40Under40: Forty of the region’s best and brightest

Compiled by Ross Boissoneau and Craig Manning

Following is TCBN’s 16th annual list of the 40 most influential regional leaders under age 40.

This list recognizes individuals in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie and Kalkaska counties under the age of 40 whose professional and community efforts during this past year had the most impact on their community, the region and the economy.

The 2022 class is comprised of 22 women and 18 men. More than half are new to the list. Below they describe their regional economic impact, what local person inspires them and their next big thing.

A panel of judges reviewed the submissions and chose the 40 influencers out of 100-plus nominations from the community. The panel included Karin Chung, senior recruiter and internship coordinator at Hagerty; Damian Lockhart, first vice president/financial advisor, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Traverse City; Benjamin Marentette, Traverse City clerk and past 40Under40 recipient; Warren Call, president/CEO of Traverse Connect and past 40Under40 recipient; Luke Haase, publisher of the TCBN, Northern Express and The Ticker; Jillian Manning, executive editor of the Northern Express; and Gayle Neu, contributing editor of the TCBN.

Many thanks to Hagerty, again this year’s signature sponsor. Watch for 2023 nomination information in the TCBN and The Ticker starting next spring.


 

2022 WINNERS:

 


 

 


 

Max Anderson, 36

Assistant Vice President, Commercial Lender at Honor Bank

Volunteerism/leadership: Father Fred Foundation; Festival Foundation (Cherry Festival, Iceman, Leapin’ Leprechaun, Turkey Trot, Cherry-T Ball Drop); Paradise Township Planning Commission; Village of Kingsley: DDA, Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Zoning Board of Appeals; Rotary Club of Traverse City; East Bay Masonic Lodge # 264; Kingsley Area Schools board of education

Highlight: Helping to put on the first full Cherry Festival in two years! We work with such a talented staff who does all the heavy lifting but seeing so many people come back to our town after the pandemic was a rewarding experience. To play even a small role as a board member was uplifting for me!

Local inspiration: Tony Anderson. Tony’s heart and passion are larger than life. He exudes love for his community and especially for youth in our region who need support. Tony is a longtime board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan and has single-handedly raised close to $1 million for the cause through Marathon for Kids (this man ran 51 marathons to raise that money – one in every state and Washington, DC!). I met Tony when I joined the BBBS board several years ago. He has also helped guide me professionally simply through his example (I don’t think he knows that). He is a passionate man who has made an immeasurable impact on our region. He is who I want to be when I grow up.

Regional economic impact: Those who know me know that I have difficulty saying no to a request for help. I believe that if you work hard to do good in your community, the rest will fall into place. As a commercial lender, it is rewarding to help business owners achieve success. Whether purchasing or building a new facility, purchasing equipment, or obtaining a line of credit, seeing local businesses grow because of my work makes me feel impactful.

Next big thing: For many years I played in bands here in the Traverse City and Petoskey areas. I’m excited that after a three-year hiatus due to crazy schedules and COVID-19, we’re getting the band back together and starting to play again this fall!

Who knew: About a year ago, I started going to the gym and training for power lifting. I had my first competition Aug. 20, and I plan to compete in another one this coming January. A huge shout-out to one of the best trainers in the area, Norman LeFlore. He’s kept me motivated and pushed me far outside my comfort zone. It’s been a life-changing experience!


 

Jess L. Ashmore, 34

Vice President/Branch Manager, Honor Bank

Volunteerism/leadership: Brickways, treasurer; Kingsley Downtown Authority, secretary; Kingsley Brownfield Redevelopment, secretary; Grand Traverse Industries, secretary

Highlight: Promotion to vice president, branch manager and being a 2021 40Under40 recipient. Both have been professional goals of mine since the beginning of my professional career. Banking is my passion! My employer has given me the platform and support to achieve my goals through allowing me to be involved with many local organizations.

Local inspiration: Al Zelinski, first vice president of commercial lending, Honor Bank. Through Al’s generosity with his time, giving to his community, and being such an integral part of so many professional boards, he has always inspired me to give more and do more. When Al asks, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ he means it.

Regional economic impact: My focus on growth and personal follow-through are directed toward companies’ financial success. Loans and banking best practices are a major factor in the success of our local businesses.

Next big thing: Helping Honor Bank be the best bank in our community by working with others to achieve financial success. My role at the bank allows me to help create innovative ideas and make common-sense decisions for local business owners.

Who knew: I was terrified to fly in an airplane but have recently discovered how much I enjoy traveling. I have traveled more in the last 12 months than I have in my entire life and look forward to more. I am happy to say I have overcome my fear and look forward to being on an airplane again!


Christina Barkel, 35

Food Equity Specialist, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities

Volunteerism/leadership: Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Food Rescue

Highlight: Managing a new program. Building Resilient Communities aims to create strong, equitable and sustainable food systems, so everyone in our region is connected to and empowered by healthy, fresh and local food. During the pilot phase of the program, we supported 26 sites, including farms, farm markets, emergency food providers, community gardens, schools, early childcare centers and community centers, arranging resources to increase their capacity to provide food in their communities.

