Mieko A. Ozeki Co-founder of Vermont Womenpreneurs and Owner of Radiance Studios LLC

Contact Details

Interview Details

Date: Saturday November 18th 2023
Location: Burlington @ VCET
Length: 54:18
Episode Number: 40
Show Notes Link: https://vermonttalks.com/mieko-a-ozeki/
Short Link: vermonttalks.com/40


Becca Hammond: What’s new 802? I’m Becca Hammond and you’re listening to Vermont Talks. Vermont Talks may include graphic or explicit content. Listener discretion is advised. Welcome, Mieko Ozeki onto the podcast today. Mieko is the co-founder at Vermont Womenpreneurs.

She is the owner of Radiance Studios LLC and she’s also a small business and Vermont agriculture advocate. Welcome. Hi. So first off, you have an amazing list of accomplishments and things you’ve done in this day. I’m truly impressed by all of the different works you’ve done, by all the different boards you’re a member of. What is your most, well, what project are you most proud of in the, I don’t know how many, I was trying to add them up. You’ve got at least 12 or 15 different things listed that you’ve accomplished in your life. So what, which is the thing you’re most proud of?

Mieko Ozeki: I mean, at present, I’m really proud of the efforts that I have put towards co-founding a group of women’s small business owners. Vermont Womenpreneurs has been one of my biggest achievements and I’m really excited because the community is vast. There’s a lot more women business owners out there and through our network, they’re able to find each other in a celebratory way, in a way that doesn’t feel transactional. So that’s one of my accomplishments I’m really proud of since being here in Vermont for the last 15 years. And otherwise, my other accomplishments has been being able to create a space and voice for farmers markets and for farmers in general. So it’s been wonderful.

Becca Hammond: And what foundation was that? I should have printed them all off and listed it because you’re part of the, was it Farm to Table group?

Mieko Ozeki: Yeah. So I am various boards that involve agriculture. So one of my recent ones is Farm to Table Steering Committee. So that is a vast network of farmers, producers, retailers, anyone who’s involved in the food system. And that was created actually part of a state mandate to investigate kind of one building network and then thinking about ways of how do we improve our food system in the state.

And now we’re actually thinking more so because of climate change regionally in terms of our food systems. And that opportunity has been wonderful because I get to see colleagues that I’ve started to know over the last 20 years through various organizations and focus on the thing that I love the most. I love talking about food and I love talking about farms. But I just came back actually a couple days ago or actually yesterday from the Farm to Plate gathering, which had over 300 people in attendance from representing different parts of that food system.

Becca Hammond: Very cool. And is there a lot of organic focus in that? Is it any?

Mieko Ozeki: No, so that has a lot more focus on kind of just getting everybody at the table. So from also including like food assistance programs, looking at land trusts and just anything to do with like with agriculture. Yeah, sorry, I’m like still recovering from it. It’s been like it was like one of these most impactful kind of two day intensives of being in that network. The other hat I wear though is I’m also on the board of the NOFA Vermont. And that’s more of the organic practices and think getting more farmers involved with getting certified in organic certifications.

Becca Hammond: Yeah, there’s a lot to that. That’s so I actually grew up on a dairy farm, a very small one up on the Canadian border. And there’s a lot to becoming organic. If you’re a farmer who’s been doing it for years and years and trying to switch into that culture, a lot of people don’t know anything about it. They don’t have resources to do that. So that’s a good program.

Mieko Ozeki: So Farm to Plate NOFA. And then I’m also involved with the Vermont Farmers Market Association, which is basically a coalition of farmers market managers across the state. We work for the food assistance programs, also advocating for the farmers and the other vendors that we work for. And also just being able to be that accessible marketplace for our communities, not just for tourists, but really about being entrenched in our communities in terms of food access. So that I’ve worn in addition to being on the Interveil Community Farm board where I kind of advise on there, but I’m also a CSA member. And during the floods, I’m proud of raising over $60,000 during the flooding, being able to help the farm kind of get to a little bit more stability while also still supplying whatever they had remaining of food to our members as well as to community members.

Becca Hammond: That’s fantastic. That’s really impressive. And there’s so much damage and it’s so widespread and it had every single sector in Vermont. So that’s a wonderful cause. Yeah, congratulations on raising that much.

Mieko Ozeki: Yeah. So all those hats have been really helpful. And then because of both Vermont Wimpreneurs and my involvement in like in farm farming and agriculture organizations, that’s just given me the platform to be able to work with Senator Welch. We’re actually right now I’m involved in the his launch of the Women Economic Opportunity Conference, which will help happen in 2024, which is an opportunity for women to think about their careers and as well as a small business owners to it’s it’s a big gathering. And it first started with Senator Leahy, who did it for 25 years with his wife, Marcel. And now Senator Welch took that over and we’re trying to figure out the best ways to get women to congregate and to be able to get the training they need to help thrive.

