Wind Energy and James Parle’s Muir Data

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you originally from?

Much of my childhood was spent in a small town two hours south east of Los Angeles. The town didn’t have a traffic light and initially there wasn’t a high school. Now, I barely recognize the area because tract homes and traffic have taken over.

I was first exposed to urban life while attending USC and then went on to get a Master’s in mechanical engineering from Stanford. For the next five years I worked in aerospace, and at a Bay Area wind energy start-up. After that I went back to school for an MBA is sustainable business. During the second half of my MBA, I started the wind energy software company, Muir Data Systems (MDS).

What was it like growing up there?

Growing up in the Inland Empire was an adventure. It was a mix of rural country living and thug life. My high school had numerous gang problems and racial tension was very real. The high school was one third African American, one third Hispanic, and one third Other. As a member of the Other group, I was often called “White Boy” and had to watch my back because I was not a member of a gang. Going from a rough high school experience to the country club atmosphere of Stanford was eye opening.

As a child, what did you want to become as an adult?

I always had a passion for building things as a child and still do today. As a child I spent countless hours building Legos and forts. As a young adult, I spent my time learning to work on houses, cars, and computers. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to become, but I had an inkling that it involved starting with very little and trying to create something useful.

What generated your interest in energy?

It happened at some point during undergrad. I was involved in research projects relating to wind, and I started thinking about the profound human relationship with energy systems. For those born during the last 150 years, the peak of the industrial revolution, we have no idea how to obtain our own food or create our own medicine. It has been said that our high level of technology dependence is a form captivity because we can’t live without it. Energy is a complicated space with questions such as: Who controls the energy? What are the long term impacts of energy dependence? What happens when we run out of fossil fuels? Are we happy living in our high energy society? These are some of humanities biggest challenges and I find the topic fascinating.

What is Muir Data? What does it do?

MDS is a software company that manages maintenance of wind energy systems. Think digital medical records meets wind farms.

Why does the world need Muir Data? What type of energy issues are present in today’s world?

We are experiencing unprecedented extreme temperature and weather events due to anthropogenic climate change. Predictions for the future are dire, particularly if we continue business as usual. Even if we could, we are likely to run out of readily available fossil fuels in the next century. We increasingly need clean energy to meet our ever growing demand. Wind energy helps address these issues, so it’s little wonder that it has been growing globally by 20% annually. Wind is an important player because it’s sustainable, clean, and cheap. It will need to be even cheaper in order to displace additional fossil fuels. That’s where MDS comes in. Daily operations in wind energy are not optimized. MDS increases efficiency, and through sophisticated analytics, identifies areas for cost savings. Reduced cost will encourage adoption of renewable energy.

What was your inspiration behind creating your company?

I wanted to create a company with positive and impactful company culture while reducing the total cost of wind energy.

What work has your company done so far?

MDS has been around for about three years. The initial product has been sold to a number of wind customers. We are now expanding our feature set to access a larger customer base. We are seeking software developers who have a passion for mobile, web, and renewable energy.

What are some of your future goals?

In the near term I’d like to expand MDS while staying true to the original reasons for founding the company. Another challenge that interests me is how we are going to adapt to the changed climate in the future. In the long run, I’d like to contribute to that problem as well.

Is there any advice you have for aspiring entrepreneurs or individuals interested in the energy sector?

Start companies that matter. I’d like to see more of society’s brightest individuals solving big problems not just making big money.

I see a world full of real and pressing challenges. Zika, climate change, growing economic instability, political unrest, to name a few. These unwieldy issues need attention. It saddens me to see so many promising minds diverted away from the issues that matter in favor of the ones that are easy or pay well. I encourage entrepreneurs to ask themselves why they do what they do and whether it makes them feel fulfilled. I hope that we will see more people focusing their efforts outward, toward helping others, and making our world a better place.

Why do you think it’s important for people to follow their dreams?