Local inspiration: Every member of the Northwest Food Coalition, the coalition of food pantries, emergency meal sites and baby pantries in our six-county area. These individuals do the difficult, on-the-ground work necessary to feed and support those most vulnerable to food insecurity, often under challenging and under-resourced conditions. Likewise, I am inspired by our region’s network of small farmers who grow food for our area. Both groups possess large amounts of creativity, optimism, humility, grit and faith that I aspire to in my work and service to the community, and it is a joy to be able to connect the two in my professional capacity.

Regional economic impact: We live in a region of great abundance but also great need. Many people struggle for the basics, like affordable housing and affordable food. I’m grateful to be addressing food insecurity in collaboration with the Northwest Food Coalition (NFC), Food Rescue and area farmers through the Farm2Neighbor program, which raises funds to purchase healthy food directly from local farms at a fair price to be distributed to people in need. This program is a win-win – it increases the amount of healthy food at food pantries and emergency meal sites while also supporting local farmers and investing in their businesses.

Next big thing: I’m excited about the Esperance Community Teaching Kitchen, which will be located next to the new Groundwork office at the Commongrounds Cooperative on Eighth Street. The kitchen will be a learning laboratory where food experiences are celebrated and people are able to gain confidence in healthful food preparation for themselves and their families. It lends itself to reducing many of the burdens to accessing this type of educational opportunity in other spaces: It is centrally located, on public transportation lines with walkable public access, and has been designed to be reminiscent of a home kitchen.

Who knew: This summer I fell in love with trail running. It’s been a wonderful way to unwind, get energized and connect with nature. I finished my first trail half marathon in July and am dreaming about longer distance events for next year.


 

Katy Bertodatto, 37

Founder/Managing Partner, Golden Swan Management

Volunteerism/leadership: Downtown Development Authority board; City Opera House board; Traverse Connect governmental relations committee

Highlight: Golden Swan Management now has 11 full-time and three part-time employees. I’m really proud of how we’ve grown in the last year and the incredible people we’ve been able to attract to our team.

Local inspiration: Leah Bagdon McCallum of Blue Orange Consulting is hard-working, wicked smart and fun. I’ve watched her build her business over the years and have had the pleasure of working with her as well. I was shocked at how quickly she could turn out incredible work. She is my go-to person when I need a thoughtful approach to a problem. Or tequila.

Regional economic impact: Hiring good people and treating them well has always been our number one priority. We’re able to do that now more than ever. We are also working on taking economically obsolete spaces, like the second floor above Golden Shoes, and bring them back to life through the development arm of our company.

Next big thing: We are working on policy to change what we do with tourist dollars. Now the entirety of the assessment paid by tourists is only used for marketing, while we could be using these dollars to build workforce housing. So instead of pushing out more billboards, tourists pay for the housing we need to stabilize our economy. There are models out there that charge tourists 6% for their stays at hotels or vacation rentals. Of that 6%, half goes to the county and municipalities, 2% goes to their beach nourishment fund, and the remaining 1% goes to the visitors bureau (75% to be used to promote tourism and 25% for programs and services needed due to the impact of tourism). A model like this is a more responsible, sustainable approach to tourism.

Who knew: I was included in Angie Morgan’s newest book “Bet on You.” Angie is a New York Times best-selling author. She’s brilliant and you should definitely pick up a copy of her book.


 

Joshua Brandt, 39

General Manager, Higher Grounds Trading Company

Volunteerism/leadership: Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse, board of directors, spokesperson and fundraising chair; Commongrounds Cooperative Building Development, anchor tenant

Highlight: In early June, I traveled to Medellin, Colombia to serve as a panelist at the annual Producer Roaster Forum, an event that brings together specialty coffee professionals and coffee farmers from all over the world. The opportunity to engage with and learn from coffee industry thought leaders from around the world about the potential impact of doing business differently was invaluable and inspiring.

Local inspiration: Ryan Hannon of Goodwill of Northern Michigan for his selfless and tireless advocacy on behalf of the area’s unhoused. His commitment and energy are beyond inspiring. The causes and potential solutions for homelessness are very complex and are often viewed myopically, with distrust, and without sufficient compassion. A coalition builder and empathic educator, Ryan always works to meet people where they are, deploying a reasonable and unwavering tone to give voice to some of the region’s most misunderstood and ignored.

Regional economic impact: A small business, organized with the intention to build collaboration and community, can have an outsized impact. At Higher Grounds, I work alongside a passionate and creative team, unified by their belief that sustainable coffee serves as a vehicle for confronting inequality and maximizing human potential all along our supply chain. Our work brings together cultural creatives from diverse backgrounds in support of a network of nonprofits, organizations, and causes.

Next big thing: Realizing the potential of the new Commongrounds development on Eighth Street. That space will offer new opportunities to start conversations over cups of coffee and a creative crossroads to bring together many different folks from different spaces to collaborate and inspire new ideas. More than just a new café, we will have a certified teaching lab to engage the public and coffee professionals in educational opportunities.

Who knew: My egg preference waffles between a custardy French omelet and poached medium. I once was publicly shamed on the school bus for ‘smelling like breakfast’…mostly bacon.


 

Megan Brown, 38

Executive Director of Corporate Communications, Consumers Energy

Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse Connect, C-Suite/Key executive roundtable member; Traverse City Central Neighborhood Association, president; United Way, volunteer; Edison Electric Institute Executive Advisory Council on Communications, member; Public Relations Society of America, member; Pride Alliance of Consumers Energy, member; Women’s Advisory Panel of Consumers Energy, member

Highlight: Beyond giving birth to my second son, I am most proud of helping lead and transform the way our 135-year-old utility communicates with customers in the Grand Traverse region and across Michigan during storms or crisis incidents.

