She’s All That: Meet Crystal Ortiz

It’s Women’s History Month, and we’re picking the brains of bold, powerful women who represent our future. Today, meet former Refinery 29 Production Director and co-founder of the Twice New foundation, Crystal Ortiz.

Throughout time, we’ve counted on a small number of community leaders to push things forward, break perceptions, and bring change. And ladies, the past two years have been pivotal. We’ve seen–and struggled with, and spoken out against, and called shit out on–issues that have been pressing, and still continue to press, womenkind. It’s change that we want to champion throughout this month, while celebrating those who are propelling us into a far better future. So throughout March, we are focusing what matters to us most, right now: groundbreaking, culture-shifting, era-defying, and straight up goals women.

By Darcey Taylor

Photos by Maya Fuhr

Crystal Ortiz, former Production Director at Refinery 29, is used to making shit happen on a seriously huge scale. After working for some of the biggest names in the business, such as Michael Kors, Gap, and Warner Brothers (just to name a few), Crystal is now turning tables within the industry and working alongside businesses to help tackle the endless issue of waste. After seeing first-hand the level of unnecessary waste that was left from large scale events and productions, Crystal was inspired to create change at the heart of business ideology and co-founded the Twice New Foundation. Twice New serves as the once-missing conduit that helps companies team up with various organizations and charities throughout Southern California to donate any left over food or other useful items they no longer want, to help those most in need. We get the 4/11 from Crystal to talk life at Refinery 29, new starts at Twice New, and life changing outlooks that helped made it all happen.

You were the Production Director for Refinery 29, which is such a massive institution. What was your journey like to reaching such an amazing job role?

I actually fell into event production; years ago I was working for a music company, which produced a handful of music conferences and event production wasn’t part of my day-to-day role there but we had to be all hands on deck to make these conferences happen. I fell in love with pace of events, the in real time problem solving, and watching ideas turn into experiences that impacted people’s lives. I knew as soon as the first conference was over that I wanted to do everything I could to chase that career goal. Years (and more years) later I was fortunate enough to land a job at R29.

“Anyone who’s in events will tell you it can also be really wasteful… Food was always the hardest for me. It felt really gross to drive home from events in LA with such a large homeless population after throwing eatable food into a trashcan.”

What’s the greatest career advice you’ve ever been given?

I actually heard something recently that’s reshaped the way I think about my career and that’s the concept of work / life integration. The idea of work / life balance is something everyone is familiar with but trying to balance two opposing things creates an inevitable competition between the two, doesn’t allow both to coexist. For me, work / life integration is about taking on projects that excite me, with people I want to spend time with both personally and professionally. It has allowed me to rethink the way I work and the hours in which I work, which helps to eliminate the guilt we can feel that comes with taking time do things we enjoy.

You have recently teamed up with Christina Rosenberg, who’s also from the world of production, to launch the Twice New Foundation. Tell us about the foundation and what inspired its creation?

Event production can be really rewarding, but as anyone who’s in events will tell you it can also be really wasteful. From leftover catering to décor items to promo materials; often at the end of the night you find yourself filling dumpsters with perfectly good items. Food was always the hardest for me. It felt really gross to drive home from events in LA with such a large homeless population after throwing eatable food into a trashcan.  I spent a lot of time searching for an organization like Twice New, which would come and pick up these items after my events and distribute them to people that needed them but I found that nothing like that really existed in LA. I think once we started having real conversations about how to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem, I couldn’t turn a blind eye to it any longer.

It’s such a simple idea making a huge impact to different communities; how rewarding is it to be making a difference in society?

Starting a non-profit is hard, working for yourself is hard, and I’m constantly worried that I’m not doing things right or not doing enough, but as if like clockwork, as soon as I start to doubt myself I have the most beautiful interaction with someone and it reminds me that not only am I on the right track but also that there’s such a need for this organization. Recently we were passing out breakfast burritos to some people in Venice and one of the woman who I handed a burrito to was so shocked and thankful that it was warm.  It really puts things into perspective to think about how fortunate most of us are, to not only have enough food to eat but also to have access to a warm meal whenever you want it.  Moments like that make this job very, very rewarding.

What were the biggest challenges you faced when setting up a non-profit organization?

Definitely the legalities associated with running a non-profit. There are so many things that are different from running a for-profit business in terms of financial transparency, tax filing, and a bunch of other boring stuff. I’m still trying to educate myself on everything I need to know to keep things running smoothly.

“Recently we were passing out breakfast burritos to some people in Venice and one of the woman who I handed a burrito to was so shocked and thankful that it was warm.  It really puts things into perspective.”

What are your hopes or goals for the foundation’s future?

My hope is that we’re able to help people in the events space genuinely rethink the way they deal with waste at the end of the night, and make calling Twice New common practice. I’ve been saying for a long time that in LA we don’t have a resources problem, we have a logistics problem. We’re doing our best to give people the tools they need to get these items from the people who don’t need them, to the people that do, but this kind of shift in thinking and behavior isn’t going to happen overnight.

What’s the best part about your work with Twice New?

Knowing that I’m helping people and being able to work with brands to find creative solutions to do so.

Do you have any upcoming projects in the pipeline at the minute?

We’re actually partnering with Loop, which is this rad new engagement ring brand who are really invested in social issues. We’ll be working with them on a handful of experiential activations to use their platform to help give back to people in LA. We’re also partnered with Vice, the LA City Mayors office, and Working not Working, on creating a food waste initiative called Food Fight! The goal is to create a solution for restaurants in LA to have an easy solution for dealing with left over food at the end of a dinner service.  We recently helped them pilot this program and picked up over a thousand pounds of food to bring to shelters in just two weeks from Abbot Kinney alone.  I‘m really excited to see how this is able to grow in scale and help redistribute food long term.

Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your life?

 I don’t think I have one single inspiration but I’m always inspired by strong women who have made bold and scary choices to build a life of purpose and fullfillment.

The most important lesson you’ve learned so far?

To always, always trust my gut.

What advice would you give to women who want to start their own charitable organization, or get involved with one, but aren’t sure where to start?

Get curious, talk to as many people as you can and get involved wherever you can. There are so many amazing organizations that have been around for a long time, working in the trenches, trying to make a difference. These are your allies and my experience has been that the people at these organizations are more than happy to help give you the tools to be successful.

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