Becca Hammond: That’s fantastic. And we’ll talk we’ll definitely swing around. We’ll talk about Vermont Wimpreneurs. I just it’s so interesting to me that you’re on all of these different boards that you’re involved in all these different programs. You must meet such fascinating people. How did you get involved in that? I’ve never even considered like how would you become a board member? How did all of this start?

Mieko Ozeki: It all started actually just arriving in Vermont. So I came via I grew up in New York City and have kind of understood about building community and also kind of standing out when you have a kind of a position. And so New York kind of is a great primer for that because you got to stand out from the noise amidst all of that. And then I moved to Boston after like via Colorado and Boston. I’ve had a lot of experiences in between from a careers in environmental education, experiential education, to sustainability. And I came to Vermont quite accidentally, I would say. It was 2007 when my husband and I were like, we’re going to leave Boston.

Like we love our friends and everything else, but it’s just not for us. And so we did place shopping. We walked around. I didn’t really think of Vermont until we landed here for a visit to the Burlington Farmers Market. And I was like, this place is different. It’s different from Boston and it’s definitely different from New York.

And it’s kind of got the same culture. And I was very much involved in food. I had worked in sustainable agriculture in terms of education, educating young people about how best to use their foods and where their foods came from.

And I started to have an interest. My career interests went from experiential education and environmental education into sustainability and environmental management. And while I was in Boston, I was getting my second master’s at Harvard in that field. And they were talking about things called like this movement called campus sustainability.

And looking at college campuses as this micro ecosystem where you can create change both policy, academic, as well as environmental policy and environmental implementation of change. And so I was interested in that, held on to that. And then when I was fed up with my last job in Boston, I said, I put out to Facebook when Facebook was useful. But I posted to my friends going, I’m looking for jobs maybe in Vermont or somewhere.

And a friend sent me this post for UVM. They were just starting their office of sustainability. And my friend was like, you should apply for this. And obviously 2008 when I applied, this is just the cusp before the recession happened. But I got interviewed. I was one of 100 candidates for a brand new field, a brand new institution that was being created and our office that was being created. And I got the job. My husband also got a job in Addison County at the time in school systems and technology. And we just coincidentally just got both landed jobs. And two months later, the recession got called and we still had our jobs. So we got to thrive.

So that was kind of an accidental thing. And for eight years, I stayed at UVM implementing a clean energy fund, which the students taxed themselves $10 per semester, which was about a quarter million dollars, implementing renewable energy projects on campus both academically and installation wise. That along with traveling across the country all over to talk about sustainability on college campuses, exposed me to a whole wide network in the environmental field, which brought attention to kind of the work we were doing at UVM, but also kind of the work I was doing.

I got published in establishing what it would be like to create and manage those a student run renewable energy or sustainability fund. And because of that, I just had so many people, I was like, my networks were just mushrooming. After eight years, I was excited, I was going to move on. I moved on to Yes, tomorrow design build school. And I for 17 months, I worked there as the the program and marketing director. So practically two full time jobs kind of got burned out by that, but accomplished a lot while I was there. And I had in the back of my mind, I had to always want to have my own business. And I actually had established one while I was at UVM because my boss who was super supportive said, you do this all this wonderful thing of career development with our interns, we don’t pay you for that. We pay you for this other thing, you should create your own business. So I always had this business in my back pocket.

And that was Radiant Studios. And when I left my job, I was like, Oh, I think I got to commit and double down on this. So I was doing website building and then doing personal branding workshops. So personal branding being reputation management and how do you stand out from the fray, which I have been doing for decades of building a portfolio, and then you just evolve that into social media, how do you stand out with a voice like that? Doing it more of the pragmatic way, not pre-tik-tok, pre any of those things I didn’t have to dance or do.

I mean, I wasn’t a YouTuber, but was like, how do you build a reputation with your work and your portfolio? And that’s kind of where I start from the basis of a lot of my work now. And that job, like that I took on more work as side work in addition to having my business. So I worked for VBSR Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, which actually taught me about growing a professional network, seeing it from the back end side of developing it. And then I took on the job of taking over the Burlington Farmers Market full circle moment. But from 2019, then through the end of 2020, I helped the Burlington Farmers Market not only run it, but also run it during the pandemic.