Local inspiration: It’s a three-way tie! NMC’s Susan Odgers for her heart of service; Dave Mengebier of the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation for his ability to connect people and make things happen; and Mike Brown – owner of Burdco Inc. (and my dad!) – who is the hardest-working business owner I know.

Regional economic impact: A silver lining of the pandemic has been the ability to return home to live in my favorite place in the world – Traverse City – after 19 years away, all while still working for a Michigan company I love. I am thrilled to be giving back to the community, both by volunteering and in my roles with the Central Neighborhood Association and Traverse Connect, with a focus on increasing housing opportunities for all. I’m committed to making this a more inclusive city and ensuring a clean energy future for TC and Michigan as a whole.

Next big thing: Consumers Energy’s long-term Clean Energy Plan was just approved in June, with a core priority being the closure of all of our coal plants by 2025. It will be my team’s job to carefully communicate with our customers and communities during this transformation.

Who knew: I was a politico in my past life, previously serving as deputy press secretary and spokeswoman to former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.


 

Jessica Brutzman, 35

Associate Real Estate Broker, Berkshire Hathaway

Volunteerism/leadership: Michigan Political Leadership Program 2022 Fellow; Grand Traverse County Parks and Rec commissioner; Traverse City Coast Guard committee member; Military Spouse Advocacy Network – National Guard Ambassador; Aspire North Realtors board director (current secretary/treasurer); Realtor Political Action Committee (chairwoman), Public Policy Committee, Sustainability Committee

Highlight: One highlight was substitute teaching at Grand Traverse Academy for high school social studies. The next generation showed me what they are capable of doing. They are very intelligent and creative people. I am looking forward to seeing who they become as they continue to grow. It was a pleasure teaching and learning from all of them. Another was having Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sign a bill that I personally worked on. I was honored to be named Realtor in Politics 2021. I took time during the pandemic to finish a B.S. in organizational management and graduated suma cum laude in November 2021 from Spring Arbor University. I was part of the Traverse Connect Leadership Grand Traverse Class of 2021. I will be graduating from the Michigan Political Leadership Program Fellowship program in November 2022.

Local inspiration: Meagan Luce of Century 21. She is a hard-working, fun-loving person. She makes time for her family, friends and her career as a real estate broker. Her energy inspires a room and she is always full of sunshine.

Regional economic impact: As a Realtor, my job is to match people to their new home in our region. When they move to the area, I give them as much information about the area so they can begin to build relationships and set down roots. The more comfortable people are in the area they live and work, the more they contribute to that area. It might not always be monetarily; their time volunteering is important too. Our area is so diverse with talent and people. Economy to me is more than financial, it is also a type of well-being, and I think that giving back to the community is an essential part to our area’s growth and culture.

Next big thing: I am hoping to begin a masters program this fall. I would also like to apply to the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program in the near future. I have additional legislative goals that are in the works but need a few more champions to push them through.

Who knew: I love road trips! My husband is a pilot and I prefer to drive. (It drives him crazy.) I am a history fanatic and have a tendency to randomly stop at the little-known state or national park historic places.


 

Krysteena Burfield, 29

Director of Community Based Services, Addiction Treatment Services

Volunteerism/leadership: Addiction Treatment Services, advisory board member for Families Against Narcotics, with the addition of several community partnerships that I actively engage with weekly

Highlight: Last November, I stepped into this role as director of community based services. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most efforts related to community-based services ceased, so I had a large gap to fill and a responsibility to our recovery community. In the last eight months I have launched an array of recovery-based peer led meetings available to the recovery community with the assistance of volunteers at the PORCH. We have also provided drug- and alcohol-free activities and events to the community, as well as overdose prevention and naloxone trainings. I utilized our state opioid response grant for a mobile care unit to provide access to substance use recovery services and harm-reduction services, partnering with 217 Recovery, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Goodwill Inn, Traverse Area District Library, and Jubilee House. In partnership with Northern Michigan Opioid Workforce Alliance (NMOWA), Diane Culver of Northwest Michigan Works! and I have implemented life coaches, who are made available to community members to provide employment assistance to individuals that have been impacted by the opioid crisis.

Local inspiration: My team at Addiction Treatment Service, specifically chief executive officer Paula Lipinski and chief clinical officer Susan Connor-Herrera. Both of these women are educated, empathetic, hardworking, adaptable, creative, and cultivate wellbeing, provide safety in our work culture and have a work/life balance. Those are qualities that I aspire to continue to grow into and maintain within my personal and professional development.

Regional economic impact: Employers in our area have employees who are in recovery and we at ATS assist in supporting them in their recovery. Employers have employees who are actively seeking services for substance use disorders and we provide a multitude of treatment interventions. Our efforts assist in sustaining and maintaining our local workforce.

Next big thing: We have so many exciting things still planned for this year. We recently worked hard to be awarded a grant for the PORCH at Addiction Treatment Services, which allows us to have big ideas about launching a recovery community center, providing community workshops, holding a speaker event, planning a conference, and so much more. Our future looks so bright.

