Claire Coder is a guest editor with (614) and the 20-year-old founder and CEO of Aunt Flow, a social enterprise headquartered in Columbus, committed to ensuring everyone has access to tampons and pads. Claire has been featured in TeenVogue, Forbes, and was a contestant on the new TLC TV show, Girl Starter. Aunt Flow offers 100 percent cotton tampons to businesses, so they can offer them for free to their employees. They operate under a “buy one, give one” philosophy, where purchasing their products ensures that tampons are donated to menstruators in need. Aunt Flow sells their menstrual products online at auntflow.org
I started my first “business” when I was seven. One hot summer day, my best friend and I decided to start a lemonade stand, after noticing some construction workers down the street—we’d identified our potential customers. As I analyzed these construction workers, I realized they looked like my dad: white, old, bald—my first demographic.
I knew my dad didn’t drink lemonade, but he did drink beer.
So, at seven-years-old, my friend and I raided my dad’s beer fridge and sold his Miller Lite for $5 a can. That day, I made my first $25.
I saw an opportunity and I seized it. There was no time to wait. If I had, those fellas would have left and gone to the bar, putting me out of business.
Today, I have the same mentality.
Why wait when we can make a change today?
Myself and many other millennials ask ourselves, “what’s next?” While we ponder this question, our older generations chastise us for being lazy. Lifehacker recently posted an article titled, “8 reasons millennials seem to be lazy,” and Forbes reported on “millennials and their destruction of civilization”—and I read both because, contrary to popular belief, a lot of us do read/care about the world around us.
I am here to prove to the baby boomers and beyond that not all millennials are “lazy and narcissistic.”
I am glad to be taking over this (614) cover story to prove that Columbus will be okay in the hands of us “lazy millennials.”
In fact, each of those featured in this edition provide a glimpse into the future—each offering their own unique response to the question, “What is your vision for Columbus?”
Glad you asked. My vision for Columbus: every menstruator has access to tampons and pads.
Seems like a simple request, right? Did you know that tampons and pads are not covered by food stamps or WIC, and are taxed with a “luxury tax” in 42 states? Menstrual products routinely fall at the top of needs-lists of shelters and community organizations. To add to the menstrual madness, have you ever looked at the ingredients in tampons? It may surprise you to learn that many leading brands do not disclose this information, and when their products are tested, they show chemicals, synthetics, and dyes in these precious things that go in a very important part of a menstruator’s body. Of course, many of us are unaware of the quality because we do not talk about menstruation. In fact, medieval anatomists called women’s external genitalia the “pudendum,” a word derived From the Latin phrase pudere, meaning “to make ashamed.” Yikes.
So Columbus, how can we fix this problem? How can my vision for access to menstrual products become a reality? Well, we’re already making progress.
Here is my proposition to flow forward: every business in Columbus should offer free, 100 percent cotton, Aunt Flow tampons. Companies like Jeni’s Ice Creams, Stauf’s Coffee, and Industrious Co-Working Space have already joined the menstrual movement by becoming “Aunt Flow Bathroom Certified” and offering our tampons for free. If you find a business that is not offering them, suggest Aunt Flow to the owner. If you see a company that is offering tampons, WOOHOO. Express your appreciation and period pride, share on social media.
Together we shall change Columbus, one cycle at a time.
If your business wants to be a part of the menstrual movement by offering free tampons, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Painting for the people
Megan Sharbaugh, 27
Megan Sharbaugh wants you to dust off those Pinterest craft ideas and bring them to life. Two years after starting Studio 614, a craft and art studio open to the public, Sharbaugh is steadily spreading the gospel of handmade minutia. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in Fine Arts and Business Management, Sharbaugh moved to the 614 and opened her studio to the burgeoning artists of Columbus. Her mission is to use her talents and teaching to spread art awareness, and also raise money for local non-profits. And the craft is catching on. Sharbaugh is currently searching for a second location in the capital city.
Millennial to me means “naturally programmed innovators.” I think millennials are wired to understand the inconsistency and constant growth of technology. We adapt easily to new methods of communication, digital work, and social culture. …We pick up new technology fast and learn it quickly. We do not typically reject it but rather embrace it, we use it to our benefit, and we sometimes even eagerly anticipate the next time it will change. To generation X, this is weird. To us, this is badass.