And also during it was within its first year of transition to its current location on Pine Street. So it was a lot to take in. But it also made me, I took that job as a way to advocate for small businesses and farmers markets was kind of the launching point. And when I started at Burlington Farmers Market, also had co-founded Vermont Wimpernoors. And that was because I was burned out from that last job at Yes Tomorrow and had gone to a retreat in a Null Farm, which they have a retreat called the Better Selves Fellowship, which is amazing.

Right in the Mad River Valley, they bring in people from all over the country who are active in environmental work and social work, social justice work, and free scholarship to do six days where you got to really retreat and take care of yourself and recollect yourself so you’re energized to do the things that you have to do in your movement. And while there, I after leaving Yes Tomorrow, I was like, it was two days after I left Yes Tomorrow, I was like, what do I do best? And I assessed everything I had done for the previous 20 years in nonprofits and also at UVM and then up to even Yes Tomorrow. And I was like, what am I good at? And I was like, I’m really good at convening people, total strangers. And I love doing that, connecting them. I’m the kind of person who people will text me, message me, call me, and say the first sentence is like, you don’t know me, but somebody said I should talk to you about what’s like a career decision or a pivot and a pivot they’re making in their life or a decision they have to make or they need to find another resource. So I feel like I’m always the switchboard operator of like between connecting people.

So I would do that. And then collaboration has been really big for me because often, I find that being a leader is not about being in the front, it’s about nudging people from the back is leadership that you can encourage people to be empowered collectively and not necessarily as just one singular person. Because when you have leadership that is one person, one individual in the lead, if that person leaves, then everything kind of collapses.

So collaborative work really makes strengthens ideas as well as moves along a whole lot of other things. And then the last part is I love celebrating. I love celebrating like people’s wins.

So I’m I like to tell people when I do Vermont Worm Pruneur is I am your ultimate wing woman. I will be there to rally for you and tell your stories, amplify it as much as possible, cheer you on, clap whatever it is, I’m there for it. And so that those values when I left that retreat after six days, and it was also the first time because I was a new mom, I had been away for my kid for six days. And it was most it was it was a really interesting freeing time for me to think about like what my aspiration of the values I wanted to be whatever the next thing was. And a few months into taking my gap time between the my jobs between yesterday and then starting with VBSR, I was I held on to those values of convene connect collaborate celebrate in my my gut I just I held on to that. And then I took a workshop on solar pernure ship with a Center for Women in Enterprise. And like first off, solar pernure was like a totally weird word, but I’m like, there’s a lot of solar pernures, I guess.

And my that what who the person who come for a while my mentors, Lisa Wood, she was teaching that. And we were at the table of all these other solar pernures. And at the end of the session, she said, you know, one of the hardest things about being a solar pernure is you are your own boss, everything’s up here, the accountability is all up here, your ideas are up here, and they’re trapped, and you have no one to relay it to. She’s like, seeing that all of you are around, like, you should, why don’t you guys get together, have coffee, maybe do it. And I was like, Oh, and I was like, Oh, convene, right. So that actually that coincident that that that workshop set off the beginning of Vermont women pernures. And I just asked people all around like, would you want to meet at like, for coffee or, you know, just to hold each other accountable. And a lot of people were like, Yes. And so the first made up we have was in January of 2018 at the Fletcher Free Library.

And we had 15 women show up. I also put in the newspaper, like it was like, one of the things to my attitude at the time was, it’s like, you know, I was thinking about the scene in the odd couple and the old the movie version, but an odd couple where Oscar and Felix were having an argument, Felix, who’s the control freak was basically like, got really angry at Oscar and threw a plate of spaghetti against the wall. And so I was like, you know, the thing for me at that moment was anything that I was going to do from this point, because after this point of my career was, it’s throwing spaghetti on the wall. And essentially, my attitude was, if this sticks, like if the spaghetti sticks, like for as long as it sticks on the wall, I’m in like, I can do it. And so for me to put out, Oh, would people want to meet at the library to talk? That was just like, what is it going to matter?

Like we go to a library and if they do, they don’t, you know, it, you know, I’ll proceed either way. And people stuck around. And then they’re like, when are you going to do this again? I was like, Oh, I guess I’m doing this again. And so it became like month by month until, you know, at that time, I also met my co-founder at another meetup. Actually, a friend was like, said, have you met Mieko? And my friend Bethany had just gotten fired from her job at Magic Hat the day before. And she turned around and she was like, you know, I could see in her face. And I was like a couple months into my like, leaving my job.

And I said, look, take advantage of this gap time. And we’re just consoling her. And she was already brewing up a business for herself. And actually today, actually, she’s, yes, today, she’s celebrating her six years since being fired. And she’s putting like posters up.