If I actually followed my dreams, I might still be playing with Legos and building forts. As adults, the challenge is to create value in society while staying true to ourselves. Instead of forts, now I build companies that have a positive impact on the world. I think the key is not necessarily to hold fast to a single end goal, but instead to hold on to what matters to you, no matter what road blocks may come. Don’t let anything get in the way of finding true satisfaction in what you do. For me, that’s what helps carry me through the challenges that come with building something from nothing.

ReElise, a RPG Project from Justin Fox

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How old are you? Where were you born and raised?

I’m 33 years old (34 this month in August) and born in Lexington, KY, where I’ve lived my whole life.

What was it like growing up there?

Pretty peaceful…maybe a little too much Country music though. I’ll forgive that.

Here's  the creator,  Justin Fox
Here’s the creator, Justin Fox

What did you want to become when you were a child?

[I] wanted to be a basketball player, [but] my older brother told me it was possible for us to make video games like we were playing. [I’ve been] sold ever since!

What generated your interest in gaming?

My older brother. His Christmas present was the original NES. Mario was cool, but Punch Out blew my mind. The characters, the size of the sprites, the challenge, the personality. It was those two games that changed our lives forever.

When and why did you decide to create a video game?

I was always impressed with the scope and scale of the RPG (Role Playing Genre) genre. Those were always the games that changed my life consistently. [The] Final Fantasy series, the Ys series, Xenogears, Grandia, and so many more just blew my face off. So, I decided to go into game making when RPGMaker for PS1 dropped in America in 2000. We didn’t own a computer that was capable of doing much of anything (I think we had the old terminal back then). So console was the only chance I had to make a game. I could not have been more excited for the opportunity. I remember it taking almost a month to get anything on the screen. I figured it out and 7 memory cards later I had my first game, Melee! (Video) simply because I’d always wanted to.

What is ReElise? What is it about?

An in-game screenshot of ReElise
An in-game screenshot of ReElise

ReElise is a Hip-Hop, 2D, Hand animated, Turn-based, mature Christian Role Playing Game. It’s about a young woman named Elise who has been through the horrors of human trafficking. She escapes with her fellow captive, best friend Lead, teams up with two mercenaries, and goes to find an item called the Judge’s Key, an item of legend said to destroy all evil in the world. Heaven help whoever gets in her way.

There is a faith element that surrounds the game. I wanted to see what God (El in this game) could do with a character this extreme. I wanted to show a narrative of hope in seemingly hopeless place. However, I didn’t want to preach to my audience. I wanted to weave the narrative in there as a story in this world, but if the player wanted to explore the Biblical themes I wanted to provide them with resources to do that in the form of a study guide.

What type of game is it? Who is it for?

It is a Turn-based role playing game (think Pokemon type battle system) with a lot of unique mechanics to spice things up a bit.

Transformations/Aura system has many enemies transforming or changing tactics to keep you on your toes. Different attacks work for different transformations so you’re not jamming on the “win” button.
The Emo System adds your emotions as a mechanic to gain the upper hand on enemies. Some choices you make before a battle can also affect your mood negatively or positively
Weapons are upgraded through a journey into the subconscious, which leads you to an intimate knowledge of each character.

This game is truly for anyone that loves these kinds of games. It’s not for children however, and it’s certainly not just for Christians. I haven’t preached my way into the game. It’s the player’s choice to engage in the study guide if you want to dig deeper into the Biblical themes of the game.

Are your working with a team? If so, note everyone and their responsibilities.

My wife, Lauren Fox, is the Art Director and monster designer of the game (see her portfolio here0. My homie, Andy Smith, is the sound designer (see his work here). These are the two that are directly involved but both do an amazing job!

Another screenshot from the game
Another screenshot from the game

What do you like most about working on ReElise?

Tough question…I think praying in the overall process. I know that sounds a bit spooky but, after prayer some stuff comes out that challenges myself. He subverts me artistically, and mentally about what’s “supposed” to work. This makes everything interesting.