Who knew: Who knew I would be where I am at today. I began my educational journey in early childhood education, dipped my toe in dietetics, and landed with a big splash getting my bachelor’s and master’s in social work.


 

Nate Crane, 39

Co-owner, Rare Bird Brewpub and Jacob’s Farm

Volunteerism/leadership: Michigan Audubon Society, raptor and waterbird migration counter at Whitefish Point; National Audubon Society, coordinator and compiler of the Traverse City Christmas bird count; TART, Safe Harbor, Grand Traverse Land Conservancy, Leelanau Land Conservancy

Highlight: Our first full season at Jacob’s Farm. It was a great feeling to see the years of planning and hard work pay off. Also 27 new life bird species!

Local inspiration: Matt Therrien, Lake Ann Brewing Company. Matt is a smart, community-focused businessperson. I greatly admire what he created with LAB and he is someone I go to for advice.

Regional economic impact: Owning two businesses, I employ 65 people. At Rare Bird and at Jacob’s Farm, we strive to buy local whenever possible.

Next big thing: Our business model at Jacob’s has continued to evolve. We just completed a new wedding and event venue, opening this fall.

Who knew: I was born and raised in Traverse City and I take a lot of pride in that.


 

Troy Daily, 36

Entrepreneur and business owner, Jacob’s Farm; Paddle for Pints; Brew Bus; TC Cycle Pub; Kayak, Bike & Brew; Elevated Property Management

Highlight: Opening Jacob’s Farm and turning it into an amazing wedding venue.

Local inspiration: My mom and dad, who have owned Kilwins Chocolate Shoppe in downtown Traverse City for the last 28 years. Their hard work and dedication to the community has inspired me throughout the years.

Regional economic impact: It’s an amazing feeling when people travel here and tell me and my staff they came here specifically to try out my experiences. Those people staying here, spending money at local business, and supporting staff is incredible for our entire community.

Next big thing: Our almost three-years-in-the-making project out on Old Mission – to open a distillery, cocktail lounge, and coffee shop – is extremely exciting. I think it will be something very cool for Old Mission. In addition, our 400-person wedding venue at Jacob’s Farm is newly complete; we welcomed our first wedding celebration on Aug. 20.

Who knew: I had a stutter growing up (and still have it!) that I never let stop me from doing the things I wanted to do.

Biggest fan: “If there could only be one winner (for 40Under40), I think Troy is most deserving. He has taken many concepts to reality. His companies like Kayak, Bike & Brew, Paddle for Pints, and Brew Bus bring nearly 12,000 people through our doors each year. All of my communications and dealings with Troy have results. He simply follows through to the finish. He employs many people in our city, and his offerings bring tourists to the region, where they spend money in hotels, restaurants, downtown shops, and bars. I believe there is no ceiling with his vision.” – Russell Springsteen, Right Brain Brewery


 

Edith Elliott, 38

Co-CEO/Co-founder, Noora Health

Highlight: In the past year, these three things happened: 1) I gave a TED Talk on the main stage in Vancouver; 2) Noora Health won TED’s Audacious Prize and I was named an awardee for the Skoll Foundation’s 2022 Skoll Award for Social Innovation; and 3) I was a speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which was really incredible, since my first job out of undergrad was with the Aspen Institute. That felt like a full-circle moment.

Local inspiration: Kristen Berlacher, director of programs and marketing for Airbnb.org. Kristen is an incredible leader in the social sector, an inspiring mama, a wonderful friend, and my go-to for the best hikes, meals, and secret spots in the area.

Regional economic impact: I have met so many interesting people doing work in the social sector, and hope that some of my learnings from running Noora have been helpful to them. I have certainly learned so much from them.

Next big thing: Over the next six years, Noora Health will support 70 million families to care for their loved ones at home, reducing readmission rates at hospitals and saving lives.

Who knew: I never forget a face and can remember the most obscure and specific details about a story someone tells…but I am terrible at remembering names.

Biggest fan: “Edith is a truly humble power woman. You might not know it from her down-to-earth demeanor, but she co-founded and launched Noora Health less than 10 years ago and they have since gone on to empower women and families across India and Bangladesh, impacting literally millions of lives. If you haven’t watched Edith’s TED Talk at the 2022 Audacious Project Awards event yet, go watch it right now – she is stellar!” – Camille Hoisington, Traverse Connect


 

Cyrus Ghaemi, D.O., 35

Chief Clinical Officer and Family Medicine Physician, Traverse Health Clinic

Volunteerism/leadership: Esperance Community Teaching Kitchen, steering committee; Traverse City’s Sakura Bonsai Club

Highlight: Joining the Traverse Health Clinic team in July was a truly special honor for me. Being a part of the leadership team at this community health center, in addition to caring directly for patients, feels like a uniquely impactful way to support the health and vibrancy of the individuals and families that make up our community. In this role, I hope to use my skills as a physician – along with intersectional and systems thinking, facilitation, and passion for equity – to engage within our organization and with other local groups focused on health and well-being.

Regional economic impact: I think that in providing compassionate and comprehensive health care and building deep relationships with the people that I serve, I am not only working to improve the health of the individual, but also the health of the community as a whole by fostering self-care, interdependence and creative thinking. Through this work and advocacy for healthier policies and systems, we can contribute to an ever more vibrant place to live.

