Keziah, tell us about your background and your experience living in New York.
I grew up on Bainbridge Island in Seattle, and then went to the University of Virginia where I majored in sociology and minored in art history. My focus in sociology was on digital networks and viral marketing, both of which looked at the differences in how online communities replicate real-life communities. After college, I spent time in a few different locations, but ultimately ended up in New York City, where I live currently. I began to like New York more and more as I settled in—I arrived here feeling a little lost, but as I’ve made friends and have gotten to know the city. I’ve enjoyed being here. I’m not naturally a big city person. I really like having time outdoors where I’m alone and have space, but I am now falling in love with the city as a home. I love having access to the [Hudson] river and finding open natural spaces, and I really love the people in New York.
Can you tell us about training for the Olympic team and the challenges you faced?
Once I graduated, I initially tried to get a job in New York working at a record label where I had interned the summer before. I decided it didn’t make sense financially to be in New York so I ended up staying in Charlottesville, working for an artist management company called Red Light Management. I mainly worked on digital strategy for musicians. I’ve always loved seeking out new music and new artists. I thought it would be so cool to work in that [the music] industry and help really talented creative people clarify their message and reach their audiences.
After a year of interning at Red Light Management, I decided I wanted to try to row at the elite level and make the United States National team, so I first went to a training center in Vermont and was there for a year. Once I submitted my scores to the US National team, I was invited to train in Princeton, New Jersey. After nine months of training, I was told that I wasn’t going to make that year’s world championships team, but I was encouraged to keep training. This led me to Boston for a year where I trained through the US 2016 Olympic trials. While in Boston, I worked as an assistant to a professor at Harvard doing outreach for Harvard Law School’s Legal Services Center for low-income families. I helped simplify the program’s offerings in a way that made it easy for communities to understand. Eventually, I had to move out to Florida to continue to prepare for rowing trials, so I quit my job and left Boston. After training for an additional three months in Sarasota, I didn’t end up making it, as my boat came in third place.
At this time in my life, I knew two things: I wasn’t going to the Olympics, and I didn’t have a job. My boyfriend was also in the same position—he was a coxswain trying to make the Olympic team and had been working part-time on building out his brand, Rowing Blazers. I really encouraged him to commit to starting the company and launching the brand as a full-time job, and I offered to help with administrative tasks that he hadn’t gotten to. Soon enough, I became sucked in because, at the time, I felt pretty lost and unsure of what career I wanted to pursue. It felt good to be helpful and contributing to something that had a clear path forward, and eventually, I grew into my own role as Chief Administrative Officer.
What does it mean to you to be powerful?
I’m different than a lot of people that you find in entrepreneurial positions. I prefer to be a supporter rather than a leader. I like being a part of a team and problem-solving. I don’t need to take complete ownership of a project in order to feel fulfilled—the success of a group as a whole is validation for me. There’s a lot of focus in the United States on being a leader at young age, but I think there’s an equal need for supporters, people who enact change along with leaders. That’s what makes me feel powerful: when I feel like I can really help people and help visions turn into reality.
Something that makes me feel powerful and centered is my morning routine of making coffee. I have an AeroPress coffee grinder, and the first thing I do every morning is grind the coffee beans and making my own coffee. The ritual itself is really important—I like making coffee for myself, doing the whole process slowly and learning how to take time for myself in the morning. Learning to wake up properly without checking my phone and being present in the moment has created some space in my day and helps me feel level-headed.