I didn’t realize that starting a business feels like raising a child. I made a lot of mistakes and wasn’t a perfect mom, but the kid grew up regardless, because I sacrificed my life for it many times. If it was graduating high school tomorrow, I would write it a letter and explain that I’ve never been more proud of who it has become, and I’m not sure what I would ever do without all those pain-in-the-ass moments that taught me the greatest lessons I’ll ever learn. From starting a business out of a storage unit to learning how to manage 10 employees, I faced some serious situations I didn’t feel qualified to face. The challenge of starting a business from nothing is the rollercoaster of a lifetime, but it was 100 percent worth my hair graying at age 25.
I hire interns every semester (mostly from Ohio State), and the feedback I’ve received so far is that I prove to them that they don’t have to strive for the “American Dream.” The dream is their own, and it’s attainable through sacrifice, bravery, and focus. I’ve written recommendation letters for these interns and helped them get their dream jobs, and to me that is the most rewarding part of my business. I hope to “change Columbus” within my relationships with my employees, interns, and customers. I hope to set an example of the benefits of following your own path… or better yet, paving your own.
Learn more about Sharbaugh’s craft and painting classes, and her non-profit work at studio614.com
Changing of the old guard
Drew Martinez, 19 (20 on July 8th)
The People’s Network, Inc.
While most people his age are still trying to decide what to do in the post-secondary haze, Drew Martinez employs 50 people across the country, and partners with more than 250 business owners in his quest to provide mentorship to young people. It started as a way to gain experience for himself and his young friends, and now he stands on the other side of the line, inviting even younger folks to get a head start on their futures.
When I first began this journey almost four years ago, we started as The Columbus Youth Leadership Network, and it was just a group of friends that came together, pooled our resources, volunteered our time to do community work and gain great experience working with big names in Columbus. Eventually, with the help of some great mentors, I was able to establish a legitimate mentorship program that combined community building and restoration with actual job experience. We worked on political campaigns, helped build community gardens and play spaces, and in businesses that opened their doors to us to learn from each section from the bottom to the top.
Two years ago we launched The People’s Network in Ohio, California, and Florida, and have grown into other states as well, New York, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.
We believe that there is a pathway for success for everyone, and one-size-fits-all does not work! That’s why when we place people in our mentoring program it’s a one-on-one personalized program and our community building/ social work projects are things we all gather to work on together. What’s even more exciting is that we partner with over 250 businesses big and small nationwide, and EVERY member that’s gone through our mentoring program are asked to stay with the business they are placed in as a full time employee really launching their careers! The mentoring program is a way to gain the necessary connections, experience, and knowledge to be successful in the field of interest for the member.
I’ve always believed that age is nothing but a number. If you can produce the results and show others your determination and passion, others will surely follow. I establish a base of trust, create the results needed, lead by example and expect only what I myself can do. As a “leader” we can only be as efficient as our whole team. It also helps to have crazy smart and talented people helping you along the way!
When I was starting out, I was 16 working a part-time job selling shoes, barely making any money. Even then I used most of the money I made to build my company, to be able to provide for others rather than myself. I always stretched myself incredibly thin but looking back, now I wouldn’t be where I’m at if I hadn’t done it that way. It built character, taught me how to manage funds, and how to effectively choose smart, cost-effective paths.
The People’s Network is really a network of businesses. I also own/ co own/ operate a few other businesses including managing Jack Maxton Chevrolet’s Latino Department, Vice President of Revv Enterprises which is a research and development company, and recently launched ColumbusNow! Media Group—which is a marketing and public relations alongside by two most trusted partners Yoshio Espinal and Efren Jimenez. I’m also the youngest person to ever sit on the board of directors for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, an accomplishment I am quite proud of. Alongside Rolando Medrano, also a board member of the HCC, we are working to create a Hispanic Credit Union in Columbus.
I plan on running for either City office or County Office in the coming years, being a breath of fresh air, young blood, and a young perspective on public policy. I want to create city programs that replicate what The People’s Network does. Instead of occupying students, we should be teaching students about things they’re actually interested in. Making an investment in our youth is making an investment in our future. I also want to bring in more clean energy projects, powering the city with renewable energy.
My vision for Columbus is to see it open its doors to new people, new ideas, and lead the nation in education, quality of life and opportunity. We’re doing a great job but there is still a long way to go, and with the help of the amazing people that live here and great leadership we can really move towards not only progress but success for all of our residents.
For more, visit thepeoplesnetwork.info.