How long have you been working on this project? When will it be completed?

I’ve been working on this for about four years now. It’ll be completed likely towards the end of 2017, but I’d love it to be sooner of course.

How can people purchase your game/support your project?

It’s not for sale right now, the main avenues of support are going to be the Kickstarter.

Also clicking the link to share the Thunderclap.

Funding the project and sharing it are big big deals and we’ll need all the help we can get for such a strange title.

What are your plans once ReElise is finished and released?

Onto the next one of course! A smaller project or two before I start the next big one.

What advice do you have for people who want to be video game designers?

Learn, and start small! Game design is not intuitive. Learn about design from books websites etc. A quick google search can inspire many things you’d like to try once you learn more about design. Also the smaller games give you a chance to explore mechanics and systems with little to no risk before you move onto the higher profile stuff. If I could do it over again, I’d start small.

Why do you think it’s important for people to follow their dreams?

Who wants to sit on their porch as an old man/woman (if you’re blessed to live that long) and say, “Man… I really should have done that, but now it’s too late.” That’s kinda horrifying to me.

Maxayn, a Musical Legend of Yesterday and Today

“I was born and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said Maxayn Lewis, legendary singer and vocal coach. She has sang with The Gap Band and worked with other icons such as The Bee Gees, Smokey Robinson and Celine Dion.

Maxayn’s humble beginnings were set in a time of racial oppression and discrimination. “[Tulsa] was a very divided city. Now, a lot of that has changed, but it is still a very red state.”Although she dreamed of becoming a doctor music was always part of her. The piano served as her formal introduction into playing music, yet Maxayn already knew how to sing at the age of six. She wowed the audience of a hometown fashion show by performing a Nat King Cole classic. “I sort of put myself on the show,” she explained. “I was supposed to be a model.”

Being a professional musician was not something she considered while performing throughout her youth:

“Seeing the Motown artists was really impressive to me because they didn’t look like the old guys. They looked beautiful. They performed really well. That gave people a different perspective or view on where you could go with this…That opened doors and possibilities for you to your own dream about what you wanted to do[then], but I still didn’t think I was going to do that. I thought I was gonna go do something much more conservative. Nothing happens in Oklahoma. It was just a regular life. Go to work. Go home.”

She left home to attend Oklahoma State University but did not enjoy the experience. “There was every level of discrimination and fascination.” Out of the 20,000 students there only 150 were Black (roughly) according to Maxayn. “It was quite experience for me coming from all black everything…I went to Black doctors, Black markets, Black pharmacies.” Racial tension and aggression caused her to return home and seek a historically Black university to attend. Before a school was chosen, the unimaginable occurred.

“I got a call from Ike and Tina Turner,” she said. What’s more unbelievable is that she hung up on them twice. “I thought it was my friends playing on the phone.” After realizing she was indeed speaking to the stars, wonderful opportunities manifested, and Maxayn went on a world tour with them. Later, she toured with Bobby Blue Bland. “The same day I met Donny Hathaway at a show in Chicago I also met Andre Lewis and Marlo Henderson.” They wanted her to be in their band and they were so adamant that she joined. “I made up my mind that I was gonna go with these crazy guys. That was the beginning of the Maxayn band.”

They lived together at a mansion in Boston and left periodically to perform around the country. During a trip to Florida, Maxayn was introduced to Luther Dickson, a well-known songwriter who wrote for Elvis, The Beatles, The Jackson 5, and more. Luther arranged a studio session for the band and fell in love with them. They recorded an album in New York before getting a residency gig in San Diego then inking a deal with Capricorn Records in Los Angeles.

