Perfect Pitch: Michelle Young
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Founder, Adjunct Professor, Musician
Current City: Brooklyn, New York.
Current Job and Entrepreneurial Focus: Founder at Untapped New York; focus on media/journalism/tourism. Also an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and an instructor at CUNY Newmark School of Journalism.
Notable Prior Jobs: Merchandiser for Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein & J.Crew.
When I Started Performing: 5 years old.
Performing Arts Background: I started piano when I was 4 and cello when I was 7. I graduated from the Juilliard Pre-College School of Music in 2000 with a focus on cello after 7 years there. My mother was trained as a concert pianist and my father is a great music enthusiast who has been a conductor and singer. In my post-college years, I performed with indie rock band Kittens Ablaze from 2007 to 2012, we toured around the country, performed here in New York City at Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge, and performed at several SXSW showcases.
How did your performing arts background supercharge your entrepreneurship? Classical music training gave me an ability to stay laser focused on goals and to face seemingly impossible challenges head on. There is nothing quite like knowing that just in order to be in the running, a performance has to be perfect. I never lost that instinct and have applied it to all of my non-musical career endeavors. My CEO of Untapped New York (who is also my husband) says that when a problem comes our way, I attack it head on and iterate until I find a solution. Sometimes this way of solving problems is not always the most efficient however, so we balance each other out because he goes around a problem to find alternatives and ultimately the company comes out stronger with at least two new solutions on the table. My music training also made me accustomed to working on my own, which helped in the early stages of the company when I was building everything from scratch including learning how to design and code websites. In classical music, the output is expected to be the same (the notes played at the correct pitch, the technique a certain way) but the road map to get you there is something you have to fine tune on your own. And that extra something else, your musicality, the passion you bring, is something unique to you but is what sets you apart. I think having a performance arts background made me more ready to take on the challenge of taking a project that was initially created just out of personal interest and turning it into a sustainable business, without any comparable companies to follow strategically. Along the way, I've been able to inspire people to believe in the mission and kept those amazingly talented people with me all these years. I continue to enjoy working alone but all the chamber music and orchestral training I had became useful for when my company grew and it was essential to build a team, recruit people with skills I didn't have, to outsource manpower and get input from others. It would not be possible for Untapped New York to be the scale it is today if it had continued it as a solo endeavor. But to this day, I still enjoy getting into the weeds of details, technical and otherwise (for better or worse!) because of my desire to understand how things work and to want to replicate things on my own — I think that is very much the mindset of a classical musician. All in all, I think performing arts and creative backgrounds make for resilient entrepreneurs because we are used to putting in long hours of work, we strive for perfection, and we are used to both successes and even more so — failures. We are trained in a world where positive reinforcement is rare but we know that there is always a network of experts around to support us on our path.
Favorite Performer: The National; The Knights.
Follow Michelle Young:
Twitter - @untappedmich
Instagram - @untappedmich
LinkedIn - @michelle-young-31149410