She’s actually becoming a known graphic artist as a result. But I found her through that and we just clicked. Like I, I basically built Vermont womanpreneurs looking at her starting her business and what she needed and organized people so that others like her had a community to talk with, to share their, their journey and everything else. So it was a couple months into us doing our meetups that she’s, I said, well, what else do we do other than gathering at a library or a coffee shop? She’s like, Bethany was like, I think we should do something like a science experiment, like, you know, a science fair, you know, where, where you get to go up to on stage and just show and demonstrate what your business is essentially, because all businesses are a science experiment, right? You put a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

And you see if it explodes or has a nice eruption. Or is, you know, it’s, and how, or it’s successful. And I, I was like, Ooh, that sounds interesting. It’s like, and so I was coming up with words like, it’s like, it’s like almost like a coming out party, like a coutillion or something like where people get to see your business. And luckily, too, at the co-working space that I was working at called Study Hall, they were like, we’re looking for events to do. So all kind of everything was like, we say kismet, it all worked out. I found a co-founder, she had this idea, the space opened up. And I put together our first showcase had, we had 20 women, which we invited to tell their stories. And the way I would describe it is like a Moff story hour meets Ted Talk, except without the, I don’t know, just the, it’s not a business patch, right?

It’s a story, it’s a journey. And I would, and, and the first iteration we had, the 20 women who told their stories, it was, we sold out two weeks before, which, because again, I was like, who wants to show up for this? And we sold out, we filled out the entire room. And what I, I watched as it unfolded, we, you know, we had, we had all these women sharing their stories was my phone was on fire because I also started in the Instagram account.

And my phone was on vibrate would not stop vibrating. And it was because all the women who were sitting in the stage or all sitting in the audience and everyone who was attending was taking videos or writing down the what they heard from the stories that really resonated for them. And they were sharing it across social media. I mean, this is the best organic kind of promotion, but at the same time, like sincere sharing that people had about the event.

And so that’s actually what made Vermont One Purners kind of really grow organically. We went from like a couple hundred people to like several thousand over over time, because we were just sharing these stories. And after that showcase, I was like, Oh, that’s it, right? Like, we’ll just, we just did that. And people kept going, What are you going to do it again? And, and I was like, Oh, we’re doing this again.

Okay. And so we, we subsequently did another showcase we sold out, we had to go to a bigger venue next year in 2019. We were at the comedy club. So we went from 90 to 130. Yep. Then from and then the next the we did that show on mom Purners. And again, showcasing folks there. And then the last one before the pandemic was at the, was it the comedy club at phone brewers and was called the power of two. So we had partnerships, people were telling their stories.

And we felt about two, like, maybe close to 150, yes. And then the pandemic happened. And we input, we not input, actually, we just kind of like slowed down because luckily thing is like we could do virtual easily, we weren’t really dependent on being in person all the time. And so we reverted so that we created that community virtually for folks to, you know, as the shutdowns were happening and trying to figure out rules, people couldn’t kind of talk it out with each other. And we held on to that for actually, we still continue doing zoom meetups because women across the state get to connect on that and network. We got back to doing in person, doing like coffee meetups. And then we did our first show, first summit in 2018. I was like, who’s going to show up?

Because you know, after all this, I always say this and my friends are like, you’re silly. They’re going to show up. We filled the space with 230 people. So one of the hard things about Vermont is that there’s not enough big spaces that feel like the kind of places where people can tell stories that don’t feel a little too conventional. Two-conferencing conventional kind of space.

So I’m looking for unique spaces all the time. And we’ve hit the point where we’re like 250 is probably adequate enough. Maybe we can go to 300, but that’s hard to find spaces across the state to do so. But yeah, so we have, we’ve featured probably close to 60 or 70 stories. And then basically our meetups, we do once a month and across different parts of the state, we get to hear more and more stories. So I guess I would say one of the things I love about our meetups is that I facilitate them and I tell people there are only three things that you need to remember to say. So everyone gets a share in the circle is don’t forget your name.

Yeah. Don’t forget what your business is. And then I’m going to give you a choose your own adventure. And we do the same thing similar to our showcases or some of the event stories is.

It’s a choose your own adventure. It’s to either share an aspiration you have for your business. And for our meetups, we say if you want to share an update or a win or something like that.

So we would just something that when you finish your introduction and after we finish our circle, that somebody can sincerely come up to you and have a conversation rather than the awkwardness of net with networking, which is people are fishing for information. Right. And and sometimes they’re not sincere in their interactions with people. I think the other thing that people hate about networking, the traditional networking is it feels transactional. So you don’t feel fulfilled. There’s this like feeling that somebody has taken something from you and you’ve not gained something. You know, like it’s that really if you that’s why some people really don’t enjoy it. And I can think of an instance where, you know, I when we started establishing this and we started to build a reputation, it was it’s interesting how initially when I interact with people, you know, they they would be like, Oh, like, what can I get from you?