Here's Maxayn (pictured on the right) beside the great Tina Turner
Here’s Maxayn (pictured on the right) beside the great Tina Turner

Maxayn’s life as a singer flourished and led to a rare yet fateful encounter. “I went into a Chinese restaurant to have lunch and I ran into Steve Perry from Journey,” she said. Steve inquired about Maxayn’s vocal coach. “I told him I didn’t have one.” After Steve got over his shock, he invited her to meet his vocal coach Gary Catona, a legend who has worked with Whitney Houston and others. Gary took Maxayn through a set of challenging vocal exercises that produced recognizable results one day later. “I could already sing but there’s a different level of having control of your voice when your really get into it and get into what I call mastering your own voice.”

Eventually, Gary asked Maxayne to teach his method in Japan on his behalf. “That’s how I got into teaching and coaching people.” She returned to the states and continued teaching. Most recently she has worked with Skyler Lexx, a producer and talent scout. “I met Skyler Lexx through Marlo Hendersen. He and Skyler had been friends for many years. Skyler was working out of a studio in Santa Monica at that time. We got to be friends right off the bat. From there, one day he called me and asked if I could help him work with a couple artists….we work really well together.”

She had a wealth of advice for aspiring singers. “The marketplace is very competitive [and] to underestimate the competition is a huge mistake.” Maxayn stressed the importance of developing one’s self. “Find your original self; put your best effort out there. Learn how to inhabit the lyric, [and] how to let the song be the star. People remember great lyrics. They remember a great melody.” She urged artists to be sincere and drop their egos.

“Luther Vandross was master of singing the melody and delivering the lyric. If you can do that, no matter what kind of music you’re doing you will win. Somebody is gonna love what you do as much as you love doing it. Mastering your own voice [and] knowing how to get out of your own way is part of that.”

Near the interview’s close, Maxayn shared her thoughts on dreams. “There is a higher power at work in everybody’s life. The dreams that each individual has brings something the world benefits from. Use those dreams you’ve been given to bring forth what you’ve been given.” She added that everyone has gifts worth sharing. “The world needs you. The world needs your dreams and know that whatever that is it’s just as valid as anything else out there and who knows you may have the answer to something we’ve all been looking for.”

Songs from a Soul Man, André DePriest

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where were you born and raised?

My name is André DePriest. I am a singer/songwriter/performer currently based in Los Angeles, California. However, I was raised in (and around) the city of Chicago, Illinois.

What did you want to become when you were a child?

I’ve always possessed an intense passion for music and social justice. As a young child, I would often dream about blazing the stage just like my favorite artists.

What sparked your interest in music?

I cannot recall the spark that ignited my love for music. Looking back I feel as though it was always ingrained in the most complex parts of my soul. My earliest memories all include listening and connecting with various genres of music. If I had to choose a specific moment, I can remember playing this small Casio keyboard that I carried everywhere. One day, I stumbled upon this melody that got stuck in my head. I was about five years old at the time and I’ll never forget the feeling that came over me when I heard those sounds. It became my escape.

When/how did you discover your musical talent?

I didn’t really discover my musical talent until about sixth grade. I was a very shy child, so even though I loved to sing it was rarely loud enough to be heard. Over time, as I gained more confidence, friends and teachers would encourage me to sing more. The attention I garnered from singing helped me discover my gift.

Who are some musicians that you admired while learning about music? What made you captivated with them specifically?

Michael Jackson was the first musician that really inspired me as a youth. There was something electric about his aura. When I six years old, my mother took me to see him at the United Center and I was blown away. As I got older, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Buju Banton, D’Angelo, The Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Common, Bilal, Musiq Soulchild, The Roots, Jimi Hendrix, Outkast and the Fugees all became huge influences of mine. I’ve always appreciated artists who express an extreme passion for their craft. The amazing thing about all of the aforementioned artists is their ability to find a unique and organic way to share their interpretations of life, love and music.

How long have you been performing?

I’ve been performing in some capacity my entire life. From early marching band and choir to college poetry slams and eventually my own music.

Are you also a song writer? If so, what kind of songs do you write?

