know, that dinner I cooked last night was awful. How can I do it better next time?

Studio IX:              Right.

Tiffany:                   Yeah, so it's just revisionist. It's all just backward looking revisionist stuff; constant reiteration.

Studio IX:              Can you share a memorable story from your work? Something that stands out.

Tiffany:                    Well, yes, but this is from the early days.

Studio IX:              Great!

Tiffany:                    So, I started out as a User Experience Designer for a software product, and the product was geared towards the academic publishing space. So, journals, academic, scientific, technical, medical journals. A good example is the New England Journal of Medicine. You hear them on the news all the time.

Studio IX:              Yes.

Tiffany:                    I was designing a new product for the staff of those journals to be able to review scientific literature that the authors were trying to get published, and we were working with a bunch of the editors-in-chief of these journals. So these are the premier people in their field worldwide. The best neurosurgeon, the best concrete engineer in the world, and I would travel around the country sitting with them, learning how they work, and what they needed, and getting feedback on prototypes that we put together. And to understand who we’re designing for I would give them a set of tasks to do, and, I will never forget, there were two guys who completely changed what we had to do just single handedly. One was a man who, when I asked him how he would assign a paper to one of his editors for review and to show me in the system how he would do that, he didn't even turn on his computer. He wrote it on a sticky note and gave it to his secretary, and he said, "That's how I would do it." And I said, "Okay. So you're not going to use the system."

The second time, a man was having trouble. This is a man who is a brain surgeon. He was absolutely brilliant. He was having trouble completing one of the tasks in the prototype and he asked me for help. You're not supposed to give help, but I felt a little bad and so I said, "Okay. Put your mouse on this button and click it once," and he picked up his mouse off the table, pressed it to his computer screen, and clicked it once. And I was like alright. Well, it's a good thing we're doing these design sessions because now I know I have to really back it up.

Studio IX:              That's amazing.

Tiffany:                    Yeah, it was memorable. It reminded me that the whole job as a User Experience Designer is to know who you're designing for.

Studio IX:              Yeah.

Tiffany:                    And you have to get creative sometimes about, you know, people at one end or the other of the extreme, and it turns out that a lot of people who are premier in their field in scientific, technical, and medical fields are of a different generation, and they will not use computers, so ... It's changing now, but for a while there it was that we had to kind of switch and design for secretaries.

Studio IX:              This is not on the list, but I'm curious, do you see anything that’s been gained or lost in that transition?

Tiffany:                   From no computers to computers?

Studio IX:              Post-It notes to technology.

Tiffany:                    Oh, for sure. I mean, yes and no. There's gains and losses on both sides. It depends how you weight the equation, where the balance lies. In terms of productivity, cost savings, it's huge. Obviously, you can't send a courier in the mail to send all this stuff that you could send before, and then wait for a response, or pick up the phone, but then you lose that type of human to human interaction that makes the workplace, that's probably more important in the workplace.

Tiffany:                    And so I think we have hit this rubber band, this kind of slingshot affect, where you get to the maximum productivity, and we are there as an economy right now, at maximum productivity level, but how then do you back it up to a place where interaction and humanness matters at work again? I think what all the research shows is that the “what” you do is table stakes now, everyone can do amazing things. People know how to manipulate data, people understand technology, but how to do it, and how to do it well, while including other people along the way, taking advantage of other peoples’ strengths along the way is the biggest question now.

Studio IX:              Efficiency is sort of obsolete.

Tiffany:                    Exactly. Before the release of technology, it was about how quickly could you do it, how well could you do it, how much could you do it. Now, all of those things are irrelevant. It's about how you do it and how you work with other people along the way. So, the whole leadership skillset is different now.  You know, data analytics is a huge prerequisite to almost any job that you have now in the marketplace. Where people like me, who graduated 20 years ago, it was not that. Email was new.

Studio IX:              Yeah it's amazing. What's an aspect of your work that may surprise people to know?

Tiffany:                    Well, I'll talk about my previous role since I am still surprised every day about my new role, being only two weeks in. I think the thing about my previous role that would surprise people is that just because my role was primarily to support executives, in whatever they needed help with. I think what I learned that was surprising to me is just how much time, and effort, and thought goes into actually making things work in the interior of a business. It's not about necessarily about relying on good people to execute or people to have good ideas, it's also all about organization and planning. It took me by surprise when my boss and I worked for three weeks on a meeting agenda, but it's all for good in the end, but those types of things often go unnoticed or underrepresented, but they do really make a difference in terms of efficiency and productivity. Kind of a boring thing, but there's nothing really surprising.

Studio IX:              Where do you see yourself & where do you see the industry in 5 to 10 years?

Studio IX:              

Tiffany:                    For me it's always about what's the plan for my family and then how does my job - what do I need to do in my job, or what kind of job do I need have to support that. So for us, we want to be living internationally, within the next five years we want to move internationally, live there and be imbedded.

Tiffany:                    We would love to be in Central Europe, so we could travel all over Europe and Asia easily. So that's what we want to do and to be honest, and this is something that drives people at my work crazy, I don't really care what I do when I'm there. I just want to do enough so we can get on a train and travel and experience another culture. So, 5 to 10 years, I hope to have come back from living in another country, settling down, and still looking at retiring, hopefully early.

Studio IX:              That's great.

Studio IX: Last question - what do you enjoy most about being here? About being at Studio IX.

Tiffany:                    I think one of the things that surprised me from the beginning is just how diverse the community is here and it's one of the things that I find really refreshing and energizing. So, within the first week, I met people who are studying religion, people who were writing books, people who were writing political articles, sales leaders, leadership coaches, programmers, and everyone has a different point of view and what was really interesting, and what continues to be interesting is what everybody's talking about on the phone. Everybody doing totally different things, in a totally different style, for a completely different end game, and it's fascinating. Whereas, when you work with all of your colleagues, it's homogenous, it's cyclical.

Studio IX:              You have to watch what you say.

Tiffany:                    Always have to be careful what you say. You know, when people come here, they come here to work and there is definitely a feeling that ”this is where I come to do my work. This is where I'm coming to be productive and I don't need to walk on eggshells while I'm doing it.” I think there is a comradery in terms of kindred spirits that don't want to be working from home all the time, but we also need a little bit of space, but we are within arms reach. That's what I like.

Studio IX:              That's it. You did great!

Tiffany:                   Phew. (laughter)

Studio IX:              You knocked it out of the park.



StudioIX:               Good morning, Chelsea.

Chelsea Hill: Hey! Good morning.

Studio IX: Thanks for taking a moment to sit down with me. Let’s jump right in. Can you tell us who you are and what you do?

Chelsea:                My name is Chelsea Hill. I am the site manager for GEM Management’s new property being built on Fifth Street, Timberland Park Apartments. It's an affordable housing complex. We have an income cap, applicants can't make over a certain amount, but for those that fall under the income cap, we try to help them out as much as we can. Affordable living in Charlottesville is impossible.

Studio IX:             It is becoming increasingly difficult. Can you tell us what’s most fulfilling about the work you’re doing?

Chelsea:               My people. I get to meet people every day. Just getting to know everybody, and listening to a little bit of their background stories, about what happened and why they're here. What happened in life situations and why they need affordable housing.

Studio IX:            What drives you? What are you passionate about?

Chelsea:                Making others happy. I think making a difference in somebody's life, to get to do so, makes the whole job worth it.

Studio IX:             What led you to the work you’re doing? How did you get started?

Chelsea:                So, I am a RN (Registered Nurse).  I worked for two years in the NICU and I worked on the Labor & Delivery unit. It's a lot to the job, emotionally,. You get super attached to your patients. So, I still wanted that every day connection with different people, but not so much of the heart-pulling aspect of the job. I could meet with different people every day and help them out but not have to watch them pass away,

Studio IX:             That would be extremely difficult.

Chelsea:               Yeah, I did it for 3 years.

Studio IX:             And how long have you been with GEM?

Chelsea:               4 months now.

Studio IX:             Can you share a memorable story from your time at GEM? Something that stands out to you?

Chelsea:                Yeah. I have an applicant, she's actually moving in with us, an older lady. She's super sweet and the house that she's living in, the owners are selling it from under her and they're kind of basically renovating other houses around her, kind of pushing and weaseling her out, she's been in that house for 8 years and she's an older elderly lady and she has Section 8 and everybody knows it's hard hard hard to find housing in Charlottesville that accepts Section 8 and then she had called me and she said: “please tell me you take Section 8.” And I said, “we do”. And just from then on, her whole attitude about life and moving and things were just getting better for her just by me telling her, yeah, we accept Section 8. And just to see her go from being severely depressed, not knowing where she was going to go and to be able to see her happy and striving and having somewhere to go at the end of this month, to live, is amazing.

Studio IX:             Can you explain for those who may not know, this Section 8, the connection, when she asked that?

Chelsea:               Gosh. Section 8 is housing assistance that the government passes out for those who do not make quite enough money or have a whole bunch of kids and rent is just on the last of their priority list. So the government puts you through an application process and you do all those verifications of where all your income is coming from and then they base that off of how much they give you and they take care of your rent until you either pass away or you don't need the Section 8 anymore.

Studio IX:             And programs like yours accept it though there might be other programs that don't.

Chelsea:               Yeah. So there's a lot of housing, a lot of private owners that don't take Section 8. A lot of the high end apartments don't accept Section 8. A lot of the comfortable living situations in Charlottesville, around the town centers or the hospitals, none of these places accept Section 8 and so it's nice to be able to have an apartment complex that's based in the middle of Charlottesville where they can still be on the bus line to get every place they want to go without having to make all these crazy connections to get back in town because a lot of these people that have Section 8 don't have vehicles too. So, it's hard for them to get back and forth.

Studio IX:             Yeah. And is Section 8 maxed out?

Chelsea:               Yes. Section 8 has a two and a half year waiting list.

Studio IX:             Oh wow. Okay.

Studio IX: Can you share an aspect of your work that might surprise people to know?

Chelsea:               The amount of paperwork. I think I've done more paperwork here than I did at the hospital and just to make sure every little small detail matters. Like if there's a line blank, that whole application has to be redone. Or, if we send something out to them to approve and we missed a date, an initial, a check mark, it's re-do everything. And so it's very stressful and so it's a very attention-to-detail oriented job.

Studio IX:             And when did GEM come about?

Chelsea:               GEM just celebrated their 25-year anniversary. They're based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. They recently started venturing out. They have two hundred and fifty other properties that are all below North Carolina. So now they're starting to venture up to this part of the United States, to see if we can continue to put affordable housing complexes all over the United States.

Studio IX:             That's great to hear.

Chelsea:               We have elderly establishments, we have affordable housing and family, low-income family housing, any type of low-income, low-rent budget-based, we try to take as much government assistance as we can to make sure the rent is affordable in each state that we go into.

Studio IX:             Where do you see things headed in the next 5 to 10 years?

Chelsea:                We’re very hopeful. So Timberland Park is the test child of Charlottesville at this point so if we do really well, we'll probably build another three to four apartment complexes throughout Charlottesville and hopefully I will see myself managing each of those sites.

Studio IX:             Beautiful. Here’s hoping.

Studio IX: What do you like most about being here at Studio IX?

Chelsea:                The quietness. That I can go to my office at 7 o'clock at night, because you know weird people do that, and, work and be able to go in and out and just be in quietness and serenity and be able to hear myself think.

Studio IX:             Did you not have that before?

Chelsea:                No.

Studio IX:             Where were you guys?

Chelsea:                We were at a hotel, using their conference room and so we, you know, had people walking back and forth, cleaning crews and stuff like that. With our job you need quiet space to concentrate and I definitely get that here.

Studio IX:             Being able to sit down with people and to do so whenever you want.

Chelsea:               Yes. Quietly and privately. You don't have to worry about somebody overhearing your personal information and stuff like that.

Studio IX:             That’s it. Thanks again, Chelsea. Greatly appreciate your time.

