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Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a boutique gym started by a local fitness champ or we could keep giving away our money to the handful of giants who already control so much of our commerce. Our daily decisions impact the kind world we live in; if we want a world where small businesses are growing and artists and creatives are thriving then we should support them with our time, money and attention. We’re proud to highlight inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs each week in Hidden Gems series.  Check out some of our latest local gem features below.

Abigail Barrett

I have had a 40 year career as an industrial psychologist and executive coach, including owning and building my own consulting business, Leadership Transitions (LT), for the last 23 years. I’ve helped scores of business owners and entrepreneurs transition their businesses from one generation to the next. Leadership development and coaching for effective career transitions and skill development have been central to my work. I’ve noticed over the years how difficult it is for business owners to exit, and I felt the trap myself once I built the practice. About five years ago I set out on a mission to exit my own business well, and create a “life by design” plan for my post business career. For me this included oil painting, which I have been doing for about 8 years now. I envisioned spending time in classes and workshops, painting on hillsides with friends, and traveling to paint the beauty of the world. Read more>>

Dr. Sheena Sikorski

Senior year of high school, I discovered the field of psychology and the bountiful opportunities it holds. Since that time in 2004, I dedicated my educational journey to nurturing my love of psychology, which culminated in a doctorate degree earned in 2016. After graduating with my doctorate, I worked in a number of settings. Just over a month ago, I left my full-time job on an inpatient psychiatric unit to pursue my solo private practice in the heart of Minneapolis. Being able to be my own boss is the best and most rewarding thing I’ve done to date! Read more>>

Matt Addington

I was always interested in photography as a young boy. That interest followed me through school where I was an art major in college and eventually got a job teaching photography and video production. As often is with teachers, I was being asked to do a lot of side work for people. That business continued to grow and was always overwhelmingly rewarding throughout the years. I worked really hard at both jobs for a long time and was fortunate to have two really good jobs. About eight years ago, I put aside teaching and was able to make photography my one full-time job. It has been an incredible blessing to do some thing that I love so much and still be able to make a living and provide for my family. Read more>> 

Ashton Ruatmann and Quinn Mazur

Panda Sweater Vests. Yup – We started our business making tiny sweater vests for a stuffed panda. Ashton Rautmann and Quinn Mazur met in college and were fast friends. They bonded over their shared love of travel and passion for good food. After graduating, they were roommates in Nordest Minneapolis. Their first year living together was a brutal winter and since they didn’t have cable and it was too cold to go anywhere, they spent a lot of time cozied up on their second-hand couch, drinking strong coffee and knitting sweaters, hats, mittens, and scarves. Over time, they learned that there were only so many sweaters that one could make before craving something new. As the snow continued to fall, their skills with their needles and yarn grew, and they decided to create an online shop to sell their handmade winter wear. Read more>>

Jason Wang

I first want to thank ​my parents who are Chinese immigrants. I remember as a child, them always working at their restaurant. I remember the only day they took off work was thanksgiving. I appreciate their hard work and supporting my arts education and trusting in me.Before I decided to commit to art school, I thought I wanted to become a doctor or engineer. However, in my high school engineering class, the classmate next to me finished a math problem in half the time I did and he was clearly more passionate about engineering than I was. I realized in a competitive job market that I am replaceable and figured I should take a leap of faith as an artist. Read more>>

Amanda Pardi

After starting college at the University of St. Thomas, my first job was at Black Coffee and Waffle Bar (BCWB), the local coffee shop just outside of campus. Knowing absolutely nothing about coffee, I spent hours on YouTube learning everything I could to secure the job. What started as a part-time gig to help pay for the new expenses of adulting soon turned into so much more. Not only did I fall in love with the art of coffee making, but the art of capturing it as well. In the midst of completing my marketing degree at UST, I took over the social media accounts for BCWB. In December of 2019, I temporarily left my job at BCWB to study abroad. That experience was cut short due to the pandemic, which left me bored and antsy in my parents’ basement. I asked my manager if they needed help with the social media again, but when everything closed, there wasn’t really a need for me at the time. Read more>>