I am also a songwriter. When crafting songs, I always start with a feeling, a desire and/or a mood. Love is the topic of most of my songs, because it is the source of everything on this planet. Once I’ve established the mood, I focus on telling a story. Sometimes, I write from personal experience and other times I borrow from the experiences of others.

He's a cool brother with roots in the Midwest.
He’s a cool brother with roots in the Midwest.

Where do you find inspiration to create or perform?

I find inspiration all around me. The most important aspects of creation are listening and observing. Everyday, I encounter people and places that represent unique perspectives. The role of an artist is to provide a mirror for humanity.

Which genres of music do you sing?

I sing primarily, Electro-Soul, R&B and Funk.

Have you ever faced rejection? If so, what did you do to overcome it?

I’ve never really faced rejection, because I don’t believe in the idea of rejection. We are all placed on this Earth for a purpose. Our entire lives are devoted to the journey of realizing said purpose. Throughout the journey we encounter opportunities. Not every opportunity is meant for you. The universe provides you with the tools to achieve your destiny. If you are paying attention, rejection will never be a condition you face because the right situation will always find you.

How do you plan to grow in your craft?

Practice. Self-Reflection. Passion. Hustle.

What advice do you have for aspiring singers and musicians?

Be creative!

Why do you think it’s important for people to follow their dreams?

Your dream is your legacy. It is the gift you were meant to share with the world. A world without dreamers, is a world without love, creativity, soul and passion. Life is a blessing. You never know how long your trip is going to be down here on Earth; make the best of it.

Graffiti is Her Expression, Meet KWEEN897

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Where were you born and raised?

Hello! My name is KWEEN897, I was born and raised in Houston, TX. I love exploring all the hidden nooks and crannies of the world and often find myself in beautifully preserved abandoned places. I am a ball of energy, leaving a trail of colors everywhere I go. My mission in life has been to not only keep my friend MUNIKS memory alive (MUNIK passed away in August 9th, 2007 thus the 897) but to travel the world and infuse vibrant colors and evoke happiness in the places you least expect that needs them most!
 
What did you want to become when you were a child?

As a child, I was always a tomboy, daddy’s little girl. My father owned a paint & body shop here in Houston, where I would sit and watch him paint cars after school. I was intrigued by the fact that he was able to hold this bulky metal looking paint gun, and so effortlessly and meticulously cover every square inch of a vehicle so perfectly without any drips or mistakes. It would always bring a smile to my face, because even with all the stress of family life and financial struggles my family faced in those years, when my father put on his white paint suit and stepped into his paint booth, you could literally see all the stress just melting away, as he zoned out, paint gun in hand, in his moments of peace. I guess watching my father all those years, somewhere deep within, I knew I wanted to find peace in doing what I loved whether it was painting cars, or painting walls, I just wanted to be able to pick up something that brought me peace.
 
What generated your interest in art?

When I was about 13 or 14 my dad taught me how to paint cars, a lot of people gave my dad crap for it. They would say, “she’s a girl, it’s not her place.” My dad would just turn, look at me, and smile with his eyes wide open. I would smile back, because only my dad and I knew that the very cars that these people were driving and praised my dad for painting were painted by me, “the girl”, his daughter. From that day forward, it drove me to madness in a sense, I was determined to conquer all the things men said women couldn’t do or didn’t think a woman would be capable of doing on her own, and so here I am, doing all those things, and painting all these walls, me, KWEEN897, “that girl.”

"From Houston, TX to Phoenix, AZ"
“From Houston, TX to Phoenix, AZ”
 
What type of art do you create? How would you describe it?