Chelsea:               Thank you.



Studio IX:              Alejandro, Good morning. Thanks for taking a moment to sit down with me.

Alejandro:             Of course. 

Studio IX:              So tell us who you are and what you do?

Alejandro:             My name's Alejandro Gomez. I am a Colombian Virginian. I would like to say that. I was born and raised in Colombia, then came to school in the US, in upstate New York, and my first job was in Virginia, at an organic beef farm in Richmond. I loved Virginia so I always kept that in my mind. I went back to Colombia as I was focused on working in tropical agriculture. Finding ways to make agriculture in Colombia more valuable.

That's when we got into cheese making. We decided that making cheese out of water buffalo milk would be something new. Something that would bring value. That took us a while. We're going to be 10 years into this business in November. 10 years of making cheese in Colombia, and four exporting that cheese to the United States. 2014 was when we started Buf. Buf is a branch of our company in Colombia, dedicated to sales in the US and representing the brand and the product. So we make the best out of tropical Colombia into the markets of the world.

Studio IX:              What do you enjoy most about the work?

Alejandro:             I enjoy when I open someone's fridge and our cheese is in there. It's the best harvest of all because it means you are in people's lives, and it means they are sharing it. So we might do logistics and make cheese and deal with water buffalo and be on a horse and deal with grass and trucks and cheese in planes, but once you finally go to a friend's house, or a friend goes to a friend's house and they open the fridge and they see Būf in there and they send a picture, I think that's the best reward. 

Studio IX:              What are you passionate about? Does it play a part in what you do?

Alejandro:             Definitely. I'm passionate about agriculture. I was born as the son of a farmer who always took prices as the given. For him, prices were given, but my passion was to set a price for things we were doing, so my partners and I, that's what we did with buffalo milk. We also have another endeavor with chocolates in that we take cacao pods and make that into chocolate in Colombia. We are not selling cacao beans at a price that the market gives you, but we're selling chocolate at a price we want to put on the product. So I'm passionate about adding value to that side of agriculture that has always been very stable and maybe neutral. 

I'm also passionate about being outside. I really enjoy the outdoors and that's why I enjoy my job as well. But I enjoy being here in Charlottesville, because the outdoors are amazing. I love being in the mountains, camping, going on a bike ride, on a motorcycle ride. I just took a very nice ride to North Carolina, and that really feeds my passion.

Studio IX:             Can you share a memorable story with us? A pivotal moment?

Alejandro:             Yes. One of the hardest and most memorable moments was when we presented our cheese to Whole Foods. We got an appointment through a friend who also had a startup company with cured meats and salamis, so he got us an appointment with the cheese buyer. We knew nothing about her. We walked up to her office in Austin. We had a one-hour appointment. Once we walked in, she says, "Okay, guys, we're going to do this in 15 minutes. I've got no time and I never purchase cheese from South America, but I'm just being polite with my friend. So let's get it done." 

And my partner, who's from Virginia, said, "Okay, Alejo, tell her the story," and he just throws me that ball. And that was the elevator pitch that I was not prepared to give, but it worked out. I said, "Cathy, if you're not going to be the one who buys this cheese, someone else is going to do it and you're going to regret it. Just taste this. It's amazing." And she did. The meeting was two hours long and five more people came into the meeting. She was making videos, and the next month, she was in Colombia, on a horse, visiting our farms. So I think that was the tipping point for our business and for our endeavor. We had no customers at that point. It was the first time we presented.

Studio IX:              What year was that?

Alejandro:             2014. April 14th. 

Studio IX:              What's an aspect of your work that might surprise people to know? 

Alejandro:             They're surprised about water buffalo. People don't really understand that water buffalo are not bison, or that cheese made out of water buffalo milk is not going to be spicy or powerful. It's surprising to see that even the most knowledgeable people in the food industry just don't understand that water buffalo is another species, different from a cow, different from a bison. And that's what we enjoy telling the story about. But interestingly enough, everyone knows water buffalo cheese is the good stuff, so that's why it's not a hard sale.

Studio IX:              Where do you see yourself and the industry in five to 10 years?

Alejandro:             We are not going to be much bigger than we are now. It's a limited supply. We just need to be where people are the happiest, and that's getting to the right customer, people who really value your product. So I see Buf being sold in most of the specialty retailers and basically the specialty restaurants in the area. Also, since we have nationwide distribution, soon we will be sold in many of the bigger cities in the United States. 

In five years we see Buf as one of the dairy companies in Colombia who will change the agricultural side of the country. We've seen it already, people who are becoming our suppliers, people who work for our company who are seeing the world in a different way. We're proud of becoming, in that sense, the ambassadors of Colombia in the United States with a good story to tell and a beautiful product to share, as opposed to other stories about Colombia that are not fun, especially for a Colombian. If you were born during times of political unrest, if you were born during the whole FARC thing. When you bring something beautiful, delicious and happy about Colombia, I think that changes the image of a country and therefore, what you perceive of it and its future.

Studio IX:              Well said.

Studio IX:              What do you enjoy most about working here, about being at Studio IX?

Alejandro:             I'm just so productive here, compared to my shared space back home. I have a shared space there because I have this one here, and I really envy what Alexa has here. I'm always like, "Oh, Alexa" you're here, being able to concentrate, everything works, you're next to your house. It’s amazing. I enjoy the different areas and environments through out Studio IX. You have the meeting rooms. You also have the gallery and the café. You have your own space, so that makes it variable without you losing concentration. It also allows you to meet with people and do it in an informal but practical way, so that gives productivity. 

I also enjoy seeing people doing other stuff around me. If I had just one type of business around me, it would be dull, but if you have other people who you can talk to and ask questions and just debate stuff, I think it just brings more richness to your day to day. Because work is one thing, but then you're living it, so make it a lifestyle. I think that's what Studio IX is. It becomes a lifestyle that's your home away from home.

Studio IX:              Beautiful.

Alejandro:             Yeah.

Studio IX:              You crushed it. 

Alejandro:             Was it it good?

Studio IX:              Yes.

Alejandro:             Thank you.

Studio IX:              Thank you, Alejandro.



Studio IX:                           You ready to dive in?

Mbugua Karanja:                Every doctor says that this won't hurt. 

Studio IX:                        It won't hurt a bit. (laughter) We'll start off easy. Tell us who you are and what it is you do.

Mbugua Karanja:                Cool. My name is Mbugua Karanja, I’m a Business Architect, now with AT&T after they acquired DIRECTV. I help businesses get better at using technology to transform themselves. That’s essentially what I do.

Studio IX:                            What do you enjoy most about it? About the work itself?

Mbugua Karanja:                Making sense of business problems and aligning that to IT. Typically what happens is, you talk to a tech guy. He's got a solution for the problem from his bag of tricks. Most business folks are thinking about the immediate problem, the tactical; “I'm going to fix this right now. I've got to get my sale out the door”, which is great. Those are real world problems. 

What I do is step back and look at those problems from the perspective of what everyone is trying to do. It could be, for example, business unit strategy or goals for the year and I break that down using particular formats and tools to “paint pictures about the business” that reveal the actual problems and relate them to potential tech solutions. If that's what the issue is, I also then put together a plan to address that problem with a price tag to it. I basically help translate business speak to IT and vice versa. I'm like the Rosetta Stone between business and IT. So I enjoy making sense of that and figuring out problems and working with people. 

Studio IX:                  What are you passionate about, and does it relate to your work in some way?

Mbugua Karanja:                Yes it does. I'm passionate about the power of technology to unlock human potential. I saw a great quote the other day that really resonated with me, which was "Talent and skills are equally distributed, but opportunity is not." More and more today, opportunity translates to access to technology. We've got many divides in this world, but here's a new one, the technology divide. My passion is about bridging that technology divide for different parts of the world. I haven't found a way to make that lasting impact yet, but that's sort of my next thing. 

Studio IX:                                Where are you from?

Mbugua Karanja:                 Ah, yes. Kenya.

Studio IX:                                And how did you get here? Had you already started doing this work before arriving in the states.

Mbugua Karanja:                Interesting story, that.  No, I haven’t quite had the nine lives of a cat, but I think I've reinvented myself several times. I was doing something very different before.

Studio IX:                              Talk a bit about it.

Mbugua Karanja:                Ok. Let's rewind a little bit. I'm from Kenya and I came over for my MBA. The plan was, I'll pick the US, never been to the US, been everywhere else mostly. I'll take a two year MBA because I think one year is too quick, so didn't want to go to Europe. Just take my two years, time to press the reset button and once again reinvent myself. Came to CA and the two years went by in a flash, and then I kind of figured out that I did need a job. That happened and I'm still here. So, years later I am still here through a combination of blessings, grace, opportunities and choice. Started a family, formal immigration and all that stuff. 

Studio IX:                            Can you share a memorable story? Something that stands out to you.

Mbugua Karanja:                Yeah, let me see. There are a few. Back in CA I went to a dealers’ conference. And what those dealers do is sell our products in the marketplace. They're not employed by the organization, they have their own businesses, and they basically said, I want products and sell them to make money. They may like the products, but they're really in it for a business. 

So, I had just gotten engaged on this transformation initiative and I spent the previous few weeks listening to stories of the problems we have and what needs to be resolved. I sat down and had lunch with this business owner which led to several meetings afterwards. His version of what the issues are, and what we thought they were, was just night and day. What we thought were their priorities and problems, they couldn't care less about. He helped demystify for me, just how absolutely necessary it is to take the time to ask the right questions of the right people and understand the real problem. Don't come to the table with a solution. Come with an open inquiring mind and a willingness to learn and be willing to take criticism. He had quite some things to say about us, our products, and our focus. The disconnect couldn't' have been wider So it led to very interesting conversations about enlisting their help in assessing what the real problems and the plans needed to bridge that divide.

Studio IX:                             What's an aspect of your work that people might be surprised to know about?

Mbugua Karanja:                I don't think this is surprising, but to me, every so often, I remind myself just how much easier work would be if it wasn't for people.

Studio IX:                            If it wasn't for people?

Mbugua Karanja:                Yeah.

Studio IX:                             They're complex. 

Mbugua Karanja:                It's amazing isn't it? It never ceases to fascinate me. We're just complex creatures, right? We've got our own agendas. We've got our own myopic views and it takes a lot of hand holding, persuading and influencing. I depend a lot on soft skills to get my work done. Extracting information, sharing, analyzing that information and playing it back. That's amazing and people are complex. 

Studio IX:                              Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years? Where do you see your industry?

Mbugua Karanja:                Myself, hopefully I'll have pivoted to a place where I'm able to address what I'm calling the technology divide. Identifying a way to insert myself into that conversation. It's a passion of mine, just because I think it holds back vast sections of the world population. I'm not going to try to go after world problems necessarily, but I do want to make an impact It's interesting when we run it at a very local level e.g. C4K. Seeing their projects and what they can do. That's opening their minds and ours to all the possibilities. They wouldn't have access to that perhaps. That's an example of closing that digital divide, is what I mean.

The industry is going to be an interesting place. There's this famous quote in the industry going back years that software was going to basically end up running a lot of our lives. I think we're already there, and what we'll begin to see, or continue to see in some sense, is a fragmentation of the industry as everybody goes out to get a slice of us as consumers. We'll begin to see also a merging between the experience we have as consumers with our technology and what large corporations expect in the way they do day to day businesses. Expect to see more and more of that. 

I expect to see entry barriers being lowered as it becomes easier to start a business but also a lot more challenging competition, and just the speed of business really to pick up. 

Studio IX:                               How do you think we as humans will adjust? It does feel that things are speeding up more and more. Do you see how that impacts the quality of work that's done, but also the quality of people's experience?

Mbugua Karanja:                I think we'll find that universally, we're probably going to have an inconsistent response to it, and here's why. There's usually different sets of values. One of the things that's playing right now, is people are slowly realizing that if you're getting a product or a service for free, most likely you're the product. That's why our data is so much in demand by all these tech places. There's going to be a push back against this. 