Next big thing: Supporting the efforts of the Traverse Health Clinic’s Mobile Medical Unit, in partnership with Munson Family Practice, to provide outreach and support to vulnerable individuals in our communities.

Who knew: I’m a weird plant enthusiast! I grow all kinds of carnivorous plants, such as sundews and pitcher plants, and also design and care for bonsai trees.

Biggest fans: “Cyrus is a voice for understanding and inclusion. He’s open about his experiences as a person of color living in northern Michigan, and endeavors to work with others to make this, in his words, ‘A more equitable place where all people can thrive.’” – Arlene Brennan, CEO, Traverse Health Clinic

“By providing access to affordable healthcare options, Cyrus is a champion for helping people live happier, healthier lives where they are able to achieve their goals and be productive members of our community.” – Mi Stanley, Traverse Health Clinic


 

Tyler Glaze, 34

Chief Operating Officer, Short’s Brewing Company

Highlight: Navigating the pandemic supply chain problems while upgrading utility infrastructure, kegging systems, pasteurization and canning operations with my incredible team. We worked hard to make sure that our employees didn’t risk losing their income when the world made it very difficult to make beer.

Local inspiration: Tony Hansen, chief innovation officer and head brewer at Short’s. Tony is one of the hardest-working people at our company. He has been a great mentor, an awesome co-worker, and a great friend throughout my career here, and he never seeks recognition except for the satisfaction of a job well done.

Regional economic impact: Short’s has created hundreds of jobs with great benefits for so many families here in the region, with over $6 million in wages paid to employees in 2021. We also provide attainable, subsidized employee housing, thanks to our purchase of the Bellaire Inn near our pub in Bellaire. And our beers, ciders, wines, and sodas are sold throughout Michigan (and beyond!) and provide products to thousands of restaurants, bars, and grocery stores.

Next big thing: I am working to develop a community cooperative digester to create responsible and economical disposal opportunities for food waste, and to create renewable energy to be utilized by local farmers and food producers in the Grand Traverse region.

Who knew: In my spare time, I’ve started to build homes from the ground up to provide more housing options in Traverse City.

Biggest fan: “Tyler is hard-working, dedicated, and passionate. He rose up at Short’s Brewing from intern to COO in a short period of time through an ability to learn and absorb information.  He is both a colleague and friend at this point, and is always looking at the wellbeing of others around him.” – Scott Newman-Bale, Short’s Brewing Co.


 

Raul Gomez, 36

Farmer and Chief Operating Officer, Third Coast Fruit Co.

Volunteerism/leadership: Member of Interlochen Public Radio Community Advisory Council

Highlight: Our continuous growth, specifically the completion of crucial infrastructure for our cherry packing facility and most importantly the completion of a 60-person housing facility. It will be a crucial part of our being able to assure that we can meet out labor needs, as well as those of other farmers in our community.

Local inspiration: There are two, Thomas Menzel and Isaiah Wunsch. I first met Tom Menzel in 2017, as we started establishing our farms. His curiosity and eagerness to learn our business led to me asking a lot of questions about his background and his accomplishments. That led to many conversations about leadership and management and really focusing on the people you hire and how they should complement your business vision and goals. He’s always willing to take time out of his day to offer advice, whether on financing, balancing growth, and most importantly making sure we have a healthy amount of balance of work and family.

The other is my business partner and long-time friend Isaiah Wunsch, CEO of Third Coast Fruit Company (Wunsch Farms). Isaiah’s commitment and vision to our business has led to our rapid growth and continuous success, all while continuing to be a strong leader in our community. That includes such things as being a strong advocate and working hard to assure Old Mission Peninsula school remained open. Now it also includes his role as township supervisor. All while continuing to lead our farm and packing business. He also continues to find and open markets for northern Michigan-grown cherries.

Regional economic impact: We have a large need for labor, so we will continue to create jobs. More importantly, our ability to find markets and pack certain commodities has allowed us to buy fruit from local farmers such as apricots, nectarines and pears. We also continue to encourage people to buy local through our business relationships with Cherry Capital Foods and Oryana.

Next big thing: Using our current business model and infrastructure to pack and sell other commodities and provide an outlet for other farmers in our community for their apples, peaches, and plums.

Who knew: I was an elementary teacher before my current job.


 

Thomas Graber, 32

Senior Program Director, Grand Traverse Bay YMCA

Volunteerism/leadership: Child Advocacy Center Prevention Council; Youth Sports Peer Network Lead (resource and point person for all youth sports directors at YMCAs across Michigan, hosting quarterly meetings to discuss trends and assisting in program quality and growth across the state); Camps Convening, a group of northern Michigan camp directors who meet to share resources, discuss trends/things to look out for, review licensing changes.

Highlight: In addition to my regular role, in 2021 we did not have a branch manager in Petoskey for six months. During that time I was responsible for leading its board of directors and staff and providing guidance for its programming and events (Hannah Larson took over the position in June). The second highlight of the year was taking leadership in additional sports programming after our longtime sports director retired. The first major program that I took over was youth lacrosse. We had a successful spring and summer session with over 100 kids participating in the program. The teams had great success in tournaments around the state with several of our players receiving scholarship opportunities at the college level.