Graffiti. I would describe it as free flowing. It’s just you and the can. There’s no taping, no gridding, none of that extra stuff, everything you do is off the top of your head. You look at the space you’re working with, you pick up a can, and so it begins. Having can control is a MUST. Knowing the exact amount of pressure you exert on the cap determines the thickness of your lines, but the swiftness of your movements determines the cleanliness of each stroke you place on the wall. There’s no erasing, there’s just improvising. The beauty of graffiti is that it’s almost always in the most unexpected places, and when you need it most. Graffiti is NOT bound by the size of anything. Graffiti is being able to scale anything and everything, and regardless of the weather, situation, or circumstance, your mission is to get it where it needs to get. At least for me it is. One day when I’m gone, my friends and family will eventually see a mural, tag, perhaps even an old sticker of mine floating around somewhere, and in that moment, they will smile, because KWEEN897 was KWEEN897. She did what she loved, and loved what she did.
 
How do you receive inspiration to create?

If we’re honest here, I’m a total procrastinator. It’s a good and a bad thing I suppose. Being a procrastinator inspires me to think on my toes due to the lack of time. Overthinking is what usually hurts me, and because I procrastinate till the last minute, I don’t have the time to think, which pushes me to just do. Some of my best work came from my procrastination. “Steal sharpens steal,” having the opportunity to work alongside other world renowned artists such as FLIPONER, a graffiti writer who’s been painting since 84’, representing the Southeast side of Houston, TX, known for his meticulous background work and never ending letter styles; SOLELY SUPREME, from Baltimore, MD, definitely one of the most disciplined and detailed-oriented artists I’ve had the privilege of painting with on several occasions; CARATOES, from Beijing, China, one of the sickest females out there, although she’s only about 5’3, she has absolutely no problem taking on several story buildings and doing her thing. My list goes on, but the bulk of my inspiration comes from traveling, seeing the world, and those whom I have had the privilege of meeting along the way.

Has your art appeared in galleries?

I have had my work displayed at the East End Studio Gallery here in Houston, TX. Most of my work is in the streets, free to the public to enjoy. I always leave a hashtag that reads #kween897, I feel it’s more personal this way. Although galleries are great, I feel that having my work in the streets does not limit or restrict my audience, it’s for everyone to enjoy, and that is extremely important for me.
 
How long have you been an artist?

I’ve been painting since the age of 4, so as an artist I’ve been painting and creating for the past 22 years. As a graffiti writer, I was influenced by the graff scene at the age of 15, and been painting with strictly aerosol paint for the past 12 years.
 
What do you like most about creating art?

It’s my moment of peace. I zone out and I transcend into a whole other world. When I’m finished, and people are standing in front of what I’ve created, it makes them feel. Regardless of how or what they feel, the important part is that they are FEELING. Feelings keep us grounded and is the very thing that makes us human.

"Stay Down! Only Weak Women Lay Down!"
“Stay Down! Only Weak Women Lay Down!”
 
What is your creative process like?

Training myself to be able to eyeball and scale a wall is extremely crucial to my creative process. I have been training myself for the past 12 years and continue to do so on a daily basis. It not only saves me a lot of time but it also allows me to manipulate whatever sketch is in my head and work around every and any obstacle or obstructions that might be on the wall. I drop a rough outline of where I think I’d like to place things. Then I group and coordinate my colors along the wall. Once everything is in place, I take a step back, put my headphones on, pick up my can, and zone out.
 
What have you been working on recently?

My most recent piece is riding around in Phoenix, AZ on this super awesome old school bus. I did a collaboration with FLIPONER, where we dropped a KWEEN897 and a FLIPONER spell out using the Arizona license plate as the fill within the letters. Paint Phoenix is an event that occurs once a year during the 1st or 2nd week of March. If you’d like to check it out, you can just google PAINTPHX. I love when people find my walls, or things I’ve painted rolling around town and take their own photos with my #kween897 hashtag. I don’t mind having photos of my own, but I always enjoy seeing my work through the eyes of others. Sometimes people are able to capture my work at angles that I didn’t see and in doing so they also inspire me or help me to see things I could do or add on my next piece.
 
Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve created?