We've seen Europe lead the way in some pretty aggressive action of rules and legislation that basically tell the tech giants what they can and cannot do. This is a hard sell in the US in my view. It’s going to be difficult to get legislators to decide what US businesses can and cannot do. At the same time, I think there's still a reckoning to be had, because we have let technology get away. I think there's going to be that tension at play, and unfortunately, the people we are asking to cure us, are the ones who infected us in the first place. We are no better because we continue taking the poison because it tastes so good. It hurts so good. That’s a reference to an old song by the way. And so, we continue drinking from it and it's a little tough to stop. 

The whole disinformation thing is going to continue being a big deal. And we really have to get over those two things if we're going to have constructive dialog of what to do. But we have let the genie out of the bottle, I don't know how we put it back. I don't know how we do that. 

Studio IX:                             Yeah, I don't either.

Studio IX:                              Final question. What do you enjoy about working here? About being at Studio IX?

Mbugua Karanja:                The people. Fun story about how I ended up being here. When we moved to Charlottesville, you can blame my wife for that, it was her idea. Moved here, she's got her job over at UVA. I'm doing my work from home thing which was remote. She'd come back home, and she walks in through the door, and I’m like, okay, that's it, we're going out because I've been indoors all day talking to myself or being on the phone with other people. I just want to get away and have that interaction, but she just wants to sit at home. She's been out there doing her thing. So, there was this healthy tension for us, I'm not going to say it saved our marriage, but it didn’t hurt it. That’s a good tag line for you by the way…” StudioIX will save your marriage”. 

Studio IX:                              Save your marriage. Beautiful.

Mbugua Karanja:                Because now I don't have to work at home, I can come in, have a place to work, I can meet different people. I don't talk shop with them because I don't work with them, I get to learn about different things and listen to problems. That's been really cool. I have to confess, I don't know that I've done as much, taken advantage of that as much as I thought I would, or as I should really, but the promise is there, and I've done that a little bit. That's really cool actually. And now every time I go to a different city to work for whatever reason, co working space is my go to thing, and it's very interesting the things you learn. It's opened my eyes. I didn't even know such a thing existed. 

Studio IX:                               I didn't either before I came here. 

Mbugua Karanja:                It's fascinating, A worldwide phenomenon.

Studio IX:                               That's all I got for ya.

Mbugua Karanja:                Really?

Studio IX:                               Yeah.

Mbugua Karanja:                Wow.

Studio IX:                                See. Painless. (laughter)




This month we turn our attention to Studio IX's Manager & Curator, Greg Antrim Kelly. We were curious to know a bit more about what makes our 'front' man tick. Member, Joa Garcia sat down with Greg to ask him a few questions collected from our members.

Studio IX:             Why did you choose Charlottesville, and why do you continue to stay in Charlottesville? What's the main draw for you?

Greg Antrim Kelly:             I think in a way, Charlottesville chose me. I actually moved here somewhat on a whim. I came through on a cross-country road trip. A friend had a room for rent. It was cheap. I moved in, set up a studio, got a job at the Mudhouse and 20 years later I'm still here. I think the reason I'm still here is of course that it's a beautiful place, but it's really more about the people and the community. It's a wonderful city. 

Studio IX:             What inspires you on a daily basis?

Greg:             People. I guess to be more specific - their stories, their lives & who they are fascinates me. But what equally fascinates me is what separates people, what keeps them at a distance from one another and from themselves. And so the thing I'm most inspired by is seeing where the connections lie. 

Studio IX:             Tell me a little about your art career, and how you combine the different kinds of work that you do? And what exactly is involved in your artwork?

Greg:                I was trained as a visual artist. My degree was in ceramics and art history. But I also spent many years mentoring and teaching, working with youth, working in galleries and museums. When I graduated I pretty quickly steered away from a traditional path - that of getting a gallery, going to New York, becoming a successful artist. My focus wasn't so much about making work as much as making those connections, serving a greater purpose, giving back. So a lot of what excites me and drives me as an artist is largely driven by what goes on outside of the studio. The curatorial side of it. The more public, community driven, social justice aspects - which I'm able to do, in part, here at Studio IX. Supporting the work of other artists and organizations - getting to know them, to better understand their efforts and their process is a big part of what feeds me. The arts, in a way, are just the language that I speak, that I'm most fluent in. It's the tool that I can use most effectively to find those connections.

Studio IX:         Looking back on your years to date, is there anything that you'd like a do-over on?

Greg:           I wish I'd played organized sports.

Studio IX:             What did you want to be when you grew up, and how does that compare to what you're doing now?

Greg:           I don't think I ever really questioned it because I was always doing it. Being an artist is just the thing that I did, and I had unwavering support from my family and those around me. So the bigger question for me has always been less about what I do outwardly and more about what's going on inwardly. My ambitions, I think, are far more spiritually based than they are financially or career driven. 

Studio IX:            Why do you think that is?

Greg:            It probably goes back to that basic ingredient for me. Connection. My desire to enlarge the playing field, to have a richer sense of 'home', to have others feel that as well. The spirit is the most fertile ground for it. Whatever's going on outwardly is just sort of an extension of what's going on inside. So it made sense to put my attention there. 

Studio IX:             That makes sense. What's your secret super power?

Greg:            My secret super power. Well, I don't know that I have a name for it, but I think I'm pretty good at what I guess I would call,  'breaking a horse'. Softening the walls of those who are guarded, angry, who most consider to be assholes. In a strange way, I kind of admire them.

Studio IX:            That's a really good trait to have.

Greg:             Yeah. When it works. (laughter)

Studio IX:           What do you do in your down time?

Greg:             Watch documentaries, get outdoors, drink coffee, talk to people, strike up conversations.

Studio IX:            What is the meaning of life?

Greg:               Good coffee? (laughter) - but seriously, to love one another and to appreciate and respect what's here. That's all.

Studio IX:           What's your favorite part of working at IX, and what's one thing that you would shed?

Greg:             My favorite part would have to be the people - which is why I love the job. I get to interface with all of you each day. And also working with James and his vision for Studio IX and Vault Virginia. It's very much in line with the work I'd been doing before landing here, and the work that I continue to do outside of Studio IX.  So that's exciting to me. As for what I would shed - hmmm. Well, as much I love making coffee, I'm looking forward to being relieved of those duties. We're all excited to have Milli Roasters and Sicily Rose (Italian coffee shop & cannoli bar) setting up shop here this fall.

Studio IX:             What's your favorite band?

Greg:            Wilco.

Studio IX:             What kind of music is that?

Greg:            I guess you'd call it alt country rock? but they kind of take from everything.

Studio IX:            Have you gone to any cool concerts lately?

Greg:            I just saw an amazing concert at The Garage on Friday night.

Studio IX:            What's The Garage?

Greg:            It's a venue here in town that's literally a garage,  adjacent to the park that has many names, that has the Lee statue in it.

Studio IX:           Okay, yeah.

Greg:            Yeah, good friends. One opened, the other one headlined, and then another one jumped in with the one who headlined and played a few songs.

Studio IX:            Nice.

Studio IX:            What kind of music was that?

Greg:            That was more singer/songwriter - guitar, keyboards, cello kinda stuff. Wes plays cello and sings, Diane plays guitar and keys and sings, Guion plays guitar and sings.

Studio IX:             Wow. I love music, but I'm not musically inclined. I have a keyboard and a guitar, but I can't move my fingers like that.

Greg:             It's hard.

Studio IX:            Doesn't work for me.

Greg:             Yeah, it's very hard. 

Studio IX:            That's why there's no way I could ever be an artist because I can't think like that.

Greg:            We'll work on it. (laughter)

Studio IX:            Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Greg:             That's a tough one because I live so much in the moment, but I would say that if the last ten years are any baromoter of what's to come, I would probably still be committed to the work that I am now and hopefully in this community. Much of that has to do with our young people, race relations & social justice - and there's plenty of that to do.

Studio IX:            Yeah.

Greg:           As long as I don't get priced out or relocated due to other circumstances, I'll probably still be here doing exactly what I'm doing now..

Studio IX:            Yeah, it seems like you're really happy with what you're doing now. 

Greg:           It feels that way.

Studio IX:           What's the best thing you read this summer?

Greg:           What's stayed with me the most are the late sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. A collection called 'Strength to Love'. I've also been carrying around a steady stream of Irish writers/poets. Moya Cannon, Michael Longley, an off-beat short story writer named Kevin Barry. 

Studio IX:            What animal would you like to come back as and why?

Greg:            I don't know if I would come back as this, but this image has always stayed with me. When I was eight years old, I went to the aquarium in Chicago, and I was staring at a seal who was laying at the bottom of the aquarium. Just laying against the wall like this (mimics a drunk man leaning against a wall) - holding their breath, I guess, just chilling out. I thought, "It would be cool to be a seal."

Studio IX:           Where is your family from? Where were you born? Where's your hometown?

Greg:                  My dad's side is Irish, surprise surprise. Mom's side is French-mutt. I was born and raised in Illinois. Grew up in Champaign-Urbana. We moved to St. Louis when I was eleven.

Studio IX:            Nice. I love Champaign actually. 

Greg:             Oh, yeah? I think that's another reason I love Charlottesville is that it reminds me a lot of Champaign. 

Studio IX:           What's a risk that you've taken?

Greg:            Probably following this crazy notion that simpler and slower is a better way to live. Trusting my intuition around it. I don't consider it as much 'a risk now, but I think in the past, I questioned it a lot. Investing in something that wasn't necessarily a step-by-step kind of thing, but was guided more by curiosity and inspiration, a passion for things. - trusting that it would evolve. That felt risky at the outset.

Studio IX:            If you could be in the Olympics, what sport would you pick and why?

Greg:                 Rowing.

Studio IX:            Oh, why?

Greg:            I just love it - though I've never done it.

Studio IX:            It's so difficult.

Greg:          Yeah, I sit on a machine at the gym all day, but I haven't been in a scull or an 8. I just think it's beautiful. And I think it would be an amazing feeling - being in something that is totally silent and feeling that much power when you put your oar in and there's eight of you pulling.

Studio IX:            If you were in a roller derby or a bowling league, what would you call yourself?

Greg:           Oh my gosh, what would I call myself? What would you call me?

Studio IX:             I don't know. I was trying to think of what I would call myself, and I don't even know.

Greg:          Yeah. I mean Spaz would be good because people consider me to be so mellow.

Studio IX:             Yeah, that's true. (laughter)

Studio IX:            Is there anything else that you'd like to say?

Greg:            Closing thoughts?

Studio IX:            Yeah, that we haven't gone over.

Greg:           I don't think so. Just happy to be here.

Studio IX:          We're happy to have you.

Greg:             Thank you.



Studio IX:                                

Good morning, Carissa. So let's jump in. Tell us who you are and what it is you do?.

Carissa Phillips:                   

I'm Carissa Phillips. I work for Campaign Monitor and we're originally based out of Australia. I've been there now eight years this month. I started out doing customer support. It's just a little more technical than your normal "click here, go there" kind of customer support for software. And that kind of grew into what is called deliverability, which most people have no idea what that means. So in the email world, email marketing is what we do. Deliverability is increasing engagement for our subscribers. Customers with 100,000 people on your mailing list or 3 million people on their mailing list, they're always looking to get more opens, more clicks, more people to read their emails or click on the ads. So I'm the one that helps them figure out how to do more with that. And then also the delivery side of emails. When things break and they get blacklisted and suddenly Yahoo doesn't like their mail anymore, I'm the one that comes in and figures out what happened and what we’ve got to do to fix it. So that's all kind of within deliverability and email. 

Studio IX:                                

What do you enjoy about it? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

I really like working with customers. I enjoy both the people aspect of my job, but the technical part as well. Going into the weeds and having to test things over and over again, or look at somebody’s whole email program, the whole life cycle of a subscriber. For instance, when one goes to the website and signs up, what might they be expecting to receive. And then at different stages of how engaged they are throughout. Receiving those emails and then why would they unsubscribe or complain at the end. So I really like looking at the whole life cycle and the technical parts of it. 