Like, what’s the ROI? Am I having a conversation with you? Bethany will get if she’s by my side, she’ll get upset at how people are like yucky handshakes. And they’re, you know, she could see that and I don’t get upset because I think growing up in New York, you get used to people who are like very transactional feeling. And so that’s what we try attempting to do. And this helps a little bit for those people who are, you know, the introverts and extroverts, they have that one time where they can say it and then basically then people can have a sincere conversation. And that’s also the point of the show, the summits is that when people tell their stories afterwards, right, you have this like very quiet audience who you’re like, one, telling your story to you’re actually holding yourself accountable to total strangers. Lots of them too. Right.

Like when women share their aspirations, it’s like, Oh, I’ve got to commit to this thing that I said I was doing the one part I also love in our, our, our meetups is watching. I will first get an email from somebody going, I’m not a business owner. I’m sort of thinking about it, but am I allowed to come to this? And that’s even like just to be an audience member. Am I allowed to come? And I was like, of course, right? Like I’m not saying no to you. Like you should certainly come. But the moment I’ve watched is where a woman who has just started her business and hasn’t verbalized that she’s a business owner.

Yep. And when this moment where she says, Hi, my name is, I’m a business owner, or I just started my own business, there’s this thing you see in their eyes. And she said it and she looks around and she goes, Oh my God, in her head, I can see it. I just said that to people I don’t know. I must be this. It’s this like affirming feeling. And then also the women who, even if you have a small win, they’re like, I was like, I was able to register my business or I was able to have a, like I get start my studio or open my retail space.

The claps that people would get just people would be clapping like, Yes, you did it. It’s so, it’s so empowering to watch that for some of those sort of those women just, they just light up. That’s so cool.

Becca Hammond: This is all fitting together so nicely. It’s like a puzzle that all fits. It just fits really nicely.

Mieko Ozeki: Yeah, normally I would say I could. I have like, it sounds like it’s linear, but it’s like all these mosaic, the mosaic of these different experiences I’ve had. It’s also kind of like knowing, it goes back to knowing who you are, what your experiences, where they brought you, and then what, how do other people call upon your talents to do something that is either in service or does something that they feel that they can’t do. So a lot of people are like, I can never do what you do and facilitating or whatever. I’m like, everybody could. It’s just a matter of like, do you feel ready at that moment?

Becca Hammond: Right. And gaining that confidence in yourself versus, like you said, that moment where you realize that I’m, I’m a business owner.

Mieko Ozeki: I mean, I struggle with all the time when I say that too, but at the same time, like, it takes practice. What I tell people is I’m always iterating and you are always iterating. You’re always practicing in believing what you are and who you are. And I will, one thing I want to broach is this conversation I always hear and it makes me cringe is when people say they have imposter syndrome. I don’t believe in it because frankly, after reading also a lot of articles and, and, and reading, um, we realize that it’s the environment that’s around you.

Like the imposter is one, you’re self-limiting of believing, believing these things, but also when it’s the other part is it’s the sin. It’s not a medical syndrome for first and foremost. It’s not a medical thing. It’s a phenomena and it’s a phenomena that’s shaped by the environment we have that the things that are influencing us that, that, that feeling are, you know, patriarchy, gender, you know, gender discrimination, racial discrimination, all of those are all making one feel that. And so it’s a question of how do you change your environment?

Yeah. And it still starts with where do you believe, where do you believe? And so that’s why like when women say, I am a business owner, it’s significant because you’re changing the environment around you. It doesn’t have to be, you have to wait for some male or patriarchal system to affirm that you are a business owner.

You don’t have to wait to be registered. Are you being entrepreneurial? Also, you know, the big thing for me is I, and I do, I do the stump speech of basically, I don’t love how entrepreneurship is co-opted by one single industry. So we focus so much on the tech industry of being, they’re entrepreneurial. Wait, but what about the small business owner every day? Right. They’re entrepreneurial, right? They’re hustling, they’re doing all of these things, you know, and, and so I always, I, I go, like I go to UVM and I go to these entrepreneur talks and I’m like, let me remind you, there are more small business owners and they are entrepreneurial.

Becca Hammond: And so. There’s gatekeeping around that term in a very weird way. And I’ve noticed that myself where, oh, you’re a restaurant owner that’s been done before. That’s not the same as being a real entrepreneur. I’ve heard those kind of statements before. That’s insulting. Exactly.