It’s hard to pick a favorite piece. Every piece I’ve painted highlighted a particular time in my life whether good or bad. Each taught me valuable lessons. It’s such a generic answer but look! If you pick your favorite, I’ll be more than happy to tell you the story behind it!
 
Where can people view or purchase your art?

Via email at kween897@gmail.com I have been diligently working on my website for the past year, in hopes of being able to officially launch my site in October of 2016. My website will have my full bio, along with photo galleries for both private and public work, merchandise, and artwork that can be purchased.

How do you plan to grow and develop in the future?

Keeping an open mind, travelling, laughing, painting, and taking it a day at a time. Things will happen as they’re meant to happen. There’s no avoiding your destiny. Whatever it may be, whenever that might be, I’ll get there.
 
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

If they tell you, “you can’t,” show them you can. Live the way you want to be remembered.
 
Why do you think people should follow their dreams?

Because doing everything else that everybody else does is already taken. Follow your dreams! Life is meant to be lived. Living is pushing the limits, trying new things, discovering what you’re good and bad at. Make mistakes, lots of them!!! The more mistakes you make, the more you’ll learn! But shhhhh, don’t tell anyone! They might start living the dream!

Dreams of Finance and Reformation, Obi Iloh

Obi is a rare young man, who is committed to bettering not only himself but the world around him. After speaking with this gentleman on a summer afternoon, it was clear that his ideals about financial education and reformation were rooted in uplifting those in poverty. His ideas encompassed raising financial literacy to build generational wealth and create positions of power for the powerless. Dreams of change for impoverished nations in his home continent of Africa fuel his ambition and desire to assist others. See what he had to say in his own words below:

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? How old are you? Where were you born and raised?

My name is Chinedu Obi Iloh. I’m 24 years old, born and raised in Boston, MA and Lagos, Nigeria.

What did you want to become when you were a child?

Since I’m Nigerian, when I was a kid I wanted to become a doctor and my sister wanted to become a lawyer.

What do you do?

I am personal financial advisor. I help individuals, families and small business map out their financial future.

How did you get involved in this industry?

I got involved in the industry through a friend that I met while on set for a show. We spoke briefly about finances and he offered to help me. Now, I pay it forward.

How do you help others with what you do?

I help others by educating them on fundamental financial practices that 80% – 90% of us are ignorant to. Financial illiteracy is a huge problem in this country. Only 5 states in the US offer financial literacy as a one semester elective in high school. While the rest of us are dependent on our parents or job for our financial education.

What is the name of the company you work for? How long have you been with them?

The name of my company is World Financial Group. I have been with them for 9 months.

Why should people do business with you as opposed to someone else or another company? What are the benefits?

People should do business with me because I have their best interest at hand. I didn’t get into this industry for the money, contrary to what everybody tries to tell me. It took me a while to realize that that wasn’t my motivation. I was almost ashamed to admit it. Sure I like the things that money can allow me to do, but if I didn’t need money to do those things then I wouldnt want money. Above all and everything, I want change. I want to leave this world knowing that I did something to effect positive change on the people who survive me. Helping someone build a legacy for their family is change that will last a long time. I’m always happy to help someone address the elephant in the room, personal finance. Most of us avoid it because the reality of it can be unpleasant, but once you face it, you see that it wasn’t as big and scary as you thought.

What do you like most about what you do?

What I like most is the seeing the relief and peace of mind that comes over a family after we map out a path to financial freedom. The hope they have in the future of their family.

What are your plans for the future? How do you plan to meet your goals?

My plans for the future include going back to Nigeria and helping to build it up to the world power it has the potential to be. I plan on doing this by educating the Nigerians here in America on financial strategies they can use to create generational wealth. Its that wealth that we will use to invest in Nigeria.
What advice do you have for people who want to work in your industry?