Jordan Strowder

I started in photography using a camera phone to document shows and events. As time went on people started seeing my pictures and they questioned how they could purchase these pictures. That sparked my excitement! During this time (2012), I was in my last semester in college and I still needed to take 1 more elective; so I decided to take one in photography. It didn’t take long in the class for me to realize that photography is what I wanted to do. Read more>>

Danielle Everine

I have always been interested in fashion as a form of self expression. I started designing and making clothing as a child and have not stopped. Store bought apparel never suited me. I was classically trained in fine art with a focus on sculpture and the art of fashion. For 15 years, I have worked in every aspect of the apparel industry and am an expert in product development. My focus is in using natural fibers and USA manufacturing. Read more>>

Angela Glaspie

The word of God spoke to me, I knew God was calling me into the ministry. This feeling wouldn’t go away. I always sat back and said” wow I wish I could change this and change that in the world but didn’t know how. I never really knew how I could make time for anything, to change the world or my community around me. I have always helped those around me, but I wanted to help on a wider scale. Global all over the world. As I begin to step out in faith, God would lead me to start speaking and not just saying anything but to speak and to encourage people. More people begin to listen, and I started encouraging more people and more. Then a vison came to me to move into a building. It holds about 24 people in St. Paul Minnesota. I would then begin to start a child ministry. Read more>>

Hewan Dagmawi

It all began when my hair was long in fifth grade, reaching from my shoulders to the center of my spine. It was in excellent health and had been carefully cared for. When I started working as a swim instructor at the YMCA, I began to neglect it and only wash it twice a week, and it became too much for me to handle. Despite the fact that my hair was naturally curly, I began straightening it. I was breaking my curl pattern by doing so. When I was in a PSEO cosmetology class, my classmates began to work on each other’s hair, and my hair was washed every other day, which severely damaged it. My hair began to fall out over time. Because of the products I was using, my hair began to shed and get dry over time, and continually washing my hair stripped natural oils from my scalp. Read more>> 

Aubree Herrick

My journey with photography starts about 6 months before I ever purchased my first DSLR camera. In October of 2018, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. I underwent surgery to remove the tumor followed by 6 rounds of chemotherapy over the course of 18 weeks. During my recovery from surgery, I spent a lot of time on Instagram as a way to distract myself. I found so many photographers posting absolutely gorgeous photos from along the North Shore of Lake Superior and all around the midwest. Read more>>

Marie Kube

When I moved to Minnesota 20 years ago, I was a research scientist, I was happily married and planning to start a family, I was a homeowner, and I didn’t even know that I had PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Now, 20 years later, I am better than ever even though I’ve been unemployed for over 10 years, I am divorced and never got to have any children, I no longer own my home, and I am now diagnosed with PTSD, perhaps the most highly stigmatized mental disorder of all. Read more>>

Kirsie Schwender

I have always known that I was born with the gift of creativity and I am happiest and fully myself when I am creating. Throughout my entire life, I have been making jewelry as gifts for people I care for. Hands are an extension of the heart and the love that is infused into things created by hand is felt by those who receive them. In 2009 I started teaching yoga. My love for yoga, spirituality, and nature became the inspiration for my jewelry designs. Soon after, I began receiving requests to sell my jewelry from individuals and stores. Read more>>

Allison Burns

Growing up, you’d often find me hand lettering quotes for my bedroom wall, making collages with cutouts from magazines, and being a page editor and designer for my high school newspaper. Although I didn’t consider myself artistic at the time, I was. I loved being creative. I was also a good writer, or so I was told, so I started college at the U of MN Twin Cities as a journalism major. I quickly realized that journalism wasn’t for me and something just dawned on me that graphic design would be a great fit for my strengths. Read more>>


Born as Denishia Moore of Tulsa Oklahoma, I got my start as a pageant queen after being crowned Ms. Hemisphere at the young age of 16, I decided that pageantry was not for me but soon entered a Modeling competition and won. This was how I got discovered by Grace Del Marco Model Management. I relocated to New York to sign with the Manhattan agency at age 19. I hit the ground running! Within months I landed a lead role in the music video “Ooh I love you Rakeen” with then artist Prince Rakeem (Riza of WuTang Clan). Read more>>