It’s totally insulting. And like the people who feed us, oh, you’re not an entrepreneur because it’s been done before. Like, obviously it’s been done before we’re still alive today. We’ve been doing this forever.

Mieko Ozeki: Right. And I mean, that’s why things like the work that I’m doing with, with an ag as well as in small business is that we, it’s the co-opting of those terms, which also leads to not, not giving a, like a, not being serious with treating, treating those parties seriously. You know, we don’t give them the loans. We don’t provide the funding. We don’t even, we also undercut them in terms of, you know, how much we pay for things. So like farmers are, don’t get paid well because we don’t believe them to be a professional class. We don’t, you know, which is weird because they’re selling us the things that sustain us. They’re doing the work that sustain us. Why is it like, why are they less than? Yeah.

Becca Hammond: Yeah. The infestation of the middle man has certainly hit the farmers very hard. And I think that’s been true for more than a century at this point, at least in America, where, oh, you’re a farmer that’s less than the person selling me the food, which is not, obviously not true, but I definitely can feel that. Yeah.

Mieko Ozeki: So I’m sorry. There’s a long way of saying like, how, how does like, you know, in terms of all these board memberships, it’s because being able, I just put myself in a niche of like, I happen to be at the right time. And most of it comes from my position is about how do we get the story out there in a way that is, is, I hate, now this word’s been overused, authentic, that is truly about what’s happening on the ground for these individuals. And so, and then not being a gatekeeper, although technically my name, actually, my last name means gatekeeper, so it’s weird, but, but that, you know, not to be able to create the platform for them to share their stories and to have it, you know, have it be, have some resonance for a lot of other folks. One of the other reasons why we started for Montlumpreneurs is at the time, when women were championed here in the state of like, oh, these are the top, these five women, I literally could count on my hand and I’m friends with a good portion of these five women, they cracked the code of they created these big businesses and we hear their stories. Now, all of them, they had to whittle their stories so it could fit into a sound bite and whatever and all that stuff.

And, and I was like, well, what about the others? And that’s why we created this showcase is because there wasn’t a platform for them to share because they were undermined being like, well, you haven’t made this threshold and money or you’re not taking seriously. And so that’s part of the reason why we created that platform for them is to be able to be shared. And because of that, there’s more attention to, you know, whether in social media, media, like I see whenever we share a story about somebody we’ve learned about, or they’ve come to our meetings, that down the line, the media comes and, and, and finds them and gets their full story. So if that is what we can do for them, like, I’m all for it because they need that for it.

They need that. I would say again, go being their ultimate wing woman. If I can nudge media to get attention on those folks, then that’s, that’s wonderful. Subsequently, though, the people who have been like those five women, you know, they have shown up on our stage and I always go to them, can I challenge you one way with one thing? Can you tell your story in a more expanded way than what you are told to curb for, for the media? And they love it because they’re like, man, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to share.

Becca Hammond: I was just thinking as you’ve been telling me your story, I really admire the fact that you don’t have this one specific niche because I feel like in the business world, that’s what we’re all told is you got to pick your one thing and that one thing has to be your everything. You have to eat, sleep and breathe this one specific thing, but that’s not what you do. You are not specifically, oh, I’m, I’m in branding. Like that’s not what you’re doing. You’re telling your story. You’re helping tell stories.

You’re really all encompassing. And I think especially women are very talented at that. A lot of women are really talented in so many different fields and it’s really inspiring to see someone bring all these different directions together.

Mieko Ozeki: Yeah, but I think that goes along with, I knew since I was in high school, one, I was being a Renaissance person was very appealing to me, but I went to a magnet high school where specialization was the thing and I really hated it. But at the end, when I, by the time I got out of college, I was like, I’m a generalist and you can’t force me to be a specialist.

I tried. That’s why I ended up being a philosophy major out of undergrad because I tried being an economist that didn’t work out and I was like, well, philosophy works because I can understand the underpinning of things and principles. And so that’s, that’s kind of where I’m coming from. And when I talk to college students, right, I know where they’re at. Like I know the, particularly they, they have vested so much interest in four years of their life being dictated to being a specific thing. And I’ve been on career panels with like myself as the only female and mostly other men, but weirdly enough where we all said our road didn’t start with college dictated where we went ended. We, we landed because either we asked or because we have an interest in it. This is where kind of how we evolved into our, we iterated our careers.

I actually did that one time when my friends invited me to a career panel at Champlain College and I saw this senior in the back of the room raises his hands after listening to all of our stories, which coincidentally, we all were like, we are not a to be, we’re like a to D to C to Z. Like we weren’t all over the place to get where we were at that present moment. And he said, wait a minute, you mean my four years doesn’t tell me dictate like where I’m going to go after this? And I’m like, yeah, I think that’s pretty much what you were saying.