Local inspiration: Kyle Konas, owner and founder of Shift Health Center. Kyle is driven to better the health of our community. He has been relentless in growing his business and consistently gives back to nonprofits in the area. Kyle truly cares about his patients and their wellness journey. The success of his business has a direct correlation with the energy and effort he puts in each day. He has built a great team that has had a positive impact on our community.

Regional economic impact: Recreation is imperative to the wellness of individuals, families, and our community as a whole. Through programming and general membership, the Y is contributing to the well-being of the community in many different ways. We provide an outlet for socialization, physical fitness, teamwork through sports and a place where people can feel a sense of belonging. From infants at our Child Care Center to active older adults, it truly is a place for all. Our Summer Day Camp program serves over 200 kids each summer. This gives parents the peace of mind knowing they can continue to work throughout the summer months while their kids are having fun in a safe environment.

Next big thing: My focus over the next year is on the growth and stabilization of our YMCA of Northern Michigan Branch. With our new branch director, I believe we have the opportunity to have significant growth in childcare and youth sports programming in the area.

Who knew: My wife and I just welcomed our son Gavin into the world on 7/7/2022. Our toddler, Teagan, is a great big sister and is thoroughly enjoying having a baby brother to love on.


 

Lauren Harris, 37

Employee Benefits Specialist, Advantage Benefits Group

Volunteerism/leadership: Venture North board of directors, marketing committee chair; Goodwill of Northern Michigan board of directors, governance committee chair; Impact 100, member; Traverse Connect, government relations committee; Traverse Area Human Resource Association

Local inspiration: Beth McMall is an incredible leader and mentor for women in business. A former principal at Rehmann from the Saginaw region, Beth continues to support and empower women in their careers by using grace and empowerment.

Regional economic impact: As we work to diversify our local economy, attracting and retaining talent to fuel our local businesses is critical. In my role, I have the privilege of creating strategies to help employers accomplish this aim with their employee benefits and business succession planning. The strategies we curate by using the latest technology and resources help employers maintain incredible benefits while saving money to invest in their businesses.

Next big thing: I can’t give too much away, but I am currently working on a new solution that our firm will be offering to employers in the next 12 months.

Who knew: I love to eat hot sauce – on nearly everything.

Biggest fan: “Lauren’s experience and fresh ideas to create exceptional and sustainable employee benefit packages will ensure employers are equipped to attract, retain, and grow our local talent and economy for our community.” – Matthew Harris, Epic Powersports


 

Matt Hodges, 38

Owner and broker, Kultura Luxury Real Estate Group

Volunteerism/leadership: Aspire North REALTOR Association; Michigan REALTORS; Mid-Michigan Honor Flight

Highlight: After 15 years selling real estate, I opened my own firm, Kultura Group, which was both intimidating and exciting. We have built and branded a great company that we are incredibly proud of. We have big goals, but growing slow is what we are doing now. We also opened a rental management company in 2022 and plan to grow that as the market allows.

Regional economic impact: Opening a company in 2021 – and then hiring Lauren Tracey, our client concierge, to help run the office – was a large accomplishment for us. We have also used so many local vendors to help build our brand and open a beautiful brick-and-mortar office in downtown Traverse City. We cannot wait to continue our growth in the region.

Next big thing: I have big plans to open a couple more offices, including potentially out of state. But that’s just a dream for now. I am more about slow and smart growth at the moment.

Who knew: I served as a SeaBee in the United States Navy Reserves from 2004 to 2008. Service means a lot to me. I guess I taught my kids that too since my oldest, Madison, just enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and will likely be shipping out as this publication hits newsstands!

Biggest fan: “Service is in Matt’s blood. Regardless of what he is doing, you will see and understand his leadership, responsibility, dignity, trustworthiness, and perseverance shine through.” – Lauren Tracey, Kultura Group


 

Jamie Kidwell-Brix, 37

Owner/Brewer, Earthen Ales

Volunteerism/leadership: Fermenta; Brewers Association; Michigan Brewers Guild; Brown Bridge Advisory Committee

Highlight: I was elected to the executive board of Fermenta, a women’s craft collective. As a woman in the beer industry, I’m finding it more important than ever before that our voice becomes stronger, and I’m committed to learning how to be a better advocate in my community. Last August, Earthen Ales also partnered with MI Local Hops, Empire Malting, and Fermenta to host a scholarship to introduce women to brewing ingredients in northern Michigan.

Local inspiration: Chuck Korson of Fortunate Coffee. Owning a business and holding yourself to a certain set of standards is challenging. Chuck is one of the most thoughtful business owners that I’ve met. He remains committed to bettering the community through social justice and equity initiatives, giving back, and seeing business beyond profit.

Regional economic impact: At the brewery, we like to say that beer goes beyond the pint. To me, making beer is about building community. We located our brewery at The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, where we are part of a larger community of businesses and get to be a small part of the adaptive reuse of a monumental historic property. We do our best as a business to benefit our community by being a good employer, by donating to organizations like TART Trails that better our community, and by providing a safe, inclusive ‘third place’ for our customers.

Who knew: I used to be an urban planner.

Biggest fan: “Jamie is definitely one of the hardest-working people I know. The day I met her and tried her beer for the first time, I knew we would be friends forever. It was clear to me that she put a lot of thought, hard work and love into making her beers, and I believe she takes those qualities and directs them toward the rest of her life. She surrounds herself with great people, she is helpful – even if she has no time to help, she will still figure it out – and she believes in community and puts herself out there to try and help ours. Anyone who gets to drink her beer or gets to know Jamie is better for it. She makes the world a better place, and I for one and glad I get to be part of hers.” – Kim Fish, The Cheese Lady


 

Courtney Lorenz, 31

Founder & Idealist, Cultured Kombucha Co.

