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Ann Marie van den Hurk: at 21, “all I knew was that I wanted to change the world”

In the pursuit of self improvement, the first step is to ask the experts how they got to where they are, so today we sit down with a well known crisis manager to ask how she became so successful.



Pointing the way forward

Ann Marie van den Hurk is a well known public relations, marketing, and social media expert who is a published columnist, and is a budding foodie in her spare time. We had the privilege of talking with her not only about what makes her tick, but what advice she has to share not only with millennials, but for all business professionals.

Check out the interview below and share your thoughts in the comments:

Tell us about your current work – what do you do?

I’m a public relations practitioner by profession and passion. I’m the principal of Mind The Gap Public Relations firm which focuses on crisis communications and social media integration as well as all other aspects of public relations. I get to work with some great clients, mostly nonprofits, helping them solve problems and get their voice heard. When I’m not working with my clients, I’m a newspaper columnist on public relations/marketing/social media geared towards small organizations, and I blog at

How did you get into your current role? What was that path like?

I had been in nonprofit for my whole career and I thought I would be there forever. I loved what I was doing and the people. I believed deeply in the mission. Then I had an opportunity six years ago to explore other options within my field when I had a baby and we moved for my husband’s career. That’s when I got involved in social media. And everything evolved from there.

If you said ten years ago that I’d be running my own firm, I would have thought you were nuts. And if you told me three years ago I’d be writing a newspaper column, I would have laughed at you. You never know where the path will take you. I’m glad I was open to all opportunities presented.

What were you doing at age 21?

I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware in International Relations. I was trying to figure out what the heck was my place in the world once I was done being a student. All I knew was that I wanted to change the world.

How has your professional life evolved since then?

I’ve found my place in the world as a professional. And in my own way, I am changing the world. My profession allows me to give people their voice and amplify it so it is heard making change happen.

Though I’m still evolving and who knows where I’ll be in ten years for now… I believe life should always be in beta and changing.

What advice do you have for Millennials struggling to get a job?

Can you empathize or offer words of wisdom? One my professor shared with us that there was a phrase we needed to learn if we chose not to go on to get an advance degree with our majors and that was “Would you like fries with your burger?” That was a scary phrase to hear when you are about to graduate. I graduated in 1993 and the job outlook wasn’t great. Sort of like it is now. You have to be flexible keeping all options open because you won’t know where it may take you.

I’m going to sound like that old guy who screams get off the lawn, but a good attitude will get you places… don’t act entitled and that you know it all. When I’m hiring, I’m looking for skills, but I’m also looking for attitude and someone wanting to learn and share. While I can train you for skills, I can’t train for attitude.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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  1. amvandenhurk

    November 8, 2012 at 10:45 am

    @kamichat thanks! Hope I don’t scar anyone with my advice. ;0)

  2. amvandenhurk

    November 8, 2012 at 10:46 am

    @AmyVernon @agbeat Thanks!

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Business News

Keep your company’s operations lean by following these proven strategies

(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.



keeping operations lean

The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.

Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.

Automate processes

Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.

Consider remote working

Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.

In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.

Review your systems to find the fat

As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.

Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.

Find the balance

Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.



board of directors

What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Average age of successful startup founders is 45, but stop stereotyping

(BUSINESS) Our culture glorifies (yet condemns?) startup founders as rich 20-somethings in hoodies, but some are a totally different type.



startup founders average age is 45

There’s a common misconception that startups are riddled with semi-nerdy, 20-something white dudes who do nothing but sip Nitro Brews and walk around the open office showing off the hoodie they wore yesterday. It turns out that it’s extremely rare that startup offices resemble The Social Network.

However, the academic backdrop for the real social network story (AKA Harvard), produced statistics that will serve to put the aforementioned misconception to rest. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of people who founded the highest-growth startups is 45. Say what?! A full-fledged adult?!

In fact, aside from the age category of 60 and over, ages 29 and younger were the smallest group of founders that are responsible for heading the highest-growth startups. I guess you can accomplish a lot when you’re not riding around the office on a scooter all day.

The study also found that older entrepreneurs are more likely to succeed. The probability of extreme startup success rises with age, at least until the late 50s. It was found that work experience plays an important role.

Many will argue, “Well, what about someone like Steve Jobs?” You could easily argue right back that it took Jobs until the age of 52 to create Apple’s most profitable product – the iPhone.

The study continues to answer questions like, why do Venture Capitalist investors bet on young founders? This goes back to the misconception at the start, and there’s a notion that youth is the key for successful entrepreneurship. Wrong.

There is also the idea that younger entrepreneurs are likely working with less financial options, so it may be common for them to take something from a VC at a lower price. As a result, they could be viewed as more of a bargain than older founders.

“The next step for researchers is to explore what exactly explains the advantage of middle-aged founders,” writes Pierre Azoulay, et al. “For example, is it due to greater access to financial resources, deeper social networks, or certain forms of experience? In the meantime, it appears that advancing age is a powerful feature, not a bug, for starting the most successful firms.”

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