Ofelia Ponce and Inti Martínez-Alemán

Ofelia and Inti grew up in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After going to college in Pennsylvania (2010) and New York (2007), they moved back to Honduras to study and practice law. Years later, they both got law degrees from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ofelia and Inti work together at Ceiba Fôrte Law Firm where they serve Hispanics in business, civil, and employment litigation matters. Ofelia has always loved coffee. Inti only drank it when his abuela Rosa brewed it. Read more>>

Whitney McClusky

Duniya Drum and Dance is an organization established in 2007 whose mission is to provide opportunities for the Twin Cities community to learn and experience traditional West African rhythm and movement. Founded by master drummer, Fode Bangoura and dancer/instructor, Whitney McClusky, Duniya Drum and Dance teaches students from diverse ages, backgrounds and skill levels the stylized hand drumming rhythms, traditional movement and rich history of Guinea, West Africa. Read more>>

Paul Nelson

Since 1999, Paul Nelson has been a highly regarded Minneapolis-based commercial photographer. Specializing in conceptual studio work, he has developed problem-solving skills, innovative lighting, and sound post-production methods that add up to a clean vivid style with arresting visual impact. Past projects include campaigns for Target Corporation, Best Buy, FedEx, Marvin Windows, Pfizer, Sprint, and more. Wild Birds Flying is his personal venture. It was born of a love of birds, an appreciation for uncluttered depictions, and a belief that beautiful images are as close as the backyard. Inspired by John James Audubon’s prints among others, Paul’s inventive photographic techniques replace the 19th-century pen and watercolor representations. Read more>>

Ana Karen Sanchez Ocampo

I was born in the state of Estado de Mexico, Mexico. My family and I sacrificed everything when we immigrated to Saint Paul, Minnesota in 2000, where I was raised and have called home ever since. For as long as I could remember I’ve always been a huge dreamer and enthusiastic about learning and achieving dreams that my parents, grandparents and ancestors could only dream of. My hardworking parents taught me at a young age that everything in life is possible as long as I am willing to put in the work. I started working at 14 to help my single mother make ends meet, unfortunately putting my education aside but despite it all my teachers saw my dreams of going to college and were extremely supportive even with being a dreamer.  Read more>>

Cristian Fisk

For the first time in my life, I’m doing what I was born to do. There is a purpose for everyone, for some, it can only be found in the places that seem the most uncertain and terrifying. I remember having my first real breakdown at my high school graduation. This was because the reality of life set in and I became aware that most of life is doing something that is either considered work or a contribution to society. For me, education was not something I had taken seriously and because of my lack of effort, I thought I was bad at academics as a whole. For the next year as my classmates went off to college or begin their lives, I stayed at my nine to five and fell into bad habits. The environment I was creating for myself could only lead to detrimental destruction. My mother intervened and for this, I will forever be grateful. She suggested that I join the military, this helped me clear my mind and set myself on a better path. Read more>>

Molly Vang

In December of 2018, I got back into crafting, making birthday toppers and banners for family members and friends. This was while I was in College for my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resource Management. After I graduated in May of 2019, I continued crafting in my down time while I did some job hunting. In June of 2020, I decided to open up my own craft shop part-time on Etsy, specializing in cake and cupcake toppers. While designing the toppers, friends and family asked to make designs for shirts. I gradually started making more and more designs for t-shirts and quickly realized this was truly my passion and it became my niche. Fast-forward to today, our business has been a full-time small business making and selling homemade apparel, stationery, and accessories ever since. Read more>>