Studio IX:                                

What are you passionate about? Does that play a role in what you do? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

We’re just starting to get passionate about it because it's just email and I'm not really keen on marketing - but the cool thing that my job also entails is a lot of anti spam, anti abuse type stuff. So I'm able to be part of a community that not just hunts down the spammers that are going to send you unsolicited mail, but hunts down the spammers who are doing malicious things, like stealing people's identity or putting malware on your computer that totally locks it down until you send them a lot of money to some one - all different kinds of things. I get to be a part of that community, which is a big bonus for my work. I kinda feel like I get to protect the public from what they don't know is ready to come get them, but that's just my passion in general, outside of work. 

Studio IX:                                

Let's revisit that in a bit. I'd like to hear more about how your personal-life passions overlap with your work life. 

Is there a memorable story you can share? A breakthrough, a turning point, something that happened that stood out? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

Yes. I have lots. So because I was a remote employee from the very beginning, I was one of the first, I think, four employees in the US. So they didn't know what to do with us because they were all based in Australia and what, over time, started to happen was they would have meetups. We would go to a place that was sort of in between Australia and the US, which looked like New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii. We got to go to some really great places and the company would spare no expense. Four days all together in these luxurious resorts, open bar all day, and just out of control. Yeah. And so, I think in that I saw the generosity of the two guys who started the company. If you had just looked at them, you would have thought they were just normal Australian surfers. And they were. They would go out in the morning and they would catch a wave before coming into the office. They were always tan and in shape, but they also knew from the very beginning that the people were the most important part and so they gave and gave and gave to us in a thousand different ways. But those meetups were pretty pivotal for me to see that a company can really love and value their employees. 

Studio IX:                                

What's an aspect of your work that people might be surprised to know? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

Well when you say email and you talk about spammers and things, that's one side of my job, but I do get to work with some really cool brands. I've worked with Huff Post and Oprah and Wall Street Journal and some big publishers and I like working with their teams. The email world brought me into working on a daily basis with teams like that, whereas I wouldn't have had that kind of access otherwise. 

Studio IX:                                

Where do you see yourself headed? Do you have a sense of how you're work and the industry are evolving? 

Carissa Phillips:                   

Yeah, so I've avoided management all of these years. It's been offered and I've turned it down every time. So now it's kind of inevitable. I have to have people underneath me that I'm responsible for. That probably starts this month or next. I have to learn those kinds of skills. The kind of "eating last” mentality of caring for these other people, letting them be the ones that get the five star reviews from customers and letting them have the last say on what kind of resources we are able to get. That’s happening very soon. And as an industry I think there's more abuse happening now more than ever. And I think those of us who are able to work in anti-abuse community, now that data is so fluid. That work is going to be all the more important. 

 Studio IX:                               

You're talking about hacking, malware, the people coming in and corrupting systems.?

Carissa Phillips:                   

Yeah. So even like espionage kind of stuff happens through email. So if you are somebody who is connected high up in government or within a large corporation, email might be an avenue that somebody would try to put software on your computer to watch you, to watch what comes through your inbox, whatever. So there's a lot, a lot of that that's happening.  

Studio IX:              

So I'd like to revisit  how this might play into your personal passions. Could you talk a bit more about that?


Yeah. So I've thought about it. I thought about how do I sum it all up if I had to bundle it. Being consistently pro-life, I think, is how I would sum it up and consistency in terms of all of life, not just unborn life, not just last-of-days life, but quality of life in between and individuals who we criminalize. 

That kind of started, I don't know, 10 years ago when we had lived in Turkey, and we had lived in a little town, a part of Istanbul, but it felt like a little town. We didn't realize that all of the people that were working in the shops below our apartment buildings were being trafficked for labor. We had no clue, and we lived there for two-and-a-half years and had no idea. We were blind to it. So then, coming back to the States and realizing oh my gosh, there were bars on the windows so they couldn't escape. Then feeling like every piece of clothing that touched me was sick because that's what they were making. They were making clothes. Then I didn't want any clothes on me that were made by somebody who was forced to work.

So then that opened my eyes to more systemic injustices that we have in terms of all kinds of labor.  But then there's also this race piece that I was totally blind to, growing up in middle-class white suburbia.

Studio IX:              Where'd you grow up?

Carissa:                 Dallas, North Dallas.

Studio IX:              Can you say a bit more about that?


Yeah, so the race piece.  I wanted to go back to what happened in this country. I wanted to hear the history again because I didn't get it right the first time. Then seeing that lynching leads, really over time, to capital punishment and being murdered by the State. So then I got really into abolition of the death penalty. So yes, being consistently pro-life is very, very hard. 

Studio IX:              So these things are separate from your day job? Or do you see a connection?


Yes, separate but it did overlap last summer at just the right point in time. So I was working with HuffPost at the time, and we were talking almost daily for a little while. So their team knew I was here in Charlottesville. Then August 12th happened. I didn't know how to come into the meeting the next time that we had scheduled. I just didn't know how to be present. It was so cool because they were so excited to tell me that their team had stayed up for two nights in a row. All their developers, all their marketing folks, everybody were pulling together this mini-website that they had created to track hate and to make it available for people to see that this is widespread, this is systemic. Because they knew I was in Charlottesville and we had been working on a HuffPost thing, it was just a perfect overlap of being encouraged that work life and personal life sometimes, sometimes can merge.

Studio IX:              And in poignant ways, it seems. 

Carissa Phillips:     Yes.

Studio IX::             What do you enjoy about being here at Studio IX?

Carissa Phillips:                   

The community. Absolutely. I love that we have our little area on the side and we all know each other's names and we will catch up every now and again on how the kids are doing or who's vacation was where. I love that I can kind of have water cooler talk, but it doesn't affect my job. Like if I need to vent, I could, but I don't have to be careful about who's listening. I really like that a lot. I was at home for five years and it was rough. So this is like freedom.

Studio IX:               Thanks so much, Carissa!

Carissa Phillips:      You're very welcome.






Studio IX:    Hey, Lorraine. Could you tell everyone who you are and what you do?

Lorraine Sanders:    I'm Lorraine Sanders, and the best way to describe what I do is to start with the podcast I host and produce that features interviews with women building businesses at the intersection of fashion, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and tech, which I call FEST. It's like my play on STEM. I have a business called PressDope that grew out of the podcast. It serves that fashion entrepreneur audience, and it helps them with DIY PR or public relations and brand amplification.

Studio IX:    Cool. How did you get into it?

Lorraine:    I'm a recovering journalist. I covered the intersection of fashion and technology for a number of different publications for a number of years while I was based in San Francisco.  I primarily wrote for FastCompany, Women's Wear Daily, and the San Francisco Chronicle and at a certain point I realized that I didn't see myself progressing in journalism beyond the point that I had gotten to. I had started my own show by that time, so I then very quickly tried to figure out how to have that be my only job so that I didn't have to take on work from other people.

Studio IX:    What do you enjoy most about the work?

Lorraine:    Getting to talk to these really interesting people and asking them tons of questions. I constantly feel like I'm getting away with something because I get to have an excuse to sit down and talk to these founders for an hour. I feel like it's the most fun thing to do, and I figured out a way to have it be part of my job.

Studio IX:    So you love what you do?

Lorraine:    I do. I'm also relatively unemployable. I don't really have another way that I think I could generate my income. I love the freedom, and I've had a lot of jobs in the past that were less than fulfilling, and I just couldn't do it. I love it, and at the same time, I feel like this work is work I have to do.

I've had several jobs where I was working in-house for people for a certain period of time, and I would get psyched about it for about six weeks and then I would start to drag into the office every day and be like, "I cannot take this anymore," which is maybe really immature. But it’s the truth.

Studio IX:    So what keeps it fresh for you? How do you keep from hitting that six week point?

Lorraine:    Every week it's somebody new and different. I really care about the underlying mission of it. I am very motivated to try to get these founders and their stories out to more people because I really have an issue with the way that clothing, textiles and apparel fit into our world today. I feel like it's a major disconnect we currently have in how we live. Many people think about where their food comes from. Relatively few people think about what they are putting on their bodies, how much it affects the environment, workers’ rights, and all kinds of stuff. I am just really gung-ho about trying to get that information out to people. And then also when it comes to trying to create a business with enough income to support a person, there is a lot of problem solving with that and a lot of stress, obviously, and a lot of times where I am sitting around like, "you've gotta figure this out, you've gotta figure this out." You never get bored.

Studio IX:    Right.

Lorraine:    You know.

Studio IX:    Yeah - and it's your own thing.

Lorraine:    It is my own thing. Nobody can get in the middle of it and take it away from me and tell me what to do. Although, I like it when people that I work with tell me when I'm screwing up. That's important feedback to have from your team.

Studio IX:    Yep.

Lorraine:    Yeah.

Studio IX:    Is there a specific story you could share around your work?

Lorraine:    How do you mean? 

Studio IX:   A memorable moment or moments that mattered to you. 

Lorraine:    Yeah. There have been a lot. A lot of times the conversations that I have with people. I do research, but I don't know what's gonna happen and sometimes people say things that I'm really surprised by. 

I had this one woman who had come on the show and she was a really polished Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur-type woman. She accomplished a lot. She worked for an accelerator program. We had this very buttoned-up conversation, and I was trying really hard to be on the same professional level as she was and not take it in a casual direction because I felt like I was just reading her vibe with that. Then midway through the interview she just kind of blurted out that she was really just disillusioned with her career, and she had recently become a parent and it was this a whole challenge. It got really emotional really fast, and I was just sort of shocked at how when you are talking to people in a podcast format, they will suddenly reveal a lot to you that you aren't expecting. That's powerful for me because you feel like you are having this real conversation with somebody and then you get to bring it to other people and, if all goes according to plan, change something in their life.

Another funny moment for me was the first time that I had ever had anybody in Charlottesville come up to me as a listener of the show, someone I hadn’t met anywhere else.

I was on a panel for the Tom Tom Festival two years ago, and a woman came up to me after the panel and she said, "I came to this event to meet you, and I've been listening to your show for a year and had no idea that you lived here." She said, "I was just walking down the street listening to you the other day, and you said something about the Tom Tom Festival and was like what, she lives here." She came out and we ended up going out to lunch and getting together later, and we're still in touch. It was really fun to just realize that you put this stuff out there, and you don't know who's listening to it.

Studio IX:    That's a great story!

Studio IX:    Both situations seem to have bucked your expectations a bit. 

Lorraine:    Well and I haven't ever had anybody say anything inappropriately crazy, you know, where you have had to edit it out or anything like that, but you just never know what people are gonna say. A lot of times people will surprise you.

I guess the key thing that I've realized after interviewing all these female entrepreneurs especially, is that the ones that succeed in the long-term, it seems that it is 99 percent what their mental state is on a daily basis. It has almost nothing to do with their education, although, that helps, and their connections help, and how much money they have helps, but it's their mindset first and foremost that leads to success. I previously come from a journalism background where everyone is grouchy and cynical. I thought mindset conversations were really irrelevant and who cares, and stop talking about that. After talking to all of these people, it’s really transformed how I think about things because I have watched and listened to how important mindset is on these women’s companies and in their positive trajectories over time. I've seen their careers over the course of four to five years, and I've heard them say this about themselves. I've asked them what they do to stay on point or in alignment, or whatever you want to call it. There are lots of words for what is essentially the state of being and feeling solid, confident and willing to continue even in the face of failure, no's or setbacks. That's been the most impactful thing for me personally to witness.

Lorraine:    As weird as that sounds, it's true.

Studio IX:   What's an aspect of the work you do that might surprise people to know?

Lorraine:    How hard it is to get female entrepreneurs to put themselves out there.