I’m like just watching, I was describing this moment to another person like watching the like explosion happen in that person’s head. But what we walked out, what we tried leaving with the audience was it’s the cumulative experiences that you have in your portfolio, which, you know, all too often we don’t tell people to look back at that to then say, well, what other thing can you try? What other thing can you borrow that? And then again, like what I’d describe even like just the surface of the things that I’ve done, it’s all from this portfolio of like storytelling and being able to create a space for others to be able to tell that story. And that’s that’s kind of what my whole career’s career evolution has been.

Becca Hammond: It’s really powerful. I think that’s incredibly powerful telling story. Well, I mean, I’ve obviously run a podcast, I love hearing people’s stories. It builds such a strong connection between people though. And like, like you brought up, I really, I’m relating to a lot of what you’re talking about where it feels so transactional when you meet some people. And I’ve had people on the podcast like that before and like, oh, I want more from you, but I can’t force it. You can’t force it if they just want to give something very upfront and get something from me. That’s all you can really do with people. But if you can open a conversation and really get people talking, all of a sudden that relationship means so much more. I’m far more willing to help people once I know their story and just appreciate who they are and where they came from. I love hearing stories. This is really fascinating to me.

And I do have some questions about women. So do you refer to it as a group or a club and how are there members? How do you refer to everybody?

Mieko Ozeki: Well, so I refer to everybody as a community. And then we do have members. We have some paid members. And that’s more of like, I liken it to a crowdsourcing for our ability to do these really creative events. So I don’t like doing traditional networking events.

I have this probably was vocalized before. I like to do things where it’s like, one, the event spaces is just it really, the event space is unique in a way that allows people to feel like they can have a unique connection so they can have, be able to talk to each other conversationally over some really good drinks or a good food. And so be able to connect in that way. So a conference center doesn’t do well.

I’ve actually, this is one number one comment every time I go to a conference is like, well, you know, everyone’s energy is sapped when they’re talking on a panel because look at the glowing lights and no windows, etc. Right. So that’s one part. The other part is that I want to highlight as many women own businesses in that space. So through products, who owns the place, etc. So that money that the membership does, that the membership, which is $150 for the year, goes towards being able to plan these different events, particularly it goes toward our annual event, which is our summit, which is the biggest thing that we have. So every all these other events lead up to this summit that which is happening this in 2024 is in June 5th at the old lantern in M barn. And so because we sell out so quickly, it’s a way for people also to know they’re guaranteed to know first when the tickets because we’ve sold out last year, we sold out within two weeks of like launching, which then I have and then then I’ll have like a 60 person waiting list, which you know, it’s hard when people are like, oh, I’m a new, you know, they give you and they they go to me or they go to Bethany, which Beth Bethany doesn’t handle all the administration parts, but they’ll write they’ll write long cases like, this is why I got to go and you’re like, we don’t have enough tickets.

Becca Hammond: Right. Oh yeah, I’m sure you would be more than happy to have everyone.

Mieko Ozeki: I would love to have everyone, but also that’s why I’m involved of like the Senator Welch’s, you know, women economic opportunity conference because that’s a larger play space, but it’s also for a way away for a lot of women to be able to show up and see other connect with each other, albeit it’s going to be at at a conference space.

Becca Hammond: I just realized how long we’ve been.

Mieko Ozeki: Yeah, I know. Sorry. No worries at all. I always love that’s a if you get in a good conversation. I do not mind how long the conversations go. I do want to talk about your business though, Radiance Studios. So I’ve looked at a few of your websites. They’re absolutely beautiful that you’ve worked on and what I’m guessing here, I don’t want to answer for you, but I’m guessing your

Becca Hammond: clients tend to be people who you want to build up, whose story you appreciate.

Mieko Ozeki: I mean, it’s a mix. I think a lot of them. So I work with small business owners who, you know, so that could be in the realm of writers are included, artists are included, bands, makers, and then other kind of smaller businesses who just want to be able to manage their own website. So I work on Squarespace.

So that’s all in one platform. And really my job, so I’m not a graphic designer, but I am a content strategist. So an organizer, I try thinking logically how would your consumer go through and utilize your website.

And I try organizing people’s thoughts. A lot of the time, most of my clients are ones who are trying to escape WordPress. So just because they, you know, I think the initial one, somebody wants to start a website, they’re all like, Oh, I’m going to go for the first like, whether free or, you know, the lowest cost.

