Andi is a woman after my own heart. I've spent no more than a handful of days hanging out with her and I feel (weirdly) confident saying that she's one of the most wonderful people I've ever met. I've been lucky enough to get to know her through my Yelpy boyfriend (shoutout to Yelp Jax) and she is truly a delight. Her determination, transparency, passion and strength inspire me to do more and be more on a regular basis - she's a force to be reckoned with and I'm incredibly excited to have had the chance to chat with her about all things Yelp, Orlando and of course, food. Welcome, lady!
Hometown: Miami, FL Current city: Orlando, FL Alma mater: Rollins College x2 Degree: B.S. in Economics & International Affairs; M.S. in Urban Planning Hustle: Senior Community Manager @ Yelp
Babe you admire and why? Colleen Burns, my former boss and forever inspiration. She led with passion in every aspect of her life and taught me to forget bucket lists. So now, if I’m passionate about it, I book it. Ain’t nobody got time to wait and see.
How do you spend your free time? Free time? Come again? I fill my time up with passion projects, but beyond those - picnics. All of the picnics. Spoiler alert, but the closing line of my forthcoming self-help book entitled, A Modern Gal’s Guide to a Pants-less Life speaks for itself: “A blanket, cheese, wine disguised in an incognito aluminum 'water bottle,' and a book is all a girl needs in life.”
Favorite app? Well, beyond my main squeeze which helps me find the best tacos wherever I am, my indispensable side chick is the Headspace app. When you hustle hard you also tend to let nasty little voices of self-doubt and criticism creep in. Ten minutes a day to give my brain a much-needed shower and quiet those sabotaging voices is very doable. Plus, Andy (who narrates the meditations) is British, so… yes, please.
Favorite podcast? Slate’s Placemakers - made up of “stories about the spaces we inhabit and the people who shape them" -- is my current fave. Want to learn how Philly is making their bike-share more attractive to low-income and minority residents? Or how Atlanta turned a bad housing project into a thriving mixed-income community? Or how an aging punk rocker is turning squatting into a political movement to combat gentrification? It’s full of stories of people making a difference in their communities - what's not to geek out about?!
lindsey thompson photography
Tell us about your current hustle: Whereas in years past I have always hustled on the side to bring awareness to how freaking awesome my community is, I am now one of the few people who gets paid to continue that hustle as Yelp’sOrlando Senior Community Manager. My job is first and foremost to connect Orlandoans to great local businesses, events, organizations + causes, and more broadly, to get them feeling connected to the things that make their city magical. How do I do this? In a variety of ways, but the most obvious is by hosting free Yelp events ranging from intimate 7-course menu tastings, to a 1,200-person Masquerade Ball featuring 40+ local businesses and the city’s best entertainers, to give back to the city's most active users who make my job so easy. It. Gives. Me. Life.
What does your typical workday look like? Typical? Anything but! I work remotely, so that means many days I sit at my dining room table (sans-pants, of course) and type away at my computer for hours and hours. But working remotely for three years has taught me the value of being around other creative people, so I also work from a shared co-working space run by Downtown Credo Coffee. When I’m done with all of my meetings, calls and mountains of emails, I am often hosting an event or attending someone else’s killer party. #CantStopWontStop
Any additional community involvement? I’ve got nonprofits in my blood and think that everyone should be serving on a board if they can. At one point I was on three (#SerialOverCommitter) and had to do the thing I fear most: say no. I realized that I could be so much more useful if I limited my involvement to the organization that most inspired me. Now I’m a proud board member of Game Changer Orlando, a “nerd nonprofit” that teaches students strategic card, board and creative role-playing games, adapted with an educational curriculum. It’s meant to stimulate excitement about learning, without the pressures of a school setting. Watching these kids go through (D&D-style) adventures in after-school programs makes my heart grow (a ‘la Grinch) and gives a pretty serious inspiration-buzz.
Additionally, I teamed up with my boyfriend-turned-husband a few years back (I’ve since locked that ish down) and started a blog called theOrlandoan, where we coined the hashtag#OrlandoDoesntSuck. Being irreverent grad students, we simply wanted to spread the message that our city was (and is) pretty badass. Orlando is known for a mouse, but we aren’t comfortable being solely defined by that - we’re a city full of vibrant, entrepreneurial creatives who want to make Orlando better. At the time when we started the blog, people were looking for an authentic, homegrown message that expressed this sentiment of defiance. So, I think good timing and the fact that we weren’t motivated by anything other than showing off our city is why the hashtag worked and resonated so much with locals. In the end, the hashtag is still one of the city’s most popular, and it starts a ton of useful conversations. When someone sees me wearing an Orlando Doesn’t Suck shirt and doesn’t agree, we have the opportunity to start a dialogue. I can remind them that barriers to entry are low and if they think this city is missing something, they should start it, and can also ask me for some people who would be willing to help.
What motivates you every day? The people around me who are actually making things happen. I see Orlandoans starting new initiatives and supporting one another on the daily and nothing gives me a kick in the pants quite like witnessing collaborations with a social mission. The best part? This isn’t unique to Orlando! I’d recommend that everyone find a really great local coffee shop (I heard there’s an app that can help with that…) and spend a day there. Start conversations with randos and I guarantee you you’ll find a few people who will inspire you. Worst-case scenario? You’ll get a good coffee buzz and support a local business for the day.
So, where should we eat in Orlando? There are only two things I love more than my twin sister (sorry, Norah): Tacos and Pho. The only thing that rivals the fish taco at Tako Cheenais the fish taco at Black Rooster Taqueria. In terms of Pho, you've gotta hit up Lac Viet.
Career advice for other women? F*** Impostor Syndrome. I’ve talked to so many amazing, talented, smart, accomplished women who have had the same nasty thoughts as I’ve had: that one day we're all going to realize we don’t know what we’re doing. This is false. It’s a fallacy our minds have created through being taught to be humble and never to accept a compliment fully. Surround yourself with strong women who are open to being vulnerable and talk about feelings of inadequacy. Hearing people you admire admit the same things that you’re feeling will get you closer to realizing the truth and finally internalizing your accomplishments. You’re a certified badass. Deal with it.