It's shocking. I have so many people that I work with that they don't even see how they are rejecting opportunities or shying away from the spotlight and they feel bad about putting themselves out there for a variety of reasons that are all very legitimate. That's one thing that constantly surprises me and I think that surprises other people. Especially in the fashion industry, that so many people misconstrue as being very me, me, me, look at me, social media blogger type landscape and yet at the same time so many of them, even though they play in that world, they have real reservations about the legitimacy of self-promotion. I actually view a lot of the self-promotion as necessary for brand building today.  

Studio IX:    Yeah.

Lorraine:    I don't know what else. I'm actually fairly introverted. I don't even like to talk to people much of the time. I think that's one thing that a lot of people that meet me through the Spirit of 608 think is that I am very outgoing and want to talk to people all the time and actually it works for me to have it very scheduled so that I know when I have to show up and be personable and open and accessible. I mean you've seen me come in and I'm just like zoom to my desk, and I will go through a day without speaking to people. I’m a classic occasionally extroverted introvert INFJ.

Studio IX:  This is kind of a two-part question, but where do you see yourself going in your work and where do you see the industry going, as far as podcasting &/or fashion? 

Lorraine:    Yeah. So, I will do the second question first. I said before and a number of media people that I know who talk about this same space that has to do with ethical fashion, manufacturing sustainability, all of us, our dream is to talk ourselves out of the job. If we are successful in promoting this enough and these businesses can grow, and they are not just going to grow because we are helping them, but if they succeed in what they are trying to do and we succeed in getting the word out about them, it's no longer going to be a conversation because all of the brands will be trying to incorporate positive aspects of business into what they're building. I think we are seeing more and more of that happen.

It's also never been easier to start your own business and so you are seeing a lot of economic opportunity come to women that wasn't previously accessible to them. Clearly, we are still in the beginning stages of that and a lot needs to happen from an infrastructure standpoint so that these businesses and all small businesses, especially digitally-based ones, can succeed because a lot of people start them that don't have any business experience and they fail, but I think we are seeing a lot of stuff change.

In fact, this is a tangent, but I just went to the Charlottesville Entrepreneurs & Espresso event up at i.lab this morning and one of the guys who was speaking was the chef at Common House and now is starting his own training program for people in the restaurant industry and I see more and more of that happening. In the fashion business you see a lot of people coming in and seeing all these entrepreneurs kind of flailing around and needing help and people are starting these programs to like let me help you figure out how to actually run a business for your next industry. And so, I think that's really shifting.

More and more bigger brands like the Levis and the Athleta's and even H&M's, they are trying to implement better manufacturing practices and standards and textiles and so hopefully in like ten years this will be a whole different conversation, and I won't be able to podcast about it anymore.

As for myself, I mean, I don't know. I don't have a five-year plan at the moment. I've got a two-year plan where I want PressDope, which is our sister business site, to be a self sustaining business that is relatively hands-off from my standpoint and that could be run without me.

Studio IX:    Where does the name of the show come from?

Lorraine:    The Spirit of 608 is a reference to an 1980s film called the Legend of Billie Jean, which few people remember, but it's a glorious movie. Have you seen it?  Okay, do you remember how... You have seen it?

Studio IX:    I've seen it, but I haven't seen it in so long.

Lorraine:    But you know what I am talking about.

Studio IX:    Yup.

Lorraine:    So, in the movie, Helen Slater, who is best-known for being Supergirl, her brother has a bike and some bullies bust up his bike. So she goes to try to get them to pay for the repairs, and it's going to cost 608 dollars to get it fixed. While she is going to try to stand up for her brother and for what is right and fair, she gets assaulted and then gets accused of a crime she didn't commit and has to go on the run and becomes this 1980’s outlaw teen folk hero. She shaves her head and wears this neoprene suit, and it's awesome.

When I was thinking about starting the show and what to name it I kept trying to think of a name that no matter what happened with it, if it failed, if my day sucked, if it was awesome, then I was always gonna really like it and feel good about. I thought back to my days in college and a friend of mine and I had made these shirts that had 608 on them because we both thought that part of the movie was really cool and inspiring. So I chose 608, and it works because I think a lot of the female entrepreneurs have that kind of badass quality to them, and they also have the fun fashion element in the movie, so it just really made sense.

A lot of people think it's because I have some connection to Wisconsin which has a 608 area code. It has no connection to Wisconsin. There is a whole explanation of it on the website too that is much more articulate than what I just told you.

Studio IX:  That was great! I got it.

Studio IX:  Ok, last question. What do you enjoy about working/being here at Studio IX?

Lorraine: I have a bunch of different things. I like coming in here for the community aspect. I have met a lot of interesting people here. There are events happening here and there that I will show up at, and I think that's really nice that Studio IX does that.

I also find that I get a lot of work done here. It's just a really good environment for me to focus and just sit down and crank through four-to-five straight hours of dealing with things.

So, it's a good balance of putting you in a place to be really focused, but also not making you feel isolated. I think it's good to be around people, especially if you are working on a creative business endeavor. I've met a number of people who have said things to me in passing or in conversations over the last two years that have really changed how I was thinking about something I was chewing on for the day. So, yeah. I like that there is art here and the Art Park is awesome.

You can just go outside and get a change of scenery. I mean what better place to go than strolling through that crazy assortment of things to look at.

Studio IX: Yes! The Art Park is awesome.

Studio IX:   Thanks, Lorraine!

Lorraine:    Thank you.




Kathi Ann Brown

Milestones Historical Consultants, LLC

Studio IX:                              What is it that you do?

Kathi Brown:                         I use the term historical consultant. In a nutshell, large companies or organizations hire me to research their histories and then (usually) pull together a book. I also write CEO biographies. Bill Marriott of Marriott hotels is probably the best-known of the CEOs I’ve worked with in the past. Sometimes I work on exhibits. Sometimes I do freestanding oral history programs where there's no final product in mind. The client simply wants to capture key people on tape before they’re no longer with us. I've been a consultant now for more than 30 years. 

Studio IX:                              What's an example of one of the exhibits?

Kathi Brown:                         The most recent major one was a museum for U.S. Steel in Houston. They wanted an exhibit about their pipe making process. Sounds like a snoozer, right? For me, it was fascinating because I knew absolutely nothing about steel. So I got to tour one of their plants and then pull together a permanent exhibit that an average person can walk through and learn how pipes are tailor-made to suit geology, geography, depth, pressure, distance. 

Studio IX:                              What aspect of the work do you enjoy the most?

Kathi Brown:                         The research. I call it detective work. I love digging into the past. I can spend hours happily chasing down information. The Internet has been a boon to me because a lot of archives and libraries have been uploading their collections, particularly old magazines, newspapers, journals. 

Studio IX:                              What are you most passionate about? How does that play a role in what you do, if it does?

Kathi Brown:                         That's a good question. I'm naturally curious and think of myself as a perennial student. If I could retire right now, I would spend my time taking classes and traveling. I love learning about something totally new to me. That's where my career has been just amazing. I know how to go about doing research and I know how to pull it all together into a book, but I often don't know the subject matter in depth. So I have the challenge and fun of mastering a new topic. I actually think it's a benefit to the client because I approach a client’s history with fresh eyes and few assumptions. I often say I'm paid to be a student.  

Studio IX:                              What's an aspect of your work that might surprise people? Or maybe even surprises you about it?

Kathi Brown:                         Surprises me? How often certain events in history play into my clients' lives or a company’s history. The Great Depression, for example. I have clients whose organizations started before, during or after the 1930s, but the Great Depression touched all of them in some way. Maybe the company struggled to survive the bad economic times. Or perhaps an entrepreneur grew up during the Depression years and the experience affected his attitude about using debt to finance expansion. I often find echoes of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in my clients’ stories. A lot of cool cutting-edge technology was showcased at that world’s fair in Chicago. World War II also often figures heavily in my research. The war and its aftermath permanently affected tens of millions of lives. 

                                                      Sometimes I run into the attitude that the past doesn’t matter. Tech companies, in particular, often like to think that they’re too busy inventing the future to care about what happened years ago.  But no organization or effort or invention occurs in a vacuum. Every success, every innovation has a long list of people and precursors who laid the groundwork, often decades earlier, which allowed the current generation of inventors to do what they do. I findthat continuum fascinating. 

I always tell my clients that there’s a good story to be told about why any particular individual or group of people at a particular moment in time came up with a particular idea and ran with it. Personal factors. Economic factors. Social factors. Political factors. Digging out that story is what jazzes me. Many times I can surprise my clients by the connections I find that predate what they think of as their history. I wrote a 125thanniversary history of Northern Trust Bank in Chicago a few years ago and they were bowled over by the long-forgotten gems about the bank’s founder and early years that I dug out of public sources. 

Studio IX:                              Why do you liking working at Studio IX? At least I assume you do!

Kathi Brown:                         Absolutely! I had a home office for about 30 years. It seemed liked the most sensible thing to do. Why rent office space when I've got a spare bedroom at home? But I struggled to separate home and work. I was not being as productive as I needed to be. When Studio IX started, it took me about a year to come take a look. I finally popped in one morning to do a free trial day. Within an hour I went up to the front desk and told your predecessor that I was ready then and there to sign on. I used to go to the libraries on Grounds occasionally to get away from home, but here at Studio Ix, I’m surrounded by fellow professionals, not students, so it feels like a real workplace. And for two years now I’ve sat at the same desk every day…a bit like Norm, who had ‘his’ bar stool on “Cheers.” J


Studio IX: Good morning, you two. So let's start with the basics. Who are you?

Spencer Phillips: I'm Spencer Phillips. 

Anna Perry: And I'm Anna Perry.

Studio IX: And what do you do? 

SP: We're half of Key-Log Economics, which is a small consulting firm that does economic analysis for environmental organizations, conservation organizations, a couple of government agencies, throughout the US.

Studio IX: So this is a unique interview because typically I talk to one member each month, and Spencer you had asked that Anna join us. Could you tell us a little bit about why?

SP: Well, I am leaving Studio IX at the end of April, and leaving the country in early July to open a branch office of the company in Hanoi, Vietnam. With that transition, Anna will continue our association with Studio IX and will be the local face of Key-Log Economics. 

Studio IX: That's exciting, for the both of you, I'm sure.

Studio IX: What do you guys enjoy most about the work that you do? 

AP:  I just feel this overwhelming gratitude every day based on knowing how many people in my niche aren't able to do the job that they love, and it's such a privilege to be able to do that, right out of college. And I enjoy that it's a constant challenge. It makes me feel like I'm, to quote Thomas Jefferson, a life long learner. I'm able to apply what I've learned in classes, while learning new things, and produce these tangible results for clients that are doing good things in the world. I feel like I'm not just a cog in the wheel, but actually helping. 

SP: I've been an outdoor recreationist, conservationist, environmentalist for as long as I can remember, but it has been really gratifying over the course of, now going on 30 years of professional work, to help people make the case that environmental protection is also good for the economy. That is  usually glossed over in the debate of jobs versus spotted owls, or jobs versus The Chesapeake Bay. That's often not true, and it's always just a portion of the story, even if there is a grain of truth to it. 

The other thing I like about what we're doing now is that with Key-Log Economics, which I've only been doing since 2013, I have the chance to work with folks like Anna. I've been a part-time professor at UVA and online at two other colleges.  So far, I've been able to work with almost a dozen former students as contractors, as interns, or in the case of Anna, our colleague Sonia Wang in Chicago and our former colleague Cara Bottorff (now with the Sierra Club in DC), as employees and co-owners. It's a real privilege for me to be able to play a part in the launch of their professional careers. And as a life long learner myself, I get to hear about all the stuff that is new since I was in school. 

Studio IX:. This is a two part question. What are you passionate about? Individually. And does that play a part in the work that you do? 

AP: Well definitely the outdoors. Protecting and enjoying the environment, and seeing the decisions affecting it being governed as much as possible by facts and science--including economic science. But, really the motivation for me comes with the desire to see things in good shape. To be good stewards of the earth, and to help other people find practical and useful ways of doing that. 