Started at the bottom, now he’s here
Harley Blakeman, 25
Just Corrections LLC
By the time Harley Blakeman was 16, his mother wasn’t in his life and his father had passed away. He was homeless, depressed, and addicted to opioids. Shortly after his 18th birthday, he was arrested for selling prescription pills. He sat in jail for three months before being sentenced to a year in prison and 10 years’ probation. While there, Blakeman decided he was going to turn his life around. He wrote and published his first book, GRIT: How to Get a Job and Build a Career with a Criminal Record. Now heading his own company, Just Corrections LLC, Blakeman is committed to creating a space for formerly incarcerated persons to rejoin society as productive, independent workers.
Because I was convicted of a felony, it’s a problem that I must face over and over again. Every time I apply for a new apartment, school, or job, I have to disclose the single worst mistake I have ever made. Typically, this leads to me receiving a “We regret to inform you…” email. The most difficult part of having a felony record is the endless struggle of trying to convince employers to give you a chance – this almost never works.
Five years after my release—which was also my senior year at The Ohio State University— I wrote and published my book. I realized [then] that I had a gift and a passion for connecting with people around this issue. …Through one of my books, an in-prison program, or speaking at a middle school. I am now working on software (Fair Chance Review Software) that will evaluate the risk of hiring an individual with a criminal record by looking at their behaviors since they were convicted instead of focusing solely on the conviction. This will allow employers to tap into a large and affordable labor demographic without risking their business. This will also reduce recidivism (the rate that people go back to prison after being released) and help to end mass incarceration… while providing the thousands of residents with criminal records the opportunity to earn and sustain gainful employment.
I will work to make Columbus have the lowest recidivism rate in the country. This will reduce crime, free up tax dollars, and reduce the prison population. Not only will I continue running programs, speaking, and consulting on the issue, but I will continue to push local businesses to consider ex-offenders for employment.
I envision Columbus being a center for opportunity with a rich and diverse population. Between CSCC, CCAD, OSU, and the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem, I believe Columbus is on its way to the top of the list for individuals and businesses looking for a fun, friendly and financially rewarding place to live and grow. Just Corrections LLC will continue to grow here in Columbus. I believe the city will continue to prosper in the fashion and food industries while also making a name for itself in Technology. We will see more and more start-ups, products and services alike, setting up camp in our great city and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the action.
Millennial means collaborative, efficient, and socially conscious. We question things—knowing there is likely always a better way it can be done. We want to see things done differently from clean energy to mass incarceration. We are pushing businesses to work for the community as well as the shareholders. Our impact can be seen on almost every corporate website. Look for their corporate social responsibility document. That was millennials.
Blakeman teaches a 6-session “Re-Entry & Career Strategies” program that runs inside prisons, and a 1-session “How to Explain a Criminal Record in an Interview” workshop that can run anywhere in Central Ohio. The workshop will be running once a month at Cultivate in Grove City starting in July 2017.
Dream weaver, creative believer
Sarah Harste, 29
Sarah Harste Weavings
On Sarah Harste’s website is a long list of locations, events, and creations she’s taught others to make. Working with natural fibers, yarn, and silk ribbon, she uses her own handmade looms to weave wall hangings, and hand macrames plant hangers. Purchase one of her lap looms, or sign up for one of her multitude of creative classes, and you too can join the legion of loom.
I create and teach others to create woven wall hangings and macrame creations. I started my business just to share my own work, but quickly realized there was a huge demand for creative classes, especially fiber art classes. As soon as I started offering workshops, my business really morphed into something else entirely; now the main focus of Sarah Harste Weavings is teaching others how to weave (and more recently, how to macrame). I teach classes in Columbus, but also travel to cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Toledo to teach. I also build and distribute my own weaving looms.
Weaving is my meditation, so I feel like I always want to reach for my loom, even when I’m worn out. But when I’m tired and overwhelmed with the business-end of stuff, I just remind myself that it’s all on me. Which is both terrifying and thrilling. Most days, I choose to see it as thrilling and it gives me the extra push I need to keep going.
I love teaching weaving workshops because, as corny as it sounds, you see people change right before your eyes. People are their truest selves when they get creative; it’s like they wake up. And not only that, they’re doing that in a roomful of people so it creates this amazing sense of community and camaraderie. Everyone’s having fun and it’s so cool to be the person facilitating that.