Maggie Hanson

I started my photography journey in high school not only enamored by the combination of technical and artistic components of taking photos, but I just loved seeing the positive reactions of people when they saw a portrait I took of them. That feeling is such a good one. So, chasing that, I was determined to give my friends and classmates the senior portraits they deserved at an affordable rate. It only continued there, reaching to families, couples and eventually weddings. Authenticity and being straightforward is a top priority for me in taking unique and exceptional portraits. It relaxes both parties between the camera, leading to more genuine and candid moments. Those spontaneous, unplanned instants that are captured really make a lasting photo. I have been capturing those moments in portraits for six years now, and I am loving every single second of it. Read more>>

Ariyon Kelly

We established ourselves in 2016, working primarily on custom footwear. Since then we have expanded into many other mediums and offer many different services. While we still produce custom footwear, as well as modern contemporary art pieces, our main focus has been the launch of our streetwear clothing brand and building our creative company as a whole. Read more>> 

Clare Aaker

I grew up on an 80 acre apple orchard in River Falls Wisconsin, surrounded by family and a multitude of pets. I was the self-appointed photographer during our family vacations and continued the hobby while I was studying Mass Communications at Benedictine College in Kansas. I started photographing weddings in 2015, and slowly built up my business for five years while working in advertising in Minneapolis. I now photograph families & couples full-time, all over the country. Read more>>

Jen Crom

I have always enjoyed doodling, fonts, and painting. While working as a crew member at Trader Joe’s, I realized all the artwork, signage and shelf tags for every product was created within each store. I passed a test (writing a shelf tag in less than 8 minutes) and began working in the art room in November of 2013. What a learning experience! There was very little training and not much for guidelines. Working with other seasoned artists, I got paid to practice and learn for 7 years. I have taught online calligraphy classes and then branched into signage for businesses and events. Read more>>

Mariam Kamara

Well, hello. My name is Mariam Kamara, I am West African. Growing up in America I had to move around a lot. My mother and my siblings moved to New York from Minnesota where we faced a lot of struggles, living in a shelter at one point to moving to a house. When my mother realized that New York was too much to raise a child, we then migrated to Little Rock, Arkansas, What a big change for all of us. I went through a really hard depression, but one thing I always notice was how hard working my mother was. She opened a salon where I started to work for her at the age of 14 years old. Everyday after school I would go to the shop to help my mother do hair, and also make some cash for me to put in my pocket. Doing that, and watching my mother work hard made me realize that I never want to work a 9-5. I knew that I wanted to own my own business one day. I wanted more for myself and my family. Read more>>

Garrett Crosgrove

Hi! My name is Garrett, and I love photography! I started taking pictures with my brother’s point-and-shoot camera he got for his birthday when I was maybe 10. I fell in love and asked my parents for one for my following birthday. Knowing nothing about photography I started to experiment with my small camera and the little settings it had. I was blown away by the pictures I took. “They looked so professional,” my parents would say, encouraging my want for more. High school came and I took PHOTO 1. I hated it. My teacher was quite strict, I had no friends in the class and I felt very out of place. Photo 1 was “Intro to black and white film.” I didn’t understand anything. I felt as if my love for photography was slowly dwindling. At the time I thought I was dumb for not understanding how cameras, film, and the darkroom worked. Read more>>

Aurora Whittet-Best

I started my illustration journey drawing on the walls behind my parents’ sofa, and my writing journey started in the sixth grade. I always knew creating was my future, and two colleges and many hours of practice later, both of my passions have blossomed over the years with many national awards, publication, speaking and teaching. Read more>>

David Gutierrez Molina

My beginnings in the world of dance and flamenco were when I was 4 years old, in my professional career I learned from great dance masters who have made me the artist that I am today,, they tried to show the world my art, always with humility and empathy, thanks to them the successes in my career came unexpectedly. Read more>>

Krista Ungerecht

I began photography 13 years ago, when my daughter was born. At the time, I was unable to afford a professional photographer. Instead, I taught myself photography and began taking pictures of her myself. I spend countless hours learning new techniques and growing little by little. I then started offering my services to friends and family, and Dream Capture Photography was born. When I started my business, I had a vision to keep my services reasonably priced, so that more families can choose to have beautiful keepsakes.  Read more>>

