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Rooster Magazine: Colorado’s Young Entrepreneurs Feature

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JL CA Rooster Article

From Rooster Magazine’s COLORADO’S YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS Issue:

We often hear music is the perfect vessel for doing good. Nothing could be closer to that mark than Conscious Alliance, a Boulder-based national nonprofit organization. It’s committed to supporting communities in crisis through hunger relief and youth empowerment initiatives that are organized at concerts and music events. Led by a young and enthusiastic executive director, Justin Levy, Conscious Alliance operates through ongoing grassroots food collection and hunger awareness programs. The donations then benefit local food pantries nationwide and at economically isolated Native American reservations. For Levy, it’s more than just music and charitable giving. He hopes to break the cycle of poverty by creating opportunity and inspiration for the younger generation.

What have you learned about yourself while running your business?
That I have a lot to learn, and that I must be patient yet persistent.

How do you keep up with the changing business landscape?
By creating the space for others’ input, ideas and innovation.

Where do you see your industry going in the future?
More strategic partnerships between organizations and companies.

How do you measure success?
We measure success in a number of ways: number of meals distributed annually; how well we sustain our current youth programs and our ability to enhance and grow our youth programs; our staff retention and overall staff well-being. Our goal is to always be increasing the amount of money spent on projects while keeping our overhead below 20 percent. Right now, the organization is operating with an overhead of 13.5 percent.

What’s the biggest myth in business?
That non-profits are 100 percent volunteer based with no business expenses. Non-profits are a business and, very much like a for-profit company, we have fixed monthly expenses and overhead. Although non-profit organizations are not selling a produce, they are providing an incredibly valuable service to the community. To provide a service, it takes funding and time. We look to individuals, foundations and companies to invest their time and financial commitments to make our work possible. 

What was the toughest part about your first year in business?
The toughest part about my first year as executive director was learning the ins and outs of the organization’s financials while keeping up with the organization’s programming and staff management and somehow still making time for my personal life and overall well being.

Favorite business book:
Living an Extraordinary Life” by Robert White.                                                                               

Favorite part about running your own business:
I truly enjoy getting to work with such a talented and inspiring group of individuals while working to make a difference in the life of others.

Best advice you’ve received:
Continue to step outside your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Best advice you have for aspiring entrepreneurs:
Believe in yourself and your team.

Do you have any mentors?
Ray Piagentini, my high school guidance counselor, who truly believed in me as a leader and helped my develop my leadership skills. Lance Gentry, former president of Justin’s (Nut Butter) and Conscious Alliance board member. Lance was fearless in business while having a heart like no one else. He was truly fearless and radical, and because of that he created extraordinary results for himself and others. He passed away in 2012. 

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