• UO Interviews: Erin Allweiss

    This month, we’re excited to team up with Passerbuys — a website made to showcase the raw, un-curated and effortless beauty of women — on a co-hosted panel discussion on forging a creative life after college. Leading up to the event on January 11 at Brooklyn's Space Ninety 8, we visited each of the panel speakers to learn a little bit more about them. 

    Our moderator of the event, Erin Allweiss of The No. 29, let us visit her at home to discuss her passions, how she found herself living and working in NYC, and what her goals for 2017 are.

    Hi Erin! Tell us a little bit about yourself – where are you from? What do you do?
    I was born and raised in New Orleans, went to college in Boston, and worked in DC before moving to NYC. My passions have always dictated my career path. In DC I worked in the press offices of Oxfam, NRDC and ONE. I also had the privilege of working for one of the most effective – and progressive – members of Congress: Rep. Earl Blumenauer.

    When I moved to New York, I shifted more to design, art and technology communications. Three and a half years ago, I co-founded The No. 29 with Melody Serafino. The No. 29 is a media and consulting firm between New York and Paris, and we represent clients who are moving the needle in their respective industries. All are at the forefront of using art, design, fashion, science and tech to create a better world. On a daily basis, we feel fortunate to collaborate with some of the best brands and human beings.

    What is a typical day like for you?
    I don't have a typical day, which is one of the things I love most about my job. There's always a lot of writing, as well as meetings and calls that take a good bit of time. I'm also often on the road, with my favorite other home being Paris, where many of our clients are based. The only thing I'm certain about each day: it will start with NPR and a cup of coffee. Or an espresso if I'm feeling fancy.

    When you were growing up, what was your dream career? Does your career now reflect that at all or did you do a total 180?
    My dream was to be an environmental fashion designer OR environmental lawyer. I had an ah-ha moment while working in DC. I realized that while it can take ten years to change one statute of the clean air act, I could work to engage people in sustainability through media and communications. I like to think of myself as a lawyer who argues in the court of public opinion – using science, design, art and fashion. Working with a brand like VEJA (a totally sustainable sneaker brand out of Paris) also connects me to my childhood dream of being environmental fashion designer. They're far better at it than I would've been!

    How did you get involved with the Passerbuys event?
    Clemence Poles, the founder of Passerbuys, is one of my favorite Frenchies in NYC. She profiled me last year, and asked me to apply my communications skills to the panel. I'll be interviewing the remarkable group of women about their careers and journeys.

    What are you most looking forward to talking about at the event?
    When I first started my career, I didn't know media relations was even a job. I graduated with a degree in International Affairs and Environmental Studies, with aspirations to become an international negotiator for climate treaties. I remember asking everyone I admired what their career journey looked like, to figure out my next move, and that's how I discovered my own path (hat tip to a mentor at Oxfam, who is still a close friend). I hope that the Passerbuys conversation reveals to the audience opportunities they might not have known about, and inspires them to go down a road that feels right for them. 

    Can you tell us what the best part about working (and living) in NYC is?
    New York can be your best friend (when all is going well) or greatest foe, when things are rough. I've been through both – and everything in between – in this crazy city. But what I truly love: the people who are drawn to New York, from all over the world. The ones I'm lucky to call my friends are sources of inspiration and support, and sometimes even collaborators. I feel deeply fortunate for this extended chosen family.

    What about the hardest?
    There's a New York loneliness that can take hold of people, when you're surrounded by millions but feel you don’t have support. I'm presently reading The Lonely City, which looks at NYC through the eyes of three artists who experienced this. I strongly recommend it, and think it captures how the city can feel at certain moments – especially when struggling with career questions. Hopefully the panel provides some insights for people looking for career answers. And the other hardest part, of course, is the cost of this city! Yes, everyone says it, but it's true…New York is expensive. 

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten over the years (whether personal or business-related)?
    I can't think of advice, but I can think of role models. The founders of VEJA, who are unwavering in their commitment to sustainable design. Amy Novogratz and Mike Velings, who are among the more inspiring couples – and are using their business to help save the ocean. My business partner Melody Serafino, who (thankfully) is seemingly unflappable. Sarah Parcak, the TED Prize winner and satellite archaeologist with boundless brains and energy. I observe them and try to absorb their brilliance, applying it to my own career and personal life. So perhaps I'm giving advice: surround yourself with people who inspire and push you to be better, and do better. Set your own high bar.

    Finally, what are your goals for yourself in 2017?
    I would love to keep growing our team. I'm also personally committed to being more politically engaged – a return to my DC days – as we all need to participate in our democracy. I am committed to inspiring a new generation of people to either run for office or support candidates and causes they believe in.

    New York friends: come out for a conversation hosted by Passerbuys, and featuring Erin and a group of other inspiring women next Wednesday, Jan 11, at Space Ninety 8 in Brooklyn.