Studio IX: What was the formative moment? What brought you both to a place of such connection, concern and care for the natural world?

SP: It has been there for me for a long time. My favorite childhood memories are from goofing around in lakes, and streams, and going fishing, and going hiking. I was a Boy Scout and all that. My seventh grade Geography teacher was a great aging hippie named Mr. Neder, and he would take us on the field trips to do stream clean-ups and the like. I still I remember his lecture on global population growth and how he dramatized how incomprehensibly large the number four billion was (That was the then looming world population number, which tells you how old I am.)  

The reconnection to the environment and the connection between the environment and what I was doing academically as an undergrad Econ major at UVA canud during Spring Break of my second year.  I hadn't been backpacking in several years. I went with a buddy of mine up to Mt. Rogers in what's now the Lewis Fork Wilderness in the Jefferson National Forest. Being away from school, away from the usual shenanigans of second years at UVA, I had this awakening--a spiritual epiphany and a moment of insight that what I was learning about in school, possibly, could have something to do with what I was experiencing, as Henry David Thoreau put it, “our lives in nature, rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The actual world! The common sense!”

After that was grad school then work at the White House (briefly) and in NGOs (20 years) trying to help people understand that “our lives in nature” are also economically important.

AP: I'd say, the origin of my passion probably came from visiting my families little lake cabin in Maine every summer. And, similar to Spencer, being able to get away and escape the humdrum of society every day. And I also was consumed by this morbidity when I was a child and just thinking the world's ending, man is destroying nature, and I'd be obsessed with watching news about climate change and just felt overwhelmed by it, even at age five. I tried to grow out of that a little bit and recognize the optimism in it - how I can help a person connect with the natural world. Not just people who are passionate about the outdoors, but I noticed that even being able to take some friends up to Maine every summer who wouldn't otherwise necessarily be outdoors people, or be passionate about the environment, they just kept reminding me what an invaluable experience it was for them. And so to be able to do that for other people and communicate that kind of value, what it can mean to them, even if it's in a small way, is really important. 

Studio IX: Can you share a memorable story with us? A moment that stands out to you from your work experience?

SP: One that stands out is one of the first projects I did since hanging out my shingle. Our client was for The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and they were facing, kind of what I was describing earlier: an argument against cleaning up The Chesapeake Bay, because it was going to be really expensive for  farmers and local municipalities. Even here in Charlottesville, the complaints were here about the rain water tax, or the rain tax. Those policies come from, in part, the need to keep stuff from flowing into The Chesapeake Bay. So, everybody had a pretty good handle on what it would cost to achieve Chesapeake Bay clean up goals, but nobody was talking about what the benefits would be. 

So The CBF came to me and said, "Hey, we're interested in trying to put a value on the cleanup." Through a lot of hard work and research, we figured out a way to do that and combine satellite imagery with literature review and put those together. It turns out that over a 10-year period, while it will cost about 50 billion dollars to clean up The Chesapeake Bay. However, by our estimates--which were conservative--once that clean up is in place or once those measures are in place, you're going to be getting $22 billion a year, which is a two-and-a-half-year pay back on the  investment, which is fantastic. Any private company would be delighted to get that kind of return on investment. 

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation had  fantastic media people working on the rollout. We did a press conference at their facility up on The Bay in Annapolis, and I later went back and did testimony for a couple of Maryland legislative committees, as well as in the Virginia and Pennsylvania state houses, plus scientific and policy conferences around the region.We still hear back from CBP that the report has given them more mileage than anything else in their existence. Now, that was possibly being kind, but we do think we put solid information together for them, and combined with their savvy media communications, political strategy, and membership engagement, it's really had an effect on the debate and, most importantly, on the prospects for a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.

It’s an example of how what we do can fundamentally, change the debate about what's going in the environment. One bonus from that project has been that a current client has told us on a couple of occasions that they wanted to work with us because of what they had heard about the Chesapeake Bay work

Studio IX: That's great!

AP: I'd have to say mine has to do with the very first project that I did with Key-Log about the economics of drilling in the Arctic Refuge. It was this day, I guess when I was watching the Senate Hearing Committee on actually opening The Arctic Refuge to drill, there had been this 50 year long plus debate over it. And at this point we'd already delivered the report and The Wilderness Society was going to use it to testify in the hearing. It was like a culmination of everything, watching these Senators and stakeholders from Alaska describe all these facts and I'd be listening to them and get frustrated because I knew some of them were quoting old stuff or those lobbying to protect the Refuge wouldn’t utilize really important stats I knew existed..

And it was, I guess in a good way and a bad way, helping me realize that there's a lot of outdated information and certain focus on finding aspects of debates that are just completely ignoring any economic argument when it comes to opening conservation lands to national resource or fossil fuel companies. But then, I heard one Senator, Heinrich, I think, from New Mexico, and he didn't even mention Key-Log Economics, but... It was very clear that he had gotten some bullets from the report because I distinctly remember the information and it was a very humbling moment because I was just so happy that even one Senator’s assistant read it, and brought it up. I was so thankful because no one had been making an economic argument the entire six hour long hearing, and yeah, to hear it come up in the discussion even a little bit. It was rewarding.

Studio IX: Yeah. The work that no one sees that has such an impact.

SP: It's kind of like that movie, Broadcast News, with Holly Hunter and William Hurt, where the guy who's the smart reporter says, "This is amazing. I write it here and it comes out there." It's a fun experience, even if the proposal being debated is a little horrifying. 

Studio IX: What's an aspect of your work which might surprise people to know? 

SP: In general, I often get the reaction from people when I say I'm an environmental economist, or an ecological economist, they say, "What on Earth does economics have to do with the environment?"

SP: It's probably is just that. That because of the dominant mental model of the environment with regard to the economy is that they are inherently in opposition. But our work starts from a mental model that says "No, there is a positive relationship between the two, which means that when the environment does poorly, the economy does poorly, and where the environment does well, the economy can do well." They move in the same directions, typically. And so, our work is to overcome that perception and to put the data/information behind that idea. We give them the intellectual backup to do the right thing when somebody's screaming in their ear, "No, no. You can't do that because it's going to kill jobs." Or, "It's going to cause factories to move overseas." Or something like that. We try to be the still small voice in the other ear that says, "Actually, we can do both." I guess it’s such a big part of my life, it doesn't seem like it should be surprising. 

AP: Yeah, I think for me, what I've heard, just when I briefly describe the scope of our work, people are surprised at the range of projects we do. I think people just assume that we would do similar kind of project or approach for all of our clients, so they’re impressed to hear we do econometric modeling, comment reviews, technical reports and communication pieces. 

SP: That's true. And while all of our projects are bespoke, there are some common themes.  We have a body of work around estimating ecosystem service values. We have a body of work around inserting economic arguments into the National Environmental Policy Act process--the Arctic work that Anna came on board to do and these comment reviews are examples of that. But every particular policy issue and every set of data is unique in a way, and I have more fun when I’m doing something new with each project rather than another iteration of something we’ve done before. 

Studio IX: Where do you see yourselves and your field of work going in the next five to ten years? 

SP:  Well, personally for me, for the next five years I'd like to be continuing to do this work in Hanoi and at the end of those five years, which is the time frame that Missy and have set for ourselves, I'd like to see that office be self-sustaining as well as this one.

Studio IX: Can you tell us a bit more about the new office.

SP: Yeah. There's a couple of differences about what's happening there and why there. The 'why there' goes back a long way to our first exchange student, who got us in contact with the people and culture, and kind of fell in love with the whole deal.  And for me as an environmental economist, it's a really interesting setting because of very challenging environmental issues ranging from climate change and sea level (Vietnam is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world) to the lingering effects of Agent Orange and other environmental consequences of what the Vietnamese call the American War. There's also, just garden variety environmental issues that come along with rapid economic development. Air pollution, water pollution, solid waste management concerns. 

I spent some time there with my wife several years ago, and five years ago I did a sabbatical with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and at that point really cemented the thought that there's work to be done there in my field. The goal is to fill a niche in Vietnam that we have been able to do here, which is to provide services for small to medium size NGOs who might not otherwise be able to hire economic expertise in support of their conservation work. There are certainly other small shops that do what we do, so in terms of where the industry might be going, I hope that we'll continue to hold our own in that. We compliment what people can find in other kinds of consultancies, whether on the biological side, or legal, or other things that plug in and help NGOs, the ones that don't have capacity to hire their own scientific technical staff. You have to be pretty big before you start seeing an organization have scientists and economists, or other experts in-house.

Beyond those five years, I would be delighted to see a set of colleagues in Hanoi, who can go forth and continue what we’re doing. At that point, we may return to the states and continue to consult, or head to Panama where my daughter lives and she can finish teaching me to surf. I don't know. Anything can happen.

Studio IX: That sounds miserable. (laughter)

SP: Yeah, it's pretty rough.

AP: I can't think beyond five years, that's just way too long. I've always been wrong, I've tried in the past. 

AP: As for five years, I'd love to see Key-Log's client base grow up and be a part of that. I didn't imagine myself being very entrepreneurial or business-y when I was in High School or even in college, but now I feel really invested in being able to go out and get new clients, and projects going, and develop different skills along the way. Both on my own time, and when it comes to Key-Log as well. At some point, I guess I'd get a graduate degree while still working for Key-Log. Probably within five years. I’d love to get a degree in energy and resources, or statistics, environmental management, somewhere in that realm. That's really my basis. I used to try to plan out really far in advance, and it was way too anxiety inducing, so I've started just not thinking more than three months ahead, which has served very well to do that. 

Studio IX: What do you guys enjoy about being here at Studio IX? 

AP. I still live kind of near UVA, and so and a lot of my association with Charlottesville before this year has been UVA related or High School related. So, this has been illuminating to be able to get to know people in Charlottesville who are not connected necessarily to any of my past life. And be able to work around people who are just doing really fascinating things. People who love Charlottesville, who have just moved here, or have been here forever, but it's just another side of the city that I feel like I wouldn't have been able to necessarily access. 

SP: Well, as you might know, I started my membership at Studio IX because I needed a physical address within the city limits. But, I also thought, "This will get me out of the home office, too." A good piece of advice I read early on when I started the company was get out every day, even if it's just to get take-out or go to the post office, or walk the dog or something. This is a more productive way for me to do that. I also love the fact that even though it's beehive of activity, it's  much more conducive for me to get intensive work done. It's a lot easier for me to tune out the buzz around me and code, or do GIS, or do a piece of writing than it is for me to tune out the dog laying on my feet. That's really good. 

It's also a great way to rub elbows with all the cool kids in town, and that has created some opportunities for us. Anna mentioned earlier, these public comment reviews we've done, and for some of those, in an over-coffee conversation with Oliver Beavers and said, "Hey, here's this thing we'd like to do. Is it possible to train a machine to read text and tell us the nature of it? Tell us what the sentiment is in the text?" And Oliver said, "Well, yeah, that's possible. I could probably do that." And then from that, it has become two, and going on hopefully three efforts where he and we have teamed up.  He's got amazing technical skills and awareness of how to do that machine learning part, and we've got the policy side of thing tied up. 

Another instance is with my transition out of the country, we're hiring a new senior person who can do analytical work and some of the business development work. We’ve gotten some great advice and help from Robin Macklin on that. And those are just two associations I wouldn't have had if I were just sitting in my office back at my house. So, good. It's fun, too, to see and hear about the diversity of little businesses that are happening here, living here, or being spawned from here.

Studio IX: It is indeed.

Studio IX: Thank you guys, so much!

SP&AP: You bet!!




Studio IX: Hey, Dirk!

Dirk Petersen: Hey!

Studio IX: So let's start with the basics. Tell us who you are

Dirk Petersen: I'm Dirk Petersen.

Studio IX: And what is it you do?

