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My Swat Story: Natasha Markov-Riss '20

Natasha Markov-Riss '20

Major: Political Science
Hometown: Providence, R.I.

She was a Teenage Entrepreneur

"When I was 12 years old, I had a lemonade stand in front of my grandmother's house in Peaks Island, Maine. After buying lemonade, almost every tourist would ask me if there was a place on the island to rent golf carts. Many of the year-round residents use carts instead of cars on the dirt roads.

"So I went on Craigslist and negotiated with sellers. My little brother lent me all of his savings in exchange for a 5% share in the business and we bought a super rickety 1997 Yamaha golf cart. When I got it onto the island, a policeman knocked on Baba's door and told me, unsurprisingly, 'You're 13, you can't drive this and you can't rent this.' I spent all month on the phone with City Hall. When I finally got a business license, I immediately put my sign up on the fence by the ferry. I started getting calls right away. My 1997 cart (named Olga) was booked solid for the rest of the summer. When I realized how much demand there was, I used the profits to buy another golf cart, and then 10 more and then 10 more." 

A "Yes and..." Mindset has Helped her Grow

"When I got to Swarthmore, I knew I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I auditioned on a whim for Vertigo-go, the improv comedy group. One day I was walking from Sharples back to Willets and a group of people came towards me with a shopping cart. The whole group was all dressed in cow costumes and wigs. They put me in the shopping cart and took me to the middle of the woods to initiate me into the group. It ended up being this incredible community of people. It's made me a lot less self-conscious to speak (and embarrass myself) publicly, and has been a lovely opportunity to let my imagination flow each week."

Swarthmore was the Right Choice

"Swarthmore was a pivot, thank goodness, from business school, which is what I was initially considering. Still, I came to college with a very narrow view of what is useful and what is worth learning about. I had this very misguided idea that political science is somehow more practical than the humanities. I think I've realized, as I've gone through Swarthmore, that I am really more invested in film, philosophy, Russian literature and all kinds of other things that I didn't really allow myself to open up to at the beginning. I certainly will not be entering the world of business, post college. And that's just reconfirmed for me that coming to Swarthmore was totally the right decision."