Interview: Bjarte Frøyland | Photography: Brian Benton | Location: Brooklyn (NYC), US
Just like so many others, Mette Presthagen fell in Love with New York City the first time she visited. However, unlike most people she was not satisfied with just visiting. She wanted to live there. In 2012 she packed her bag in Norway, caught a plane and never looked back. Now she is living the dream in Brooklyn, working with companies that are doing something more than just making profit; companies that are targeting the UN sustainability goals and focusing on creating a better future.
We crossed the Atlantic to meet up with Mette and to spend some time with her, so that she could show us here favourite spots in her neighbourhood, and let us take part in a Brunost Party with her friends on a rooftop in Brooklyn.
Mette! How are you?
I'm good, thank you! It is such a great day today. Wonderfully sunny and 26 degrees.
It truly is. I bet you have had a lot of wonderful days since you moved here for almost five years? How has it been?
Good, without a doubt. The two first years had a special magic to it where everything was always wonderful; even the subway system was a gift. After that I got harder and started taking things for granted, it is like the city was mine at last. Since then I have had zero patience for people standing to the left in the escalator or walking ineffectively on the streets. It is like falling in love, you are crazy in the beginning and when the butterflies calm down you are perfectly confident that what you have is real and yours, and no one better mess with it.
Why did you end up in New York?
I wish there was a better story to it, but it is the same as everyone else´s; the cliché of coming to the city and feeling you belong here. Everything just made sense. I fell in love with it the first time I came, when I was backpacking in 2010, and I just knew I wanted to live here once. However, I went back to Norway and stayed there for 2 more years before moving to the New York in 2012.
Did you have a job or something specific waiting for you, or did you just pack your bag and move?
I pretty much packed my bag and moved. I was studying Public Relations and Business in Oslo at the time, but I did not want to stay in Oslo anymore. So, I made sure to apply for a school here and went as soon as I could.
And today, what is it that you do in the city? I got your business card and it says “Mette Presthagen – Gets shit done”. Nothing less, nothing more.
Pretty much (laughs). I've realised that a lot of people are in need of exactly that; getting shit done.
What exactly is it that you get done?
I would say my specialty is coming into a project where things are burning, to put out the fire. I tend to be hired as a project lead for teams and projects that basically are in a cramped time when it comes to deadlines. I then get to work with them until deadline and execution, before I am off again.
You enjoy that there is an end to things, if I get you right?
I do. Also, deadlines make me work. It makes me get shit done.
What projects have been on your agenda lately?
The last two years I have been working with technology and impact work, which is something I am passionate about. That is definitely the road I want to keep going down. I want to work for and with companies that are doing something more than just making profit.
Inspiring. Also, we understand that you have worked on a project in Norway for the last few months?
Correct. I was working on Katapult Future Fest.
I think that needs an explanation?
Katapult Future Fest is a two-day tech festival in Oslo, Norway. It is focusing on the combination of exponential technologies and impact investing towards a better future society. By gathering investors, entrepreneurs, start-ups, change-makers and corporates from all over the world, we aim to build a community, a movement and a hub, where the combination of these will answer the UN sustainable development goals.
So, what do you define as the key to reaching the goals set by the UN?
The UN says that, in order to reach the seventeen sustainable development goals, we need 2,5 trillion US Dollar annually from the private sector. So far, I feel there has been a taboo when it comes to making money from doing good. If we can create an eco-system where we are creating value and making profit, having business plans that are doing something good for the world at the same time as their businesses work well; I am eager to contribute to that.
If I get you right; you are optimistic about the future despite the challenges we are facing today; and you believe that technology is what will bring us further?
Absolutely. Tech is the solution. No, let me rephrase, tech is the tool that we have. Which is why I am so passionate about working with impact start-ups and entrepreneurs that are asking “What can I do in order to make the world a better place?”. By gathering people and creating communities - like we did with Katapult Future Fest - important conversations can reach more people and have a bigger impact.
Sounds very exciting! And I guess there are quite a lot of likeminded people, working to make the world a better place, also in Williamsburg – where we are today. Would you tell us what kind of neighbourhood this is?
Williamsburg is what most people will call hipster town; and in most ways it is. It is overpriced, filled with kale and beards and double-decker bikes, and holds all the hipstery things you can think of. Other than that, it has the vibe and the people and the thousand of options that makes it hard not to love it.
You can also easily get around by bike, which love! And actually, I figured we could bike around in the area today, if you would like to join me?
I cannot think of any better way to experience Williamsburg! What are you planning to show us?
Well, there are so many places I would love for you to see; you would need to spend a couple of weeks here (both laughs).
But to be serious, I have pinned it down to a few everyday-favourites. We are going to my favourite coffee shop, Freehold and Devocion, where I normally go to work if I am not at the office. We will head down to the waterfront and see the pretty skyline of Manhattan, go through the McCarren Park, stop for ice cream at Van Leeuwen, head to William Vale, a newly-opened rooftop with spectacular views, as well as having lunch at a popular spot called Five Leaves – which has the best pancakes in the city.
This sounds no less than perfect, let’s go!