Volunteerism/leadership: Big Brothers Big Sister of Northwest Michigan; Kombucha Brewers International; Sara Hardy Farmers Market; American Culinary Federation

Highlight: In the last 12 months, Cultured Kombucha Co. has doubled its retail store partnerships and expanded into Ohio and Indiana. We’ve successfully reintroduced our draft program post-pandemic and restored it to full capacity while doubling our draft lines in the state of Michigan. Additionally, this year we took on a team of sales interns and greatly enjoyed the learning opportunities!

Local inspiration: Annie Olds has shown her dedication to small business success in the Grand Traverse region. She has first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to be in the trenches running a small business. She also has worked to support the Small Business Development Corporation and Venture North through her professional career.

Regional economic impact: Creating a sustainable job is always a significant impact economically. We pride ourselves on creating unique positions that diversify the knowledge base of the workforce in northern Michigan. This year our goal was internal collaboration and our team created an internal burnout prevention policy. Food and beverage jobs experience high levels of pressure and turnover in summer months in northern Michigan. We came together to find ways that we can ensure a sustainable operation without driving ourselves into the ground.

Next big thing: A surprise new partnership in the fall and a new product line launch in January. Shh – can’t tell you quite yet!

Who knew: Outside of my business degree, I have a degree in culinary arts. I was certified through the ACF as a pastry chef and had a wedding cake business for a few years. In juxtaposition, I also have a degree in nutrition to balance out the sweet treats.


 

Rob Marsh, 33

Digital Branding Leader, Bill Marsh Auto Group

Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse City Young Professionals (TCYP), chair; City Opera House, board member

Highlight: We’ve reinvigorated TCYP to better suit the needs of local young professionals coming out of the pandemic. As restrictions began to loosen in the fall of 2021, we saw an opportunity to restructure our programming to focus on connecting young professionals to one another – a clear desire among our membership after months of Zoom calls and virtual events. Since then, we’ve seen record attendance at our events and participation in our committees.

Local inspiration: I could say a lot of things about my friend and mentor, Rachel Johnson, including her work at Cherryland Electric Cooperative or her service to Northwestern Michigan College. But what inspires me most about her is that she is a big thinker. She looks to the future with creativity and has an innate ability to be two steps ahead of any problem in her path.

Regional economic impact: Now more than ever, young professionals have the freedom to choose the place they call home. That choice can be rooted in a lot of things, but often it is their personal and professional relationships that bind them to a community. I love my hometown and know what it can offer the next generation. If I can help connect young professionals to this community and create opportunities for meaningful and lasting relationships, then I’m all in.

My next big thing: TCYP is exploring adding a conference to our programming in 2023. While it will certainly contain a leadership development element, we are focused on providing a large-scale opportunity for young professionals to connect and network.

Who knew: Before I found my passion for marketing and communications, it was my goal to be an actor on Broadway. I’ve always loved to perform, whether it be acting, singing, or playing instruments. Now, I save my performances for my daughters and the occasional company TikTok video.


 

Meghan McDermott, 31

Deputy Director, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities

Volunteerism/leadership: Groundwork, Commongrounds board member; Food Rescue advisory board;  Sara Hardy Farmers Market advisory board; Northwest Food Coalition operating committee member

Highlight: Seeing 10 Cents a Meal receive $9.3 million in this year’s state budget. It is a state-funded program providing schools and early childhood education centers with match incentive funding of up to 10 cents per meal to purchase and serve Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables and legumes.

Local inspiration: Kris Thomas, a tireless champion for equitable access to healthy, local food in our region. Kris’s work inspired me to stay in Traverse City after my two years of service with FoodCorps were up. She is diligent, humble and perseveres with a quiet conviction that not only gets the job done but also makes everyone around her feel supported and a part of something larger. The impact of her 2014 study on food insecurity in the five-county area cannot be overstated.

Regional economic impact: There was a really incredible moment about six months ago where the Purchasing Committee for the Northwest Food Coalition realized that this group of food pantries, meal sites, community mental health centers, etc. might actually be making up a significant portion of local food sales. The Coalition has purchased over $275,000 in local fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat in recent years, and 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms has grown from a $30,000 local pilot project to a $9.3 million statewide program this year. That’s a lot of local food!

Next big thing: Making passenger rail a reality (finally!) Thanks to many years of local advocacy and championship by State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, northern Michigan is well-positioned to see the return of passenger rail service in years to come. I am excited to see the opportunities to connect northern Michigan to the rest of the state expand beyond single car travel (or lengthy bus rides).

Who knew: I am the oldest of nine, but was an only child until the age of 11.


 

Marc S. McKellar, 36

Partner, Kuhn Rogers PLC

Volunteerism/leadership: Adams Chapter of Trout Unlimited; Brook Trout Coalition; Kingsley Downtown Development Authority; Kingsley Brownfield Redevelopment Authority; Kingsley Friends of the Library

Highlight: Representing developers in various housing projects which received approval. These projects provided everything from traditional single-family homes, to manufactured housing, to condos and apartments, to assisted living and full care units. Together, these projects will offer a broad selection of housing options needed in our community.