My advise is not to be scared. We were taught to be afraid of finance but to love money. Getting into the industry is easy, all you have to do is learn a slightly different financial language. When you break it down, big banks and insurance companies do business the same way you and your friend do business. They just use different words to make seem more difficult than it is.

Why do you think it’s important for people to follow their dreams?

I think its important for people to follow their dreams because it gives fulfillment. We only get one shot at this life thing. If your blessed to live long enough, you don’t want to live your last years regretting things you wanted to do but didn’t. Also, you have those dreams for a reason. Not everybody has the dreams that you have. Most likely, no one has the same exact dream that you have. So if something is stuck in your mind to the point that you think about it often, its probably best you do something to make it a reality. Working for, and attaining your own dreams is always the most rewarding. Go for it!

America’s Next Country Superstar, Ciera Mackenzie

“I’ve enjoyed and admired music my entire life,” said Ciera Mackenzie, “I always had the dream of becoming a singer.” She may be young but this 14 year old sensation has performed with Country music’s biggest stars: Big & Rich, Mark Chesnutt, Trick Pony, and more. On September 6, she’s opening for Vince Gill’s show in Nashville. “I want to go out and do everything that music can do for me. I hope to go as far as music can take me.”

Ciera took a moment to snap a photo with Nick Jonas in Los Angeles
Ciera took a moment to snap a photo with Nick Jonas in Los Angeles

Ciera began singing and emulating performers at a very young age. “One of the first songs that I memorized was a Toby Keith song…it was one of his patriot songs.” Who knew that years later Toby Keith would invite her to perform at his Kids Corral facility in Oklahoma?

“I’ve been creating music professionally for about two years,” she said. “I got my start when I played at a showcase in a local record store.” An onlooker in the audience recognized Ciera’s talent and offered her an opportunity to record. After recording her songs and shooting a video for her song “Volunteer Soldier,” Ciera was invited to open at a show. “I started doing music professionally right after that show and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Here's Ciera with well-respected guitarist Ricky Rouse, longtime collaborator of George Clinton and many others
Here’s Ciera with well-respected guitarist Ricky Rouse, longtime collaborator of George Clinton and many others

According to Ciera the creation process is a highly rewarding aspect of her career. “Sometimes I write songs about friendship or when I’m really angry with somebody. I also write about heartbreak. There’s always some sort of message behind my music.” Her concepts are typically centralized in one idea then expanded to complete a song. Performances are another high point for her. “Opening up for Mark Chesnutt was so much fun! People were talking to me and I was talking to them. It was just a really cool experience.”

When she isn’t writing or refining her abilities, Ciera receives direction from those who believe in her. “I have been traveling to LA to work with Skyler Lexx,” a producer who develops and shops artists to various labels. “He produces the majority of my music, and is incredible to work with. He and his team have helped me reach a whole new level. The work he has put in on my career is amazing, and it feels great to have someone like that pulling for you!”

Two years ago, Ciera released her debut album Thoughts from a Hay Blue. “It was a growing up story about me, and I’m sure a lot of young girls can relate to that.” She’s been writing and recording new songs for her sophomore followup. “This album is gonna be a little bit more edgy. I’m gonna have some angry songs and some light songs. It’s gonna be a bit more dynamic than the first one.” Since the last album Ciera has grown a musician by sharpening her skills as a guitarist and studying tempo. “It’s really been a journey,” she said.

She never shies away from expressing her excitement for music and progressing
She never shies away from expressing her excitement for music and progressing

Ciera highlighted hard work as a needed component of progressing as a musician. “Never stop. Outwork everybody. Pick up an instrument. Progress and learn.” She chose to close with the following statement. “I think it’s important for people to follow their dream because it’s your dream. It’s something that your always gonna wanna do. I think it’d be better for you to follow your dream and fulfill it than to always have that [regret]: ‘I wish I could’ve done that.’”

Instagram: @ciera_mackenzie
Facebook: Ciera Mackenzie
Twitter: @cieramackz

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