And when you go for something like WordPress, which was designed to be open source, it’s actually much more complicated, even as a platform. And so I have most of my clients, some of them are older, a lot of them are the ones who are screaming like, I don’t know how to do this. And so first I temper that anxiety with organizing their brain. And that’s kind of my top one of my top skills is I mind map people’s brains of just being like, how do we organize it? All that stuff. People with existing content, I joke, I will marry condo your website, your your content, like, because people are sometimes can be prolific, they don’t know how to organize.

And they don’t know. So I spend a lot of time just going, sorting that out. And then by the time they come, it’s kind of like a clean.

And I show them how to work on their website. And then my goal is not to be on retainer. My goal is like, you can maintain this.

And if it’s like really drastic, and you can’t find it in like the help section, I can help you with some of it. But for the most part, I just want people to be able to manage their own content. And then I do like workshops on personal branding, and also on marketing.

Becca Hammond: So but yeah, very cool. And so you’re on the Squarespace platform, typically. And are you married to that? Are you a partner with Squarespace?

Mieko Ozeki: No, so well, no, so I’m a power user for Squarespace. I’ve been with them for over like as you as a power user for like over, I don’t know, 10 years, since starting my own website, and they just built a portfolio from there. And so actually, people who are on Squarespace who use it and make websites for other clients are called circle members.

Okay, I saw that term. And we provide, we don’t work for Squarespace, but we because we like Squarespace a lot, and we build out of their website, we kind of are able to give discounts on like the platform, utilizing the platform, and also more easier access to their support, versus like trying to figure out, I mean, granted, I don’t blame people for wanting to do it on their own. But really, what gets people in people’s way, whether whatever platform they work on, is that people are not organized. Yeah, they don’t know how it’s overwhelming. And they, they actually go, they stumble into the technology before they understand the basics.

So like, earlier, as I said, in storytelling to me, it’s the it’s the collection of that content, and organizing it, and then putting it into like a certain order. So, and, and a lot of people just, they just rush. And so my job is to slow it down, and then map it out and then work with them.

Becca Hammond: And definitely, there’s definitely something to be said to just kind of giving the right impression. I noticed with a lot of the sites as soon as I opened them, it’s, wow, this is, you, you immediately get a feel for the business.

And it’s almost like an emotional thing as soon as that page loads. One of the ones I checked out was in Mad River Valley. Oh, yeah, the, it was one of the most recent ones that you had listed on your page.

And I immediately just got that sense of Zen, and I said, oh, this is such a beautifully laid out website. And then they were provided, it was like a resort or some sort of massage therapist or something like that. Yeah, she’s a massage show. Yeah. Yes. And it was just, I immediately got that feel from the website, which is, that’s powerful.

Mieko Ozeki: And the thing is that, you know, in that instance, and also another, like other websites, just, you know, that pro client went, I don’t, like I started to try doing it myself, but then I got overwhelmed and I don’t know. And like, and then you’re like, okay, tell me what your business is about.

Okay. And like, I start writing things. And one of things too is I structure, here’s your homework, here’s what we just discussed, fill this in, I’ll look over your copy, you know, all of that stuff, your photos, I want you to think about this. I do a little bit editorial in my mind of like, this is your shot list, this is the things that you need to do in terms of having that. And that, if I think, if anything’s just to be able to prepare people whether on their website or other materials that they use to think about what they need to broadcast their story.

Becca Hammond: Very cool. So I think we’re going to wrap it up. Is there any specific website you’d like to point people to? Obviously, Vermont women,preneurs, you can I’ve been following you guys for a few years at this point. And I’m so glad we got to talk about all these things because I had many questions following your Instagram account. So is there any specific

Mieko Ozeki: website you’d like to send people to? I mean, I think Vermont women,preneurs is the main focal point for me. I mean, I’ve been involved with so many other organizations. Also, if you want to know more about the other organizations I’m in part of, they’re all listed on my personal website. And hopefully, actually, I think if people are trying to figure out like, how do I even personally stand out? And, you know, what I say, if you have your own website or your social, you’re putting a kind of a digital footprint for people to find you. You can certainly look at my profile as to see what some of the examples of how you would do that. Fantastic.

Becca Hammond: Okay. All right. So our show notes for today are going to be at vermontalks.com forward slash 40, 40 episodes in. Thank you so much, Mieko. Thank you. Got your name right. Good. Okay. Have a great day, everybody.

Bye. Thanks so much for listening to the end of the show. Subscribe to Vermont Talks on your favorite podcasting platform. You can find me on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, all over the web. Contact Becca at vermonttalks.com if you’d like to be interviewed or if you know someone who should be. Thanks so much to Jason Baker for creating the show music. The views and opinions expressed by the guests are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Vermont Talks. Any content or statements provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, anyone or anything. And that’s what was new in the 802. Have a great day.