Jon and Sne Erickson

I started as many of us did, home brewing in my garage. What started out as a hobby quickly turned into a passion. Whether I was brewing classic styles, pushing the limits on new flavors, or creating new recipes, I found a harmonious intertwinement of my scientific and mechanical experiences. What started out as low key “tasting parties” quickly evolved into full scale “events” that would even get posted onto social media to the public. I still remember the day I received a phone call from the Alcohol & Gambling Enforcement division of the Department of Public Safety querying “So we see you are hosting tasting parties at your house…?” I invited them down to the next party, but they never showed up. Read more>>

Katie Heruth

I worked in the early education field for over 18 years. During that time, I became a parent and through that journey, I realized how important it is to share information regarding parenting and raising kids with other parents. At the end of 2020, I found out that my favorite local parenting publication was no longer publishing because the owners were retiring. I was heartbroken but didn’t immediately look into potentially buying it, that took a while! A month or two passed and I just kept thinking about it. Thinking about how I missed it, that others miss it, where were we going to get our local parenting content, and all the other information that is included! So I reached out to them and asked about buying it! A few months later we closed on the sale and here I am…running a parenting publication! Read more>>

Tessa Lange

I’ve always loved taking photos growing up. I was gifted a small digital camera (the screen size was as big as a quarter), and myself and friends would go take photos around the neighborhood. Fast forward to college, I would then ask roommates and college friends to go take photos around campus. It was in college where I purchased my first DSLR camera. From there, I photographed many friends weddings and word of mouth spread like crazy! I’m thankful to have had the title of Wedding Photographer for the last 9 years and have photographed 250 weddings, I can’t wait to see what is in store for this wedding season and more! Read more>>

Katie Duda

My passion for helping women heal their digestive and hormonal imbalances stems from my own personal struggle for the majority of my life. For over 10 years, I dealt with chronic bloating, constipation, anxiety, fatigue, skin issues and irregular periods. No matter how clean my diet was, I couldn’t shake experiencing these debilitating symptoms. After being told by countless different doctors that nothing was wrong with me, I took measures into my own hands and went back to nutrition school to help heal myself. Read more>> 


TR3VON knew from an early age that he wanted to make a difference with his vocal and lyrical gifts. Born in Chicago, Illinois on September 26, raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, his interest in music began before he could walk. A young TR3VON was accepted into the prestigious Metropolitan Boys Choir, where he learned a lot of his skills and technique. He also worked with the youth to develop their artistic talents in a program called We Are Hip Hop. Locally recognized by news and media outlets in the Twin cities for creating such a conducive atmosphere for young people to gather in a safe, creative space of cultural, lyrical, and musical expression. TR3VON was the driving force for the We Are Hip Hop program for six years from 2009 to 2015. Read more>> 

She’ Alexander

Hi! My name is Ashe’ (pronounced as Ase’) and I am an amazing, self-taught hairstylist, one of many talents, located in Minnesota! My passion for hair began as a young girl. In the early 2000s, there were too many hairstyles to keep up with at the time but I was determined to try them all lol! Social media wasn’t really a thing at the time, so most of my inspiration for potential styles to try on myself, sisters or friends came from magazines, celebrities that I saw on 106 & Park, beauty salons or what my classmates would showcase every week. In high school, I joined our cosmetology program sophomore year and immediately fell in love with all there was to learn and do! It was then that I realized that there was way more to offer than just styling hair as a hobby or just for fun, I could literally turn this into a career! Read more>>

Tarah Wolff

My grandparents were woodworkers and made gorgeous furniture during their retirement years so I come by my love of wood and old furniture very naturally. I was homeschooled and grew up helping maintain the DIY golf course of my family where there was almost nothing we didn’t figure out how to do ourselves. (After that I never want to mow another blade of grass for as long as I live lol!). I taught myself web design as a teenager and did ok at it for a few years in my early twenties, designing and hosting websites as a side hustle, besides my main job in IT. Read more>>

