March Member Spotlight: Jay Dawkins

March 30, 2015 11:05 AM

Jay Dawkins, CITYZEN @dawkinsjay

Jay is an NC State civil engineer turned tech entrepreneur.  After graduating in 2010, Jay spent time in engineering consulting and real estate development.  Frustrated with the lack of millennial involvement in the public process, Jay started Cityzen to increase online civic engagement.  Today governments, engineering firms, and nonprofits use Cityzen's online polling tool to convert their online audiences into active participants, advocates, and donors.

We asked Jay some serious (and some not-so-serious questions) to help our community get to know him a little better.

1. If we opened your refrigerator right now, what would we find?

Two jars of peanut butter. Two gallons of skim milk (Nick). Jar of tomato sauce (Sean). Cherry butter. Make a diet from that.

2. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Outside looking in, it's becoming Student Body President at NC State, but that’s not actually the one to write home about. More important is realizing that the power to change yourself and the world you around lies between your ears.

3. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Like Lindsey Lohan? Hmm. This is a tough one. Honestly, the limelight isn't always kind in the present-day context. Being posthumously famous like Galileo would be cool. But for now, if we help more people make a difference by connecting them with great causes and organizations, that alone is enough.

4. What is the biggest challenge to starting a business? The biggest reward?
One word - apples. Startups are hard because people will pay you to pick apples, and they'll pay for apples. But they'll rarely pay you to plant seeds or water baby apple trees.

Biggest reward is getting to decide what seeds to plant, who to plant with, and knowing that you and your friends are making delicious apples.

5. Here at HQ, one of our Core Values is “Drive Forward with Purpose.” What do you do on a day-to-day basis to live out that value?
If my life has a purpose, it's to work toward a society where everyone can feel worthy and capable of contributing to the upward arc of humanity. Every time Cityzen moves people from bystanders to participants, we chip away a little at that goal.

6. Who was your biggest role model as a child?
My grandfather. He was mayor of my hometown throughout my childhood. He loved that job, and believed in the power of local government & philanthropy to improve people’s lives. It’s great knowing that a little part of him is alive in the work we do today.

7. What is one thing you can’t live without?
Peanut butter.

8. Do you have any superstitions?
Always try to give more than you take. Which is why it's so hard to visit Grandma.

9. What piece of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Early on, spend no less than half your time calling and meeting with prospective customers. It often leads to sales and always helps you avoid building things no one wants.

10. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.
Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see...

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