Math. English. Science. We’re taught these subjects can get us through life. And that is true…to an extent, but what about learning how to come out to your parents or understanding how to deal with self-confidence issues? These social aspects of life are not being accounted for in basic education, yet they are extremely vital lessons for the individual to learn while growing up in a world saturated with societal pressures. 28-year-old New York native, Amanda Slavin, is working to fill the void between institutionalized education and basic human emotions. She is the founder of CatalystCreativ, a community design firm that focuses on providing social education programs for brands and organizations.
With a Masters in education and curriculum instruction, Amanda is a natural leader in the space and is passionate about offering life-changing information through inspirational events. Before embarking on her own venture, she worked in the hospitality industry where she primarily threw corporate parties. Amanda was then contracted by the Summit Series to help manage the talks for Summit At Sea, a 2000+ person cruise for Millennial entrepreneurs and thought-leaders, and later Summit Basecamp where she met Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh.
Working with the Downtown Project in Las Vegas
Knowing she was meant for something much more meaningful than throwing corporate parties, Amanda took Hsieh up on his invitation to visit the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. With just a friend by her side, Amanda landed in Vegas only to be forgotten by Hsieh upon arrival. After sparking his memory, the two started chatting about Amanda’s passions. Hsieh tells MiLLENNiAL, “Amanda’s vision was to combine education and hospitality, but make these events accessible to the public which led to the launch of Catalyst Week two years ago.”
Six month went by after initially meeting before deciding on a collaborative venture that would suit both Amanda’s passions and benefit Hsieh’s Downtown Project. Following this opportunity to work with such a successful entrepreneur, she quit her job in New York and moved out to Las Vegas to start creating influential and inspiring events that brought awareness to Downtown Las Vegas.
MiLLENNiAL caught up with Amanda in Marina Del Rey where we sat on a cobblestone patio surrounded by a lagoon and wooded planks. This area of Marina looked like it came straight out of Disneyland’s Frontierland, and as Amanda joked, reminded her of the Pirates of the Caribbean. As the sunset brushed her face with golden light, she reflected on her journey from New York to Las Vegas. “I just wanted to use hospitality for good and inspire people,” she says.
The Impact of CatalystCreativ
For the last two years, CatalystCreativ regularly hosts monthly events called Catalyst Week and Creativ Week, which bring world leaders together to learn about the area as a potential location for business growth while inspiring each other to make the world a better place. “Every month we bring 30 people twice a month to Downtown Vegas. These people are thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, and creatives from around the world. We’ve had people from Pakistan, Korea, Milwaukee, New Orleans – everywhere.” CatalystCreativ has since grown from just Amanda to now a 10-person “virtual company with physical experiences.”
Using the Downtown Project as a launching pad, Amanda has applied her understanding of community engagement to other foundations and brands, like Dell, NPR, the City of Austin, and the Life is Beautiful festival to establish and “build their community”. CatalystCreavtiv helps identify a theme the brand wants to use to educate their community of learners and then implements an event around the topic to help foster its influence and reach. Amanda elaborates, “It’s a two-fold model where we really like to work with the brand or foundation, always around impact, create an educational message and content, and then invite a larger community into the space as well as engage their current community.”
And instead of estimating her success on the traditional Return on Investment, Amanda uses a different kind of ROI, “we call it the Ripple of Impact,” she says. Hsieh points out what Amanda has done with the Downtown Project, “CatalystCreativ immerses the guests into what’s happening rather than having them be passive visitors. They are actively engaged as speakers, mentors, and are co-working in all of the local spots during the day and eating at the local restaurants at night.”
Having a mentor such as Tony Hsieh has been incredibly helpful for Amanda who is a first-time entrepreneur. She says some of the biggest lessons she’s learned over the last two years of working with him include staying humble, knowing when to take a step back, and understanding that “it’s not about you, it’s about something bigger than you.”
Women in the Workplace
Recognizing the disparity that exist between men and women in the workplace, Amanda is also trying to educate her associates as well as people who attend her events as to the value women business owners offer. She believes the problem is that “men and women have not really had the space in the workplace to be vulnerable and to share themselves.” Due to the fact that women have only been seen as equals for the last 50 years, it’s going to be challenging to see things change quickly.
Amanda points out that men have had the advantage of being business leaders since ancient times and says that most business cultures reflect that type of masculine energy. From being rigid and tough to analytical and aggressive, most businesses are calloused as a result. “Men need to embrace the feminine versions of themselves in order to be comfortable enough to have women as equals,” Amanda says.
She goes on to observe the nature of how we raise our boys. “You’re taught that little boys push you around and they hit you and that means they like you. But they should be taught early on that’s not how you treat a young girl.” It is this discipline and understanding from an early age that Amanda believes will ultimately change the working environment for both sexes. “When you can create a new generation of people that understand both their feminine and their masculine sides, more women will be in the workplace because it will be a nurtured environment where women will feel embraced as opposed to now where they feel they need to be men.”
Having worked in a man’s world while in the hospitality industry, Amanda faced a lot of challenges as a woman. She became bossy, hard, and rigid just to keep up with the tone of the men. “If you are not authentic about who you are, people will get rubbed the wrong way.” She reminisces about a friend telling her to be strong and soft as oppose to hard and brittle and easily broken. Amanda admits she had to do a lot of work on herself to let go of her suppressed emotions.
She has taken her experiences from an environment she didn’t like and has created a company culture that encourages employees to be true to themselves…even if that means being emotional. “I’m a crier,” she admits. And during her company reviews, she allows her co-workers to embrace similar emotions if they come up. Could this be a testament to a female owned company? Or simply that CatalystCreativ recognizes emotions as a healthy human process.
To learn more about Amanda Slavin and the Downtown Project visit CatalystCreativ.