Markina Bemis

Since I can remember, I have always been “camera happy.” Starting in 4th or 5th grade, I never left my house for a birthday party, friend’s sleepover or school dance without my camera in hand. There is actually a photo of me out there from my Senior lock in taking a photo of my two good friends. It’s like the universe knew I was going to be a photographer before I even knew it. As digital photography evolved (side bar, I dropped my digital photography class in college in 2004) taking and developing photos became easier and easier. Read more>>

Ejiro Egi

I am originally from Nigeria in West Africa but have lived in Minnesota for the past 20 years. I have always loved decorating and transforming spaces, however, I chose a different career path when I immigrated to the United States. Although I enjoy working as a nurse leader in the long term care industry, decorating weddings and other events brings me joy and a different level of fulfillment. The experience, though exhausting, left me feeling very accomplished. Read more>> 

Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

I’m was a teacher for around 10 years before I changed careers and became a web designer when I moved to the US in 2019. My degree and master’s are teaching-related though so that’s all I knew what to do. After teaching in a university in the Philippines for 5 years, I moved to Japan to teach ESL. That’s where I met my now husband who’s a Minnesota-native. We were both ESL teachers in Hiroshima, Japan, and eventually, Prague, Czech Republic. Read more>>

Jen Wennerberg

I grew up with a mother who LOVED photos. I have so many gems from my childhood but not a lot of photos with her in them because she was always behind the lens. The photos I do have with her in them are some of my most cherished possessions. My path to being a wedding photographer is a unique one. Photography has been something I’ve been interested in as long as I can remember, probably inspired from watching my mom look at negatives and deciding which photos to print. Read more>>

Nicole Hernandez

I am Nicole Hernandez, have been licensed since August 2017. I started fresh out of school at a salon in Lake Elmo for a year, then onto chair renting in St Paul Park for about two years. Once I heard Cottage Grove was opening up a Salons by JC, I knew I had to jump on it. Being able to be on my own, be my own boss and really get to pursue my career in my dream way. I love being able to make people feel good and look good in my chair. Read more>>

Kaitlyn Rodriguez

My love for make-up and all things beauty related started at 10 years old. I was obsessed with the latest fashion magazines and had to be up-to date on all the red-carpet looks! At 11 years old, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Being so young, I searched for an outlet to help me cope with my diagnosis. This life altering event led my curiosity to discover ways to focus on self-care. This led me to explore my moms makeup! I still have the first eyeshadow palette I ever used. Read more>> 

Fitz Freeby

I started baking when I was eleven years old. I started off like anyone, a total failure. I made a birthday cake for myself that ended up being held together solely by Nutella and willpower. But, I had found something I really, really enjoyed doing. So, I kept at it. I started baking any recipe I could get my hands on, buying huge plain cupcakes at Costco just to practice decorating. A few years later, it started working. All of a sudden I realized that I had unintentionally focused my baking on cakes and decorating, and that I was actually starting to get kinda good at it. I made a baseball cake for my dad’s birthday, a brain cake for Halloween, basically, every holiday was just an excuse to make a cake. Then, I got my first commission: a guitar cake for a family friend who was having a birthday party with 120 guests. Freak. Out. Read more>>

Michelle Platt

In 2016, I started my first website, a blog, as a writing portfolio to find work as a freelance writer or as an in-house content creator. My daughter was about to enter kindergarten and I had been home with my kids for a few years. My husband worked long hours in Manhattan, we didn’t have much child care, and I couldn’t wait for both kids to be in school. I had done some consultant work, curriculum writing, and other odd gigs here and there, but I wanted to work more steadily. In my previous work life, I was an attorney and then a New York City middle school English teacher. Writing had always been my passion and now with a fresh start, I was ready to enter workforce full-time, doing anything I could to make my writing dreams happen. Read more>>