Dirk Petersen:  I am building a network of Fortune 500 companies around the theme of people analytics.

Studio IX: And what exactly is people analytics?

Dirk Petersen:  It's basically data that you have about your people in your company and the analytics you do to help make the company run more efficiently and hopefully make their lives better and make their work more interesting.

Studio IX: What do you enjoy most about the work?

Dirk Petersen: Meeting and helping smart people in very interesting companies. Our clients include Facebook, other tech companies, such as Vertex and VM Ware, consumer products firms such as Johnson & Johnson and Unilever, and other Fortune 500 companies. Working and meeting those people and helping them think through some of those frontier issues, because it's a really new field, a new area.

Studio IX : How did you get into it? How did you arrive at this point?

Dirk Petersen: About a year and a half ago I was still at the World Bank. I was living in Charlottesville but working in Washington, D.C.. I started thinking about this topic of digital and digitalization’s impact on HR. I reached out to Volker Jacobs whom I’d met at CEB, which is a large publicly traded company in DC (bought by Gartner six months ago).

We started talking about the topic. He was running CEB's business in Germany, Austria and Switzerland at the time. As we started talking about it, we were like you know, this is a really interesting topic, maybe we should do something together. So the two of us decided that yeah, we're going to do something together on that. He would focus on Europe and I would work in the US.

Out of that initial idea our company Insight222 grew that now has its headquarters in London, and offices in Hamburg, San Francisco, and here in Charlottesville. We’re 7 people, soon to be 8, and have 25 clients. I first worked at home, and then I thought maybe a co-working space would be interesting. I looked online, found Studio iX, came by, and the rest is history.

Studio IX: A two-part question for you: What are you passionate about and does this play a part in the work that you do?

Dirk Petersen: That's a really deep question. I think what I figured out that I'm passionate about is to facilitate. I love facilitating in two ways. One, I love to facilitate knowledge and through that help companies get smarter, better, and solve business problems through HR analytics. And I love doing it in person, by being in front of a group and help them get smarter on a topic.  

Studio IX: What's an aspect of your work that might surprise people to know?

Dirk Petersen:  Oh, goodness.

Studio IX:  Or maybe, what's surprising to you?

Dirk Petersen: Surprising to me is how new this field of HR Analytics still is. We've had information about employees for many years. There has been data about people for many, many years, but it's only now in the last three or four years that we've developed tools that actually allow us to get a much more granular insight into employees and their experiences at work.

For example, what we can do now is we can look at employee's emails and employee's calendars and aggregate that and use it to understand how people actually work together in a company, who may be working on similar things, and don’t even know it. We can use it connect them. That's something that I think would probably surprise most people to hear that that's it’s A, possible, and B, not just creepy, but actually could be used for a positive impact.

Studio IX: Right. Is there a memorable story or anything from your work that stands out? A memory?

Dirk Petersen: Yeah, actually last week. We were in a meeting with a group of our clients and prospective clients in Charlotte ... We have meetings in regions and we brought together a group in Charlotte, in a co-working space there. As we were talking, what became clear is that when you think about how people are measured in terms of productivity it's very much still like 20th century. Managers still think that if they see someone at their desk for eight, nine, 10 hours that it’s a sign of ‘working hard’, being productive. And we throw as much email at them as possible, see how much they can manage, and that’s how we think about productivity.

Dirk Petersen: That's very much how we used to do manufacturing in the old days: run every machine at 100% and your factory must be doing well. What happened in manufacturing was Toyota: they basically said let’s not focus on us, let’s focus on the customer. Organize your manufacturing around what the customer needs, so rather than pushing product through the factory, you should pull it out of the factory. If you pull it, it's not about having every machine run at 100% capacity. It's about turning the machine on when you need it and getting the order quickly through the factory.

Dirk Petersen: So if you translate it ... And that was kind of an a-ha moment for all of us... you translate it to people's work: instead of measuring their productivity by how many emails they can respond to, measure it by how fast you get solutions to customer/business problems. If you start measuring it that way, then you can start organizing the entire workflow of individuals around that goal, and that then leads you to say: “do we really need to have a thousand emails a day hitting somebody's inbox? Maybe we shouldn't have to reply all.”

Dirk Petersen: “Maybe we should focus consciously on how do we reduce the volume of emails, of social media, stuff that hits people in a day, so that they can get focused work done quickly.” That's something that's brand new and I'm just starting to think about it and maybe write an article on it.

Studio IX: Yeah, that's exciting!

Dirk Petersen: Thanks. And there are tools now. You can measure now how quickly do people respond to emails and you can develop tools that are a pretty easy jump from where we are now to how fast people get to solutions through their day-to-day work.

Studio IX: Yeah. That's just so cool to see that evolution.

Dirk Petersen: Let's hope it happens.

Studio IX: When I ran an organization I was constantly inundated with email and it burned up so much of my time, 

Dirk Petersen: Yeah, and it leads to delays, right? People don't answer you because they can't find your email. You don't answer people because you've got six other things that you think you need to do. It leads to bad choices: I’ll answer the thing I can answer quickly, rather the more important thing that takes a little bit more time.

Studio IX: Where do you see yourself and the industry headed in the next five to 10 years?

Dirk Petersen: I think ... I don't think of ourselves as an industry specifically. I think of us as function specific. So where I see HR heading in the next five to 10 years is a more toward the fundamental rethink of what the role of HR is, based on analytics.

Dirk Petersen: One of the conversations on this topic was in Chicago last week where somebody said, "If HR doesn't focus on analytics and gives it away, passes people analytics into a central function, then we are putting an expiration date on HR."  

Dirk Petersen: That means in the future you'll have two kinds of organizations, one that has analytics embedded in every decision, an HR function that is data driven, and then you've got another type of HR function where there's no data analytics, then HR is basically just an admin. In that latter scenario it’s all about automation, driving cost down, and people who work there are going to be just miserable automatons. That kind of shows you my bias of where I want to see HR: with analytics at the center.

Studio IX: What do you enjoy most about working here at Studio iX?

Dirk Petersen: I enjoy the environment. There's a bunch of aspects about it that I really like. One is that over time even though there is no formal introduction to people, you can't help but get to know others... Because you see each other every day, you kind of start feeling they look familiar, so you start talking. That, in conjunction with the monthly events where you have an opportunity to talk to people, it's nice because you get to know people and you get to learn about folks that have a very different career and skill set, different business that they work on, and it enriches your own thinking, gives you another perspective.

Dirk Petersen: I also love the fact that we have a very good coffee shop that not only has decent prices for their coffees (now), and that kind of creates a sense of just casualness that makes it more enjoyable to come in in the morning. I like the fact that we have music playing in the background. That it feels casual and comfortable. I think those are the key things. Yeah.

Studio IX: Thanks, Dirk!


Studio IX: Hey, Jennifer!

Jennifer Byrne:  Hey!.

Studio IX: So tell us what is you do?

Jennifer Byrne: I'm a photographer.

Studio IX: What kind exactly?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I shoot all kinds of images. I help businesses around Charlottesville. I help local families, private clients, commercial clients, all kinds of folks.

Studio IX: Cool.

Studio IX: How did you get into that field of work?

Jennifer Byrne: I started photography in high school. I went to Western in the 90s, so I actually took wet process darkroom classes.

Studio IX: Western?

Jennifer Byrne: Western Albemarle High School.

Studio IX: Oh, okay.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I'm native as they come, born and raised in Charlottesville.

Jennifer Byrne: I think that my last year of high school, they probably only continued wet process another four years, but that's where I started.

Studio IX: Were you doing the school paper, and yearbook, and that kind of stuff?

Jennifer Byrne: No. I was just very obsessed with photography. I spent as much time as I could there. Then I went to school at Mary Washington, and that's what I majored in, photography. At that time, everything was still wet process. Today, everything is digital, for the most part. Not that I don't still have all that analog equipment.

Studio IX: So you do what you love.

Jennifer Byrne: I do what I love.

Studio IX: Yeah?

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I really love it. That's why it doesn't feel like work.

Studio IX: What do you love about it?

Jennifer Byrne: I think what I love about it is that I have a huge amount of sensitivity, and it's hard to use that as a skill in life, because it can be a difficult thing when you're that sensitive a person, but it translates really well to visual art. It's kind of my superpower.  

Studio IX: Yeah. I certainly relate, as an artist.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah.

Studio IX: I think that relates, but it's just asking what you're passionate about within it, and in general. When you say "sensitivity," is that a connection with people? Is it a connection with subject matter? Is it a way to engage with the world?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I think as an artist, we look for inspiration from something. It's not easy to be an artist or a creative, even, in this world, because it's hard to find a use for it.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: I think if you can find a way to funnel it into something, it can be really, really effective. Just the way that I see light, and the way I see people, and the way I relate to people, I can combine all of that using photography. I teach a lot. I have a bunch of students, and they're sort of all over the place, and hopefully I'll build an online portal or some way to connect with more of them. In the future, but right now I meet with them in person.

 It's not just about teaching them Photoshop or Lightroom, or any sort of equipment that they have. I mean, all of that is there, but it's developmental education. A lot of times my students will start in one place, and then within a year, they're showing, they're selling work, they have all this self-confidence. It's amazing what art can do for you.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. It's pretty cool.

Studio IX: Do you have a good story you can share?

Jennifer Byrne: Oh gosh. Well, what's funny is that I'm actually a very shy person, I have three children, my youngest is seven, my oldest, 13, and a 10-year-old. And then also trying to incorporate myself and my work in there somehow. I live in a pretty rural area, I was getting up really early to care for the children for over ten years after staying at home with my son for two years, and then I started managing the studio for another photographer in Ivy, so I had this really long commute.

I started realizing I was seeing a lot of stuff that other people weren't seeing, like the sunrise in the morning. That actually wasn't the kind of photography I was doing, but it became a way to connect with people. It was what people were responding to. I started a Facebook page where I was posting the sunrise and sunset that I was seeing and it slowly grew to forty five thousand fans,  which is a really big group of people to talk with so It's funny that I'm actually a very shy person, and I have this large audience I try to manage.

Studio IX: Well, that sounds to be the way for a lot of artists, because I think a lot of us are introverts, and we have a very solitary side of ourselves, and that anyone in radio or visual arts, writers, - because we're all people that kind of sit behind something and are able to convey what we see in the world through that medium.

Jennifer Byrne: Right. Well, I always have thought if I could write, or do anything else, I wouldn't be a photographer. I mean, it's not something that you really choose. It just is, you know?

Studio IX: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah.

Studio IX: Is there an aspect of what you do that might surprise people, that they don't think about?

Jennifer Byrne: I wish I had a way to explain to emerging photographers that when you come out of college, you have all these hopes to break out in this well defined niche. What you have to realize is that that's really a self-focused narrative, and if you can expand it and not say, "Well, I'm never going to shoot weddings. I'll never shoot families. I'll never shoot landscape, because I have this very creative style." You're cutting yourself off, and so it is actually possible to incorporate all those things, and still have your own style, and also work with the community.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: You know?

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: But I do get a kick out of thinking about when I first left school, and how driven I was to just print, and I didn't care if anybody else liked it. It was for me. I'm glad that I was able to sort of turn that around and see how I can communicate it differently.

Studio IX: Do you have a sense of where you'll be in five, 10 years? Does it feel like the industry itself is changing a lot, as far as photography?

Jennifer Byrne: Yeah. I mean, I think when I worked for the other studio in Ivy, the gentleman I was working with was a photojournalist, so he traveled a lot. He was also a analog photographer, and he was really the edge of the conversion to digital. Watching him go through that process and sort of being the person that helped him transition from analog. I saw a lot of people panicking, thinking, "Everybody's got an iPhone. Everybody has a DSLR. We're not investing in photographers anymore, because we can literally buy the camera for cheaper." But I think things have turned, and folks are starting to realize that it's not the tools that make the carpenter.

Studio IX: Yeah.

