FlexFeature Employee Spotlight: Brittany Langmeyer advocates for StreetWise and Chicagoans facing homelessness

In 2014, Brittany Langmeyer joined us here at FlexManage as our Digital Marketing Specialist, responsible for managing our website, keeping up on a riveting blog content calendar, performing all graphic design duties, managing our social media channels, and many more digitally-related projects. She’s our “Swiss Army Knife” of digital communications.

But let’s flashback to 2008, when Brittany was still a budding undergraduate studying journalism at Loyola University Chicago. “I have always loved writing, and so I knew that was going to be the foundation of my career,” explained Brittany. “I was at a point in my education where I needed to begin my first internship. And during some of my journalism courses, I had the pleasure of writing pieces about social justice. And I realized the power in these types of stories – stories that gave life to a social cause or a human rights movement. I discovered that my writing could have a deeper meaning and that I could use my craft to make an impact.”

And so she did just that. Professor John Slania, Associate Dean of Loyola’s School of Communications, suggested that she’d be the perfect fit for an internship at StreetWise, where she could become an editorial intern and write stories for StreetWise Magazine. She applied and received the position for the summer of 2008.

StreetWise (as Brittany soon discovered) is an incredibly unique nonprofit. Their mission is “to empower the entrepreneurial spirit through the dignity of self-employment by providing Chicagoans facing homelessness with a combination of supportive social services, workforce development resources, and immediate access to gainful employment.”

At its core, StreetWise is a workforce development agency designed to help the homeless and those at risk of homelessness out of the crisis of poverty. The StreetWise model combines supportive social services, (focused on employment training; housing placement; and financial literacy) with the opportunity for gainful self-employment through the sale of StreetWise Magazine.

As a publication, StreetWise Magazine is socially conscious and Chicago-centric. It raises awareness on the impact of poverty and homelessness in Chicago, across the nation, and around the world.

And while StreetWise Magazine is an undoubtedly special publication, it’s part of a larger global mission. StreetWise is among the largest “street papers” in the United States and is a member of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP). INSP is an organization that is made up of 110 street papers in 35 countries, published in 24 languages and serves as a solution to homelessness and unemployment.

The one thing Brittany made sure to emphasize is that StreetWise vendors are entrepreneurs. “StreetWise vendors have to actually buy the magazine from StreetWise. They pay $0.90 and sell the magazine for $2, making $1.10 off of each sale,” said Brittany. “So they have to budget their money, track sales, and then market themselves and build clientele at an assigned location. It takes a lot of hard work and long hours in order to be successful. I just want people to know, whether they realize it or not, that StreetWise vendors work incredibly hard.”

Brittany continued to intern summer after summer until she graduated in 2011. After graduation, her dedication to StreetWise turned into full-time employment and she was hired as the Director of Design & Production, responsible for designing StreetWise Magazine.

“I really feel like StreetWise has helped make me into the person I am today,” Brittany said. “The StreetWise vendors would share stories about their struggles and their lives and their families. I had such special relationships with so many of them. They’d remember my birthday, check in on me or ask about my family. It felt like I was always surrounded by family. They were (and in many ways, still are) my StreetWise family. They’re a part of me that will always be there.”

Brittany and Suzanne in Munich, Germany in 2013 at the International Network of Street Papers Annual Conference.

Brittany will also never forget her mentor at StreetWise, Editor-in-Chief Suzanne Hanney. “Suzanne is that type of “cut-to-the-chase,” fast-moving, quirky editor you see in movies – down to the wire, desk covered in notes and papers. I loved it. I always looked up to her and she always believed in me,” remembers Brittany. “I always joke (and I’m not even sure if she knows this) that if I ever wrote a book, I’d want Suzanne to be the inspiration for one of my characters. She’s just so zaney and one-of-a-kind!”

It’s clear that Brittany was loving her time working for StreetWise, and so her passion for the organization spring-boarded her into taking on new responsibilities. “I just loved StreetWise so much and I loved all that I was doing, so I was constantly striving to find new ways to help the organization,” said Brittany. “So I started learning about social media marketing and website design, because at that time, StreetWise had no presence on social and had a terrible website. I just wanted the organization to put its best foot forward so that more and more people could find out about this wonderful cause.”

In 2012, Brittany was promoted to the position of Publisher and Marketing Coordinator at StreetWise and – with her new role and self-taught marketing skills – Brittany made the decision to enroll at Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business to earn her MBA with a concentration in marketing.

“And after some self-reflection, I realized that I especially loved the marketing work I was undertaking at StreetWise. It just came naturally to me,” Brittany explained. She always knew she wanted to pursue a graduate degree, but after graduating with her Bachelors, she decided to take time to “discover herself,” as many people do. “And, without a doubt, marketing was the perfect fit for me. I just couldn’t get enough.”

But in 2014, Brittany knew her time at StreetWise was coming to an end. “I had been there for six years, first as an intern and then as a staff member, and I was ready for a new challenge. I felt like I had done as much as I possibly could for the organization, and that the next person who would fill the role would be able to bring new life and new ideas,” said Brittany.

Brittany goofing around with her friends on the StreetWise Associates Board.

Because Brittany had a special talent for technology and digital marketing, she decided to search for work within the technology industry, which is how she found the open position at FlexManage. We are so happy to have her on our team, but we are especially proud of her dedication to helping others and to impacting lives. Plus, Brittany still volunteers at StreetWise as the Vice President of the StreetWise Associates Board, a position she’s held since formally leaving the organization as a staff member.

“As I said before, I can’t picture my life without StreetWise in it,” said Brittany. “And I will always work to help spread awareness for the cause, help share the StreetWise story, and help at risk men and women find a way to pull themselves back up out of a bad situation. StreetWise is an organization that I will always be dedicated to, no matter where life takes me.”

If you would like to learn more about StreetWise, you can visit www.streetwise.org or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

You can also catch Brittany at the StreetWise 2017 Winter Gear Drive on Tuesday, November 28 at Emporium, the premiere arcade bar in Logan Square. She helped to plan the drive alongside the rest of the StreetWise Associates Board. “StreetWise vendors work long hours in the freezing cold, and so having the proper equipment to stay warm is so very important,” said Brittany. “Please come out to our event, bring some warm winter gear to donate, and have fun for a great cause. Hope to see you there!”
 

 

 

By | 2017-11-30T22:44:33+00:00 November 17th, 2017|Employee Spotlight, FlexFeature|3 Comments

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