by Rhonda Bishop
YWCA USA Advocacy Associate
When one door closes another one opens. Well…it’s supposed to. These days, being a college graduate doesn’t get you access to many doors that have job opportunities behind them, much less a returned phone call.
According to the New York Times, just 56 percent of the class of 2010 had held at least one job by spring 2011, when the survey was conducted. That compares with 90 percent of graduates from the classes of 2006 and 2007.
Employment rates for new college graduates have fallen sharply in the last two years, as have starting salaries for those who can find work. What’s more, only half of the jobs landed by these new graduates even require a college degree.
But then there are young women like Leah Moss, the 23-year-old founder of the publication JACK Detroit, who started her own company after those doors did not open.
A Michigan native, Moss earned a dual bachelor’s degree in English and Linguistics from Michigan State University. After graduation, she applied for jobs all over the country and encountered what many graduates these days experience —rejection. Experiencing the highs of receiving her college degree and the demoralizing lows of the recession reality , Moss’s frustration grew as the months passed.
Among family and friends, Moss joked that she would just launch her own magazine. And the idea stuck.
She sought advice from her parents, and — as only parents can do — they frankly laid out her worst case scenario: her company could fail. “My dad said to me,” recalls Moss, “‘Look, your worst case scenario if it doesn’t work out really isn’t that bad. You don’t have any mouths to feed, you don’t have a mortgage payment hanging over your head and you don’t have a full time job that you’re gonna risk losing by devoting your attention to something else. And in five to ten years from now, when you’re a little bit older and a little bit more settled, it will be a lot harder to take that leap.’”
And with those words of encouragement, Moss set to work creating JACK Detroit.
“Honestly I did not know how to start a company… I really did not know where to begin,” Moss said.
So she began by reaching out to a former journalism professor in hopes of connecting with talented seniors looking to gain writing exposure. When asked what college course prepared her best for a career in publishing, she pauses candidly and says: “I learned the most from being on the job from my internship experiences within the journalism industry and my senior thesis — all of that was helpful in getting the editorial side of the magazine nailed down.”
Meanwhile, she began organizing the business framework of her magazine by registering with the state, creating an accounting outline and writing her business plan.
Then Moss tackled funding. She used KickStarter.com, an online pledge platform for funding creative projects, to raise $10,000 in start-up funding from friends and supporters. She also received a $25,000 interest-free loan from the Hebrew Free Loan Association, an organization for Jewish residents of Southeastern Michigan.
Moss gets excited when she speaks of JACK Detroit, which aims to highlight positive things for men in and around Detroit, effectively capturing a “new wave spirit” of philanthropy and innovation. Now in its second month, JACK Detroit offers both print and digital subscriptions and has over 15,000 copies in circulation.
Creative, driven, and organized, Moss serves as the publication’s editor-in-chief and publisher and her days are typically long. Daily challenges involve coordinating logistics — assigning writers and photographers, scheduling interviews, and selling advertising space—under tight deadlines.
“Every day has been long but great. If nothing else I think the greatest part of it is the end result as I saw a guy walk out of the store carrying my magazine,” said Moss. “[Seeing] him holding something physical that I made is so unbelievably gratifying and every issue that’s going to come out will be the same feeling.”
For young woman who want to take the entrepreneurial leap, Moss encourages them to seek counsel from those you trust, be absolutely certain that you have a driving passion for your cause; and “be willing to take that leap—don’t stop yourself. There is nothing more gratifying.”
Moss’s drive serves as a reminder to all of us young women seeking to channel that “young and restless” energy: take risks, stay humble, and open your own doors.
It’s great to be young… and restless.
- Audio: Interview with Leah Moss, founder of JACK Detroit
- You Don’t Know JACK…But You Will” Career Advice from Leah Moss, founder of JACK Detroit
Rhonda Bishop, a native of East Lansing, Mich., is an advocacy associate at YWCA USA. A graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Rhonda majored in journalism and has been navigating the post-graduate voyage ever since.