Jennifer Byrne: I see a lot of potential there, and I hope that in 10 years, I'll be able to really use what I've created, which is visual storytelling, and have –

(Interviewer sneezes)

Studio IX: Excuse me.

Jennifer Byrne: Look at you. You're still getting over being sick?

Studio IX: No. That's just dust and light. A photographer's joy.


Studio IX: Is there a particular subject that you're interested in shooting that you haven't explored as deeply as you'd like to?

Jennifer Byrne: Well, I think my enthusiasm for great pictures is hard to rein in. I have no problem getting up at 3:00 AM to get up on Skyline Drive by myself. I'm actually not a big hiker or very tough person, but I will literally do anything for a great photograph. I think that's kind of infectious, because now my students do it too, and I think that's part of what they love, is that it becomes sort of a lifestyle. If you're looking for pictures all the time, your life is more like an adventure.

Studio IX: What do you like about working here at Studio IX?

Jennifer Byrne: I love Studio IX. A couple of years ago, I could get away with working on the front end of my business, two or three mornings a week, then slowly it became more and more encompassing. The more product sales that I do, and the more things that I get involved with, the more time I need, I feel like Studio IX is perfect for me, because it's so quiet, and it's so beautifully made, and everyone here seems to sort of understand that attitude of taking seriously what you're doing, but also doing it together, which is nice.

Studio IX: Thanks, Jen.

Jennifer Byrne: Thank you.




Reid Foster

Reid Foster

Interviewer:                           This is not painful at all. In fact, it's quite fun.

Reid Foster:                           Cool.

Interviewer:                           So, just to start, who are you?

Reid:                                      Reid Foster.

Interviewer:                           And what do you do?

Reid:                                      I manage Reggae bands, and I manage a company called Rootfire that produces some music festivals, runs a nonprofit record label, and operates a media business     with various different elements to it.

Interviewer:                           Cool.

Reid:                                      Yeah.

Interviewer:                           And it's all based here?

Reid:                                      I'm based here. The parent company's actually in Oakland, so I work remotely here.

Interviewer:                          How did you get started in the field?

Reid:                                     I've played music all my life, violin and piano when I was younger, and then got interested in drumming as a teenager. Started working in a drum store, in a drum shop. A place called Skip's Music in Sacramento. This guy asked me if I wanted to be the drummer in his band. I was like, "Well, I've got to figure out how to play drums, but sure."

                                              That eventually led to, somewhere around 20 years old, I found myself playing with this new band. I was the dude with the checkbook and a calendar, and I was the guy who just started picking up the phone and calling every bar in town, and being like, "What does it take to play at your venue?" That just kind of continued, and I pursued my rockstar dreams for about eight years of sleeping on couches and going through a couple of different vans on tour. After doing that for so long for my own band, I realized that it was not going ... I wasn't going to be the rockstar that I thought that I might be-

Interviewer:                           It wasn't the Jeff Tweedy story.

Reid:                                      It wasn't the Jeff Tweedy story, yeah. So, I went on a little bit of a walkabout, to try and figure out who the hell I was, and I found myself sitting in the jungle in Costa Rica, still talking about bands and shows that I wanted to book. That was kind of the, yeah, like ... this is probably what I'm doing. Before that, many years before that, there was an epiphany, a similar epiphany, sitting in an accounting class at community college.

                                                I had been really on the fence about ... I had always been kind of like a halfway into it type of student, and I had been really on the fence about whether or not to transfer on to a four year school and get my bachelor's degree or not. At the beginning of that semester, I had decided, yep, hunker down, get it done with. And then about halfway through that semester, I, at the end of this accounting class one day, I realized that I had spent the entire time making a list of things that I needed to do for my band as soon as I got out of school. That was kind of the first big, "Don't waste your parents' money. This is what you're doing," and I think I was like 22 at the time. 

Interviewer:                             Wow. Well, that's a good segue. I was going to ask what you're most passionate about, and if that plays a part in what you do? It sounds like it does.

Reid:                                       Yeah. I think there's kind of no two ways around it, it's just like I'm passionate about music and the business of music. I stay up at night, thinking about it. For better or worse, you know?

Interviewer:                           What specifically?

Reid:                                      Well, part of the nature of the industry is just that there's kind of like a never-ending list of things that, if you did this, maybe this would be better, or if you do this, then this. So, there's kind of like ... There's kind of just this never-ending mental to-do list, and sometimes it's hard to draw the balance between do it now while it's fresh in my brain versus, dude, chill, you know?

                                              But, outside of that, my passion is friends, like building relationships, and that's so interwoven in the music industry, and I think really any industry. So, yeah, I'm passionate about people and the way people respond to things, and dissecting that and trying to do a better job of communicating and sharing things that I'm excited about. I go on and on and on about stuff that I like. People tell me to shut up half the time.

Interviewer:                           Well, you don't have to shut up here. Can you share a story, being out on the road, or just that is memorable, that stands out to you?

Reid:                                      Well, I can say that ... I've been on the road for the better part of like 15 years, and without question, the most insane experiences of my life have almost all been tied back to being on a tour. It's like highs, and the extreme highs and extreme lows. You're playing people's weddings and seeing that special moment, then literally going to jail. There's that also.

                                               But, there is one kind of like, not acute specific situation, but just kind of like a bigger story around being on the road in recent years, is just going through the door of sobriety with one of the band members in particular has been a really powerful life experience.

Interviewer:                           Yeah, I bet.

Reid:                                      You know, just seeing somebody's transformation through that, and starting at like, "Oh my God, this guy's going to die. This is bad," you know, to having him recognize that and do something about it, and come out of rehab and just be this amazing person that had been underneath the surface all along. I was getting to know him in a different way for the first time, and it's just like wow. And then being on tour, there's kind of a very protective shepherd type of hat to wear when you're tour managing, and it's like doing an entire tour and having no alcohol backstage. That's a big deal, you know?

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      It was a challenge for me too 'cause I like to drink, but it's ... There are relationships that build over time on tour, and, similarly, there are just kind of these satellite relationships that you have, 'cause like I stayed on that person's couch in 2007, and every time I go back through Portland, Oregon, they come to the show and bring cookies or something, you know? So, there are really special relationships that build through the process of touring.

Interviewer:                           So you have a family around the country.

Reid:                                      Totally.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      Totally. It's like, "Hey, we're going to Dallas. I've got to make sure I contact these people." "Oh, we're going to be in Madison, Wisconsin," or like Orlando, San Diego. It's just like, at some point, I had to start putting people's names and phone number with the city first.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      So, I'd be like, "Oh, Denver. These eight people, I said that I would let them know next time I'm through." Then, of course, it becomes a process of stretching yourself too thin and learning how to not do that when you go on tour, and not feel bad when you can't sit down and have lunch with every single person. But, you know, that's just kind of the nature of being on tour also. It's like you've got all these really cool people who have had some special significance, and maybe you get to see them pretty often if you keep touring, but there comes a point where the touring is just too much to stay on top of all the other work that I've got to do. The band members don't necessarily need to be like coordinating all the different stuff, so there comes a point where touring is just ... If you've got anything else going on, touring is like hugely challenging.

Interviewer:                           And are you in a point of transition right now? 

Reid:                                      I've fully transitioned.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      Thank God.

Interviewer:                           From being on the road all the time to being..

Interviewer:                           Being home.

Reid:                                      Yeah, choosing the shows that I want to be at.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      For the most part, you know? I still have a lot of travel because I work remotely and the main office is in Oakland, and then we have a festival in Florida, and one in Seattle, and one in Boston, and one in Monterey, California. So, there's still a lot going on. But then there are like really special shows, like The Movement playing at Red Rocks for the first time. It's like I'm traveling for that one.

Reid:                                      You know?

Interviewer:                           Yeah

Reid:                                      So, yeah, there's still travel, but I've ... finally, finally been able to find somebody to take that off my plate.

Interviewer:                           That's awesome.

Reid:                                      Yeah.

Interviewer:                           Where would you ultimately like to be in 5 to 10 years? What would your dream seat be? And I guess the second question that dovetails to that is does it feel like the industry is changing dramatically?

Reid:                                       It definitely feels like the industry is changing dramatically. But, sometimes I actually think that the most dramatic changes have already happened in the music industry. You know, like Napster happened in the 90s, and Spotify came somewhere around 2009/2010, and now we're into 2018 and the biggest changes in the industry have to do with recorded music, I think. Those have kind of ... People seem to have gotten with the program.

                                               But, you know, where I would like to be in five years is continuing to do what I do, and have a staff of people that can help me scale it. It's like I'm in this ... 2017 was a year of pretty significant change for me professional, with the founder and owner of the company leaving and asking me to take the reins on it, and being, "Oh my God." At the same time, I got off the road. In theory, my plate was a little less full, but then it just got ... There's like all of this new territory that I've never tried, and, more than ever, I've realized that if I wanted to continue being responsible for the things I'm responsible for, I can't be the guy who does it all.

                                              For so long, I had to be the guy that did it all. It's like I had to learn how to use Photoshop 'cause we needed an album cover, or I had to learn HTML 'cause we needed a website. I couldn't afford to pay anybody to do it. So, it's been really interesting to try and break those patterns and focus my energy on trying to figure out how to build a team to do these things. So, in five years, I hope that I can have a couple of people that work with me full-time, and we can continue doing what we do and do it better, and build some bands to be able to support themselves, and maybe even put a little money in the bank while I do it.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      And, furthermore, continue to build the genre that I ... You know, I work in the genre of modern Reggae music, and it's a pretty niche genre, but I think that if I do it right, and if I learn to leverage the resources that are there, and create opportunities that maybe need to be created rather than just presenting themselves, I think there's a real chance that we can fundamentally change the landscape of this corner of the industry that we live in. So, yeah, I want to keep doing what I do, and try and do it more and better.

Interviewer:                            Yeah. 

Reid:                                       Yeah.

Interviewer:                            You've been with us here at Studio IX for a while.

Reid:                                       Yeah.

Interviewer:                            Yeah, so you and Seth were here. What is it about just being here?

Reid:                                       Well ...

Interviewer:                            And you can say it's dirt cheap and I like the coffee. (laughter)

Reid:                                      Those are true. But, no, I was thinking more about kind of the context for how I got here. Seth and I had an office in the Pink Warehouse, and I loved it. It was like, "Oh my God, we have an office. I can go into the office now. It feels so professional." Then I was on tour for like half of the year, and I remember Seth calling me at some point on some tour, and being like, "Hey, man. I don't know, man, the office, it's just really uninspiring when I'm the only person here. Somebody downstairs is smoking cigarettes and it's really stinky. There's this new place that opened up called Studio IX, and I wanted to see what you would think about us moving out of the office and moving into Studio IX." I was just like, "I love the office though." But it was I loved having somewhere to go.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      'Cause I had spent so many years working out of my kitchen, or in bed, or whatever, like trying to ... Kind of the freelancer's classic struggle of like, "Oh my God. Home, work, how do I separate the two?" But, as soon as we ... Seth was the one paying the bills. It was very kind and generous of him to ask me if I would go along for it, but it was like of course.

Interviewer:                           Yeah.

Reid:                                      But, as soon as we got here, I remember just instantly being like, "Oh, this is way cooler than our office, actually, because there's more people. There's energy, there are friendly people at the desk, there's coffee out front." There's just a kind of air of creativity and productivity, and specifically the fact that I don't have a dedicated desk here. It's like that means that I can't leave Post-it notes and clutter and a mug or whatever. It's like I walk into a clean slate every day, and that's been really huge.

Interviewer:                           I've never thought about that, yeah.

Reid:                                      Yeah. I mean, ... I tend to be a creature of habit and sit in the same spot for months, and just today, somebody had their phone plugged in where ... I was like, "Oh, okay. Well, I guess I'll sit some ..." So, there's just kind of like a natural, organic way of keeping it a little bit fresh.

Interviewer:                           That's it.

Reid:                                      Awesome.

Interviewer:                           Thank you