This Memorial Day, we are revisiting one of our most popular FACES of the past year: Sergeant Leigh Maroni!
When I was getting ready to sit down with Victoria Young and learn more about her, at first I thought I must be getting two women confused: one Victoria Young was a Whitehaven High School and Duke University alum who returned to Memphis to teach at her alma mater, founded a college-prep nonprofit and ran for city council, and the other was a third-year law student who had just opened Spincult cycling studio in the Memphis Medical District. But no, it turns out these are both the same incredible 27-year-old. Oh, and she’s also a singer who has performed for Nelson Mandela, as well as the host and organizer of Memphis’ iteration of Dîner en Blanc, an elegant community-building gathering. Meet this week’s unstoppable force and FACE of Memphis, Victoria Young!
Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?
Born and bred in Memphis. I consider myself a child of Memphis. I did a lot of oratorical contests as a child, in elementary and middle, so maybe that’s why I’m in law school at this point.
What made you decide to come back to Memphis?
What I found is once I got to college and grad school, number one, you just can’t beat being around family. I remember talking to this guy on a plane one time about moving back to Memphis, and he said, “It’s easier to play in your own backyard.” And Memphis makes you work so much harder and tougher than a lot of folks not from here. It’s bursting with opportunity and potential for young entrepreneurs, for millennials, for people, in general, to come here and build from the ground up.
How did teaching at your alma mater affect your perspective of the city and its future, and how did Visionaries, Inc. fit into that?
Going to Duke was my first time away from Memphis and my first time being alone as an adult. I wanted to make sure that I could help students get these opportunities and have an amazing college experience like I did, but then also form that relationship and connection with them so that when they’re looking for what to do after graduation, I can say, “You can come back to Memphis, and here’s where you can plug in.”
Now we’ve partnered with another Whitehaven alum, Gene Robinson with Genetics Sports, and he caters to athletes and getting them prepared academically and athletically for the next level. It’s fun seeing those students go through the entire process.
What motivated your run for city council, and what did you learn from that process?
I’m going to make this a Memphis that I want to be in, make this a Memphis where I can recruit my friends who are in Nashville and Atlanta. I can bring them back to something they haven’t seen. That is what should be happening all around this city.
I learned that there are a lot of issues that are complex and inter-related. With education, I got to see that for a lot of my students who were struggling, I wasn’t going to be the savior. It had to be community changes, and people had to talk to each other. That’s what makes me excited about Memphis now. People are talking to each other and there’s cohesion. I’m happy about that.
What does Memphis offer to young innovators and entrepreneurs?
Access. I would bet my last dollar that there is no other city as big as Memphis where you can go to an event, and you bump into a CEO of a company or a government official, and you literally can connect with them immediately. That’s super important for millennials, because when we don’t fear jumping in, we will take the risk. There are so many free resources to anybody at any stage. Whether you’re trying to just find a position or you’re on the start-up grind.
What has been your experience of joining the Memphis business community?
I would almost name my first three children Medical, District and Collaborative, and if I have three more, Downtown, Memphis and Commission. [My experience has been] the support of the Medical District and the DMC, from talking to them initially about the things that I wanted to do, from the workshops they provide to especially the incentives and the grants. Because they get it — if you’re successful, then we’re successful, our district is successful … we’re all in this together. The Memphis business community is my tribe. We all want to see Memphis win; we are invested. Our money, our time, our energy, whatever I have to give that can help you, I will do that.
What need do you feel that Spincult meets in Memphis?
It’s another specialty fitness option, but also a community. There are so many students there that need to unwind, to detox, who have these extreme responsibilities and pressures. At Spincult, we say we fuel you to fuel the world, and that came to me because we’re really providing an outlet for students who will have to save people’s lives. How best can we fuel them? Because you can’t save anybody if you’re not saving yourself.
What inspired you to bring Dîner en Blanc to Memphis?
I am so for Memphis it does not even make sense. What will set us apart? I love Nashville, but I saw it wasn’t in Nashville, and we could be the first. I knew I wanted it to be in Downtown Memphis, for the first one. It needed to be quintessential Memphis.
What I love about Dîner en Blanc is there are no VIPs, there’s none of that. Everybody is here because they want to have a good time. They make it very hard to participate so you know you have people who have willing hearts and want to be there.
It was just a beautiful night, especially being in Memphis Park. When those statues came down, it was a no-brainer. It was magical. Everybody looked like angels, and all of that tension was the furthest thing from everyone’s minds. I just hope that that one night could help continue the conversation for a Memphis for all.
What’s going to happen first — the completion of your JD or the release of your EP?
Probably the completion of the JD. Definitely. I do love music so much, and it’s always hard because that’s my creative outlet. I put on my vision board to finish at least three songs for 2018. That didn’t happen, but I’m just going to roll it over to 2019.
What is your best advice?
This is two-fold, but they go together. You don’t get what you’re worth, you get what you negotiate. And everything is negotiable. Especially as a young female in business entering a male-dominated world, you have to be unapologetic about knowing your worth and demanding it.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Caramel lattes from Bluff City Coffee, my emails from the Universe every morning and Instagram. Especially for Spincult, I have studio crushes; I feel like part of their families, so I’m always scrolling to see what they’re doing.
Thanks so much for all you do, Victoria! And thank you to Laura Armstrong of NLA Projects for these beautiful photos.
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