Jennifer Chang

I was never a very “artsy” or “creative” person – I went to college for a bachelor’s in Materials Science & Engineering and loved my job as an Engineer for a large CPG in the Twin Cities! I once responded to an ad from an agency looking for “models” for a hair color/cut job and it proliferated from there. I modeled for a while (even though I never got that first hair gig) with a few agencies. In the beginning, I volunteered my time for shoots in exchange for images so that I could build my portfolio. During this time, I felt like it was hard to find makeup artists that were experts in working with Asian features, so I decided to get better at makeup on my own! After countless hours spent on YouTube, I was starting to get the hang of it, and had a friend encourage me to start my own channel. Nowadays modeling has taken a backseat as I tend to spend all my spare time outside of work playing with makeup and filming content. Read more>>

Camille Knutson

I have been creating jewelry for a really long time. I started with taking apart vintage jewelry and re-imagining it into more contemporary pieces…I’ve always been making jewelry of some sort it seems. When I moved to the Twin Cities 35 years ago, I started taking jewelry classes at MCTC downtown in the evenings. This was back when they had a very robust jewelry program. I immediately fell in love with the whole process of moving metal and making. I detoured into IT, working in web design and development, and after 9/11 the print and magazine company that I worked for had to let people go and I was laid off. I went right back to school to finish the jewelry program I had started many years before. Read more>>

Malana Olson

I’ve always had a passion for being artistic and creating, my dream of being a florist started for me at a very young age actually. My first job was working for a florist in my hometown, I was 15 at the time. She would have weddings on the weekends and a retail storefront during the week, she always brought me along to help with the weddings, and I absolutely adored it. It’s what excited me and gave me such fulfillment, and was definitely the avenue I wanted to pursue! Read more>>

Barbara Zuleger

I have been a business owner for over 30 years. I have done the MLM thing, owned a franchise, bought existing businesses, started businesses from scratch, and purchased and combined multiple adjacent businesses. I ran them solo and ran them with my husband; had employees, independent contractors, and the familiar me-myself-I for team members. Some of these businesses were successful, and some of them not so successful. I didn’t do this because I saw myself as an entrepreneur, but because I needed a flexible way to increase my personal income while holding down a job and raising a family. What I soon discovered is that I was born to be an entrepreneur–and it just took me a while to find myself. Read more>>

Natalie Layne

Statistically speaking, I should not be here today. I should not have my own business let alone be interviewed for it, because statistically I was bound to be a runaway, single, teenage mother with no higher education or stable career, forever jumping from one cockroach and rat-infested apartment to the next. But, by the grace of God, I AM here today. And to say that I got here by my own merit would be disingenuous. I am where I am today because of people that have loved me, prayed for me and have encouraged me along the way-they deserve just as much recognition, especially my husband; he is my steadfast cheerleader. Since high school I have loved photography but being a teen mom and working to make ends meet meant my photography was always on the back burner. It wasn’t until years later after I met my husband that he began to encourage me to pick it back up again. And that’s exactly what I did. Read more>>

Matthew Bradley

I was first introduced to Photoshop and the Adobe products when I was in year 7, so I was around 13 years old. My school made us do a design class where we made logos and other products. I was instantly hooked into that class, I am not good at maths and I found subjects like English and Science boring. I did take art but I was really intrigued on making art digitally. After a few design classes where they taught us the basics, I took it upon myself to learn more about the tools and different techniques that my teachers weren’t teaching us. It was my goal to be the best at Photoshop in my year level. I would spend almost every day trying to create something, whether it was good or bad I still had fun doing it. I have been a basketball fan for basically my whole life, so I started making edits and artworks of NBA players. Read more>>

Owen Schmitz

I grew up in Champlin, a suburb a little bit north of Minneapolis. During high school and after graduating I worked a variety of different jobs. I found that Sales and Hospitality were where truly thrived. I chose to be a real estate agent because I feel it naturally combines sales and helping people find housing. I’m presently with Jp Willman Realty, and helping first time home buyers is my passion! Read more>>

Carlos Omar De Leon

While growing up in Nebraska, Carlos Omar De León gravitated to film and cinema at an early age. While casting his friends and family for his amateur projects, Carlos felt as if his calling resided behind a camera. He attended the University of South Dakota to pursue cinematic arts. Since then, Carlos has Directed, Produced and Edited a wide range of TV Commercials, Corporate/Promotional Videos, Social Media Campaign Videos and Short Films that have won a variety of awards and views online. Carlos’s artistic approach and attention to detail makes all of his projects unique and visually interesting. He’s currently working in advertising/marketing and also developing multiple feature films with a few film production companies. Read more>>

