This week, we have Jennifer Cole in the She’s Trending interview corner. We first came across Jennifer Cole through her involvement in SVP Venture Partners and her organization called Young Artist Society in Phoenix, Arizona. Young Artist Society also know as “YAS” empowers future generations to pursue education, serve the community, and achieve success creatively. Intrigued by her story, we got to connect with Jennifer at a local restaurant called Carly’s in downtown Phoenix. The best part of the meal was learning about Jennifer and her desire for change with education at the core of her mission. With Arizona being ranked 47th in the state for education, Jennifer is on an ambitious journey to inspire others with change and creativity at the forefront.
ST: Who is Jennifer Cole, what do you do and why?
JC: I’m an explorer and a boundary tester. I dive fully into what I am doing and I rarely accept no for an answer. I like a challenge. I’m down to try almost anything once. This is how I became the co-founder of Young Artist Society. My current role makes me identify most right now with being an entrepreneur, which I guess I’ve always been in some fashion. I love the hustle in being an entrepreneur and building something from nothing. I also believe strongly in making an investment in future generations and my community which lead to my experience in the nonprofit sector and working with at-risk kids.
ST: Tell us a little bit more about your background. Where did you grow up?
JC: I grew up just outside of Chicago in a town called Cicero. Much of my childhood was spent in the same house with the entire family living under one roof – aunts, uncles, grandparents…even my Great Gram had her own place, but she lived directly across the alley – I loved having all of the people I care about so close together growing up. My Gram worked at the small school I attended so I always felt a special connection with her, too. My family moved to Arizona when I was 12 and I have many of the same friends today as I did the day I moved here. I have a close relationship with my sister and I love being “Aunt Jenny” to my niece and nephews. I have had some fun adventures. I toured with a band, backpacked the Grand Canyon and took a solo summer-long road trip.
ST: When and how did the Young Artist Society start?
JC: I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. My friend & co-founder Danny and I started talking about what kind of mark we were going to make on this life one night over pizza. My experience was working with kids and families in the nonprofit sector and it’s an area I am passionate about. Daniel is a performance artist, music studio owner and thrives when developing new artists. We set out to find a way to engage students, especially students living in poverty with no access to music programs, and teach them music and get them to believe in a bright future for themselves. We decided to start meeting on Tuesday nights and have been ever since! That was three years ago. The original plan was colored pencils in a sketch pad. Ha!
ST: You were a part of Social Venture Partners Arizona also known as SVP Arizona. What did that experience mean to you?
JC: Nothing I have ever done compares to the SVP Fast Pitch process. It was a pivotal point for our organization and for me as a person. It was the first time I owned our passion project in front of – what to me felt like – the world. I was able to clearly convey our mission & message. I got to say, “I am co-founder of something great in our community” and I got to shout it from the rooftops at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts… in front of 600 people! It was an unforgettable time in my life where I really got a chance to tell our community about the RAD things we were working on with our young people. I recommend all start-up nonprofits in the valley to Social Venture Partners. SVP is also how we found SEED SPOT, an awesome social business incubator that Young Artist Society is participating in right now full-time.
ST: What is your favorite place to hike in Arizona?
JC: That’s easy – Havasupai Falls; it is the most beautiful place in this state and the only way in is a 10 mile hike. In May I covered 75 miles on foot from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and back. I did about 14 miles of that with a blown-out shoe duct taped to my foot. By then end of that trip I felt like I could accomplish anything.
ST: Where can we get the best Chicago deep-dish pizza?
JC: Well…I’m sure this will be up for debate for longer than I’ll be on this earth – and it’s something that I’m also very passionate about, ha! If you’re in Chicago, Giordano’s Pizza is the best. If you can’t make it to Chicago, Salerno’s of Berwyn in Gilbert is the best. Berwyn is minutes from where I grew up.
ST: Do you prefer an Arizona summer or an Illinois winter?
JC: Yikes! Can we switch those and I become a snowbird? I’d have to say Arizona summer. Chicago will always have a piece of my heart, but Arizona is home and I’m used to living in a hot climate. Plus…I don’t have any desire to deal with all of the “snow chores.”
ST: Finish this statement. Music is ______________
JC: Music is everything – a feeling, a being, a release, a motivator, an escape, a night out with the girls, a road trip, an expression of yourself, a connection to others, a cry of joy, a laugh, a break-up, a distraction, a live show, an experience – a must have experience. Music makes time travel possible – a certain song can take you back to a specific moment or it can propel you in to the dreams of the future. Music is everywhere, in everyone.
ST: When you are on the road, what artist are you currently listening to?
JC: I’d have to say my hometown boys, Authority Zero. The Less Rhythm More Booze acoustic album is incredible and always my go-to. Songs like No Regrets, Courage, Get It Right, Seize the Day…so inspirational, and just a well-done album.
ST: What is your go-to pump up motivational song that keeps you on your game for Young Artist Society?
JC: “Woooo!” by Mac Lethal. I love Mac Lethal right now. He says “I’m gonna win at life, baby!” Oh, and “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty.
ST: Where do you see Young Artist Society in the next 10 years?
JC: I see our organization teaching programs statewide making change in communities that are suffering and using art to do that. I think that the most important thing for us is to stay in tune with our kiddos that we serve and listen to them, listening is the key. Cut through the red tape for them. What do they want to learn? How do they learn best? What do they value? What’s holding them back? How can Young Artist Society help them succeed? In ten years we will still be reaching kids creatively, empowering them to pursue education and serve their community, because those are values that we have that will never lose priority.
ST: How can the community get involved with Young Artist Society?
JC: Visit our website www.youngartistsociety.org. You can connect with me directly through the website and get linked to our social media.We are interviewing to hire a part-time music production mentor so if anyone has someone in mind that might be a good fit for that. I will be doing some community speaking engagements giving information and having a followup Q & A session: Venture Fridays now through December at SEED SPOT from 11-1, lunch is provided and there are so many great companies there right now. I’ll be speaking at One Million Cups on 10/12 @ the Tempe Public Library; and December 7th I’ll be pitching at DEMO DAY at the Herberger Theater. We have a golf tournament coming up too in November.
ST: With all of our interviews, we like to sign off by saying thank you! We know that you’re trending, which is why we chose you to be one of our featured guest. In honor of our tradition, we would like you to finish the sentence… I’m trending because…..
JC: I care about our community and I’m using music to move Arizona forward. #musicmovesAZ