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The broad and colorful vistas of the desert southwest and the desire to find a place to call home drew Molly Castelazo to Arizona for college and kept her as she started a business.
Castelazo, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, spent the first year and a half of her college experience at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, but moved back to her hometown to regroup and look for a university where she could fit in.
“It wasn’t home. It didn’t feel like the right place,” Castelazo said in reference to the University of the South.
“Being in Tennessee, I couldn’t see beyond the trees. It felt confining. The landscape has an effect on me and my psyche. I wanted to be back where there were open spaces,” said Castelazo, a 2002 Arizona State University honors graduate.
She considered transferring into the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Arizona, or ASU and looked at the honors college at each one.
Barrett, the Honors College at ASU drew her to the university.
“Barrett was welcoming and supportive and eager to have a transfer student like me,” she said.
She entered the honors college at the age of 20, a few years older than other first-year students, and undecided about a major. But, she knew that she had found a place to belong.
“In my mind, I was significantly older that the other students, but Barrett accepted me into a community that felt like a small school within a large university. To me, that was comforting and essential. I felt like I would have been lost without Barrett,” she said.
She took one honors economics class and was hooked.
“I remember sitting in the classroom with maybe 12 of us talking about economics with a brilliant professor and great students. It was intellectual candy, a really deep intellectual conversation,” she said.
She majored in economics and political science and earned two bachelor’s degrees with honors, one in economics and the other in political science.
“The most amazing part of Barrett was the honors thesis,” said Castelazo, whose thesis focused on the intersection between politics and economics.
“I worked with an economics professor and a political science professor, both experts in their fields. To work with people of this caliber was really cool,” she said.
Castelazo said that through honors course work, she formed close connections with faculty members, one of whom encouraged her to apply for an economic research job with the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis, Missouri.
She landed the job at the Federal Reserve, where she assisted with research and wrote white papers on economic policy.
“It was an incredible opportunity. The connections and pathways Barrett guided me on helped get me there,” she said.
While at the Fed, she found her ability to communicate about complex subjects in understandable terms.
“I realized that what I was good at at the Fed was understanding what PhDs were saying and translating that information for non-PhD audiences. I also realized that companies needed writers,” she said.
She spent three years at the Fed, honing her research and writing skills.
A fortuitous moment put her on the path to where she is now. Several years ago, while on vacation with her husband in Paris, she picked up a copy of The Economist magazine and saw an advertisement for an essay contest. The topic was the global economy and the grand prize was $20,000.
“I threw myself into that project. I didn’t win, but I discovered I loved to write and thought I would become a freelance writer focusing on economics and political science,” she said.
About the time that these thoughts were entering her head, the gig economy of late 2004-2005 was heating up. Castelazo posted her profile, resume and articles she had written on Elance, an online global freelance platform now known as Upwork.
She began taking freelance writing assignments, including reports, white papers and articles, even penning an article for the ASU W.P. Carey online magazine.
In 2008, she felt she had to make a decision whether to continue to be a freelancer or build a business around her writing and content creation talent.
She chose the latter and founded Castelazo Content, a Phoenix, based firm providing business-to-business content marketing, demand generation and sales acceleration services. The firm employs a staff of writers, project managers, and content specialists.
“Our philosophy of marketing and sales is to help prospective buyers through their journey from how they find out about a product to making a purchase,” said Castelazo, who is the firm’s chief content strategist and editor-in-chief.
While Castelazo is enjoying running a business, she said that someday she may want to sell the business, retire early, and return to school to study the political economy.