Melissa Sisk

My background is unique, but it is anchored on my commitment to make information accessible and engaging to everyone as well as to support institutions that encourage collaboration, curiosity, and discovery. Throughout the years, I’ve been crafting and telling visual stories that have ranged from educational to entertaining — and I have Wikipedia to thank for launching me on my career path. While studying Physiology at Michigan State University, I took a fondness for the anatomy and physiology drawings in my textbooks and a quick google search led me to a Wikipedia page on medical illustration. Going down that wormhole, I learned about a unique career field that combined art and science and in which I could tell a myriad of stories that would help the public, scientists, doctors, and more. I leaned into this interest and went on to obtain my Master of Science in Biomedical Visualization from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Read more>>

Tonya Kelly

Tonya Kelly, MEd, is the CEO/Founder of the 501c3 non-profit organization called Empower our Youth Foundation. Tonya by career is a fourth-grade teacher at Horizon Science Academy Elementary in Columbus, Ohio. The organization began in 2017 when her second daughter experienced being bullied till she had thoughts of suicide. With both of her daughters being bullied, she witnessed firsthand the negative impacts, the family emotions, and experiences that damage a child’s self-esteem and quality of life. Over the past three years, she has shared her testimony and served as an Anti-Bullying advocate assisting families in reporting any forms of bullying to the appropriate authorities and mentoring students. Read more>>

Matthew Kuchar

I first found out about posting on YouTube when I was 8 years old. My brother, Myles who is 2 years older than me and I were messing around filming goofy videos on my cousin’s laptop and instead of clicking save he accidentally clicked a button that said “Export”. I then saw the YouTube logo and my face lit up like a firework. I started to freak out constantly questioning Myles if we can post our video to YouTube. We then made an account and clicked post, I remember staring at the screen till it said “upload completed” I rewatched the video a bunch of times thinking with excitement that everyone’s gonna watch my video then went back to filming random goofy videos and messing around with the edits. A couple of years go by and My mom gets an Apple laptop from work. I then started to use her laptop to film my videos and edit them on iMovie. Read more>>


I’ve been doing music for as long as I can remember. My grandfather would play for me when I was really young, my mother was a singer at our church, so music was sorta just always around me. Basically, I started performing and walking around the same time, lol. When we moved from New York to MN, Rosemount to be specific, that love of music and performing came with us. I was in band, trombone, for a little bit but choir is where I would really thrive and I would stay throughout both high school and college. I also got really into theater. It was a real “High School Musical” moment when I decided to leave the football team to put more of my focus on performing. Read more>>


GOWNS is a hard-driving anthemic rock band based out of Minneapolis. They met on Craigslist and the rest is history. Their music toes the line between pop hits and rock band riffs, and prioritizes audience connection. GOWNS’ debut album “Revelations” was heavily influenced by the happenings in 2020 Minneapolis and our collective experiences therein. Read more>>

Sam Young

My journey with glass art all started with me being a collector. Even in high school through college and as I was in my first professional career; the majority of my free funds I had always seemed to float towards the same thing – borosilicate pipes. Over the years as my taste in style as well as budget both changed or grew I found myself working in Duluth Minnesota where my friend Zach Peeples (now my graphic designer) showed me Legacy Glassworks. While living in Duluth in 2015- 16 for 8 months I started collecting and getting to know multiple “new to me” local Midwest artists whom I had not heard of until Josh Wilkes Simon owner of Legacy Glassworks introduced me to their art. A couple of those included Sammy Flowers and Jordan Fell (Jfell Glass) who are two very close friends of mine to this day as well. I also became close with some of the staff members of the Legacy at that time who were a huge role in the glass art community in the MN area and are dearly missed (Rest in Peace Garret & Graham) Read more>>

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