Columbus is already an incredibly artistic city and I want to continue to contribute to that. Places like San Francisco and New York are seen as these creative hubs and destinations for artists and creatives, but I think Columbus has a lot more to offer. It’s more affordable, the community is so supportive, and it feels like there’s a space for everyone here. If I can help to get that message out to more people, I’ll feel like I’m giving back to Columbus a little of what it’s given me.
Millennial means someone of the up-and-coming generation who sees the world differently. We’re creative, we challenge the old rules, we’re probably a little bit presumptuous. But we’re also one of the most self-aware generations, and I think that we use that to our benefit.
Learn more about Harste’s weaving classes at shesgotthefever.com, and check out her work on her Instagram at instagram.com/sarahharste
When pigs fly
David Butcher, 19
Flyby BBQ food truck
Dayton native David Butcher splits his time between preparing for his future by attending OSU, and running one of the best damn food trucks circling around central Ohio. His fast casual barbecue concept is off and running, and Butcher keeps himself busy as ringmaster of his very own saucy circus.
Millennial to me means change. Millennials are quite literally creating a new world in the face of unpredictability. Entrepreneurship is on the rise in America. Some reports say over 65% of Millennials have interest in starting their own business. Even more want to work for a startup.
They face many uncertainties in life. Social security and medicare are failing. College debt and the job market is troubling. They have seen their parents jobs become automated or cease to exist altogether. Hell, even the iPhone they got for Christmas in 2015 is seemingly out of date. Climate change is real and they see it happening around them. The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer. The list goes on and on…This environment is training them to be risk intolerant. Now that even the “safe route” doesn’t seem so safe after all, what is to lose going after the big prize? As my man 50 cent would say, “get rich or die tryin’.”
Their solution: forge a new American dream. Millennials are realizing that the only way to escape this uncertainty in life is to take it head-on and use it to their advantage. Go out and create what you’ve always dreamed of, start a business, change the world. In their mind, it is the only way they see they will get ahead. The “cogs in the machine” facade is crumbling and it’s about time.
Flyby gives power to the customer and makes things interesting. The process is similar to Chipotle/Hot Head/Piada; Choose your Base (Sandwich, Rice Bowl, Naked), Smoked Protein (Pulled Pork, Chicken, Ribs, or Jackfruit), Fresh Toppings, and Regional American Sauces from different areas of the US. Although the process is innovative and fast, we smoke all of our proteins for hours over a secret blend of hickory and other local woods with the traditional “low n slow” method. Our pulled pork is smoked for nearly 14 hours.
It all comes down to prioritizing and balance. One great thing I did to prepare was take college classes in High School. In Ohio at least, public schools are required to pay for this and it is known as “Post Secondary Enrollment Option.” If you are in High School I highly recommend doing this. Because I came in with credit, I am able to take a lighter class load than usual and focus on each class more. One skill I have found to be helpful is batching – I save all my school work to do once a week for a few hour period with zero distractions. Some days, I have to skip class. Some days, I have to work off my laptop. Some days, I have to drive back to the office in Dayton and do both.
Being a college student and an entrepreneur has lots of unexpected benefits. For example, there are tons of business pitch competitions that you can win funding from, you have an alumni network to leverage and make meaningful mentorship connections with, and you have a huge audience of people to test on/market to at your disposal. At the end of the day, no matter how big of business I think I would regret not having the college experience. I have made so many friends, had once in a lifetime experiences, and have been inspired beyond belief.
I have one more year left and I am ready for the challenge!
People buy into people—not companies. I started businesses when I was in High School and now Flyby as a college student. For a long time I was always self conscious about my age and nervous going on sales calls for them to find a 5’6” teenager sitting in front of them. What I have found, though, is that most people are attracted to entrepreneurs. There is something about someone chasing a dream that gets people excited. I think that when they see a young kid chasing their dreams it makes them happy and reminds them of their “Why?” People have offered help, mentorship, and business to see us succeed. So, I think my age has actually helped me tremendously. Everyone loves a good underdog story.
I think that with the success of Flyby and other innovate food concepts coming out of Columbus, we will create a city that not only creates amazing opportunity for its citizens but has a deeply rooted and vibrant culture that we can rally around. I am so proud to be a part of that process.
My vision for Columbus is simple: be the biggest city in the country that feels like a small town. We have a community here in Columbus that can’t be beat. If we can continue to work together, be selfless, love one another, and be open, we will all flourish. All my chips are on Columbus.
Check out more of Butcher’s fast casual barbecue creations, and track the food truck at flybybbq.com