Local inspiration: Connie Deneweth, CEO of Traverse City State Bank. What strikes me is her breadth of knowledge and interests. I’m always impressed with her seemingly endless capacity to give of her time for great causes and people. She doesn’t seek the spotlight but will make sure those that deserve it are given the shine. She is always willing to listen to those that have a different view and is caring, compassionate, and fair. She is successful in business because of all these attributes, but the thing that impresses me most is that she genuinely understands that it costs nothing to be nice.

Regional economic impact: I’m not sure I have done anything that has had an impact! After all, it’s my clients that have developed the ideas, put up the capital, and staked their names and reputations for the development projects I work on. But I’m proud to assist them in their project transactions and approvals.

Who knew: I’m a cigar aficionado.

Biggest fan: “An especially important figure in the Kingsley area, Marc always has those in his community in mind. He is often sought for advice and helps to facilitate meaningful connections. In his work as an attorney specializing in land use and zoning, he is often on the front lines of local developments and projects that benefit the people of our region. He is a leader who gets things done by always putting others before himself.” – Max Anderson, Honor Bank


 

Abagail McKiernan, 33

Founder and Executive Director, Spark in the Dark; Marketing Coordinator, RJG Inc.

Volunteerism/leadership: TCNewTech; Phoenix House; Swingshift and the Stars

Highlight: A tough choice between putting out the Spark in the Dark 2021 impact report – showing that we have connected over 71,000 needs since 2017 – and being offered the marketing coordinator position at RJG Inc., a highly esteemed Traverse City company.

Local inspiration: I choose the 24,855 members of Spark in the Dark, including the 18 Spark volunteers, that show up every single day with a heart to help anyone who needs it.

Regional economic impact: I am consistently humbled by the way Spark in the Dark is impacting communities across Michigan. While I would love to take all the credit, the truth is that I am just one person. I firmly believe that the desire to make an impact through helping and loving others is deeply rooted in each of us and that we often just need the opportunity and space to do so. I am so thankful that I have been able to create that space and ignite that spark for so many others.

Next big thing: Two major things! First, I am working on a new company called HelpLink, a website where individuals can ask for help with specific and unique needs. The site ensures that 100% of the money spent by the giver goes to the person in need, creating a self-sustaining helping model that does not require donations, grants, or fundraisers. Second is Mental Wellness Fund, a partnership between Illuminate My Life Counseling services and Spark in the Dark that assists those who need mental health counseling but cannot afford it in getting the help they need in the Traverse City area.

Who knew: Even though I have had a brief stint as a radio host, spoken on dozens of stages in the last few years, and am a regular interviewee on television and radio stations across Michigan, I got a D- in my college public speaking class! My professor was kind enough to give me a D- instead of failing me purely because he liked me, but I couldn’t get on a stage to speak in front of my class without bursting into nervous and fearful tears.


 

Tiffany McQueer, 39

Owner, J&S Hamburg South Airport; president, Project Feed the Kids

Volunteerism/leadership: Project Feed the Kids

Highlight: When we hit 100,000 free meals. I have never been so proud. Our nonprofit feeds kids, veterans, elderly, homeless – anyone with food insecurities. We have an adopt-a-family for Christmas program that helped over 400 families last year. We also added two more locations for Project Feed the Kids this year. We have a cooler in Traverse, Kingsley and now Kalkaska.

Local inspiration: My husband/business partner Jason McQueer. We have worked side-by-side owning the restaurant for the last 10 years. I am inspired each day by his selflessness, kindness and drive to help others. He keeps going no matter what, and he never gives up. He loves our staff like they are family. He is a great father to our children. He is my best friend and such an amazing inspiration.

Regional economic impact: With rapidly increasing food costs we are able to provide relief for families in need.

Next big thing: We have a lot of fundraisers for Project Feed the Kids coming up, including a pig roast Sept. 18. We are gearing up for our adopt-a-family Christmas program. We are looking into getting a Project Feed the Kids 5K road race in the future. We have huge plans to help as many families as we can.

Biggest fan: “That girl has had so many adversities in her life. She’s like an Energizer bunny. Jason is an incredible cook and father, and she absolutely keeps it (the restaurant) running. She started Project Feed the Kids and got donations. I just took her ideas and made them visible. That girl has done it all.” – Ralph Starek, the artist/designer, J&S South Airport and Project Feed the Kids


 

Taylor Moore, 31

Food Rescue Manager, Goodwill Northern Michigan

Volunteerism/leadership: Northwest Food Coalition; Career Tech Center AgriScience and Natural Resources Advisory Council; MSU Extension advisory board; Rotary Charities Systems Change Community of Practice; Leelanau Indivisible; Leelanau Conservancy Collective

Highlight: In order to ensure a food secure region, we must, in part, transform our spaces to meet the future needs of the community. In a culmination of years of work, we accomplished Phase I of two phases of a warehouse remodel. It will provide our community a space to ensure that those who dedicate their labor to increasing access to healthy food and decreasing food waste have the tools they need to do their work with respect and dignity for years to come.

Local inspiration: Jonathan Aylward was remarkable with his sharing of visions of food forests, of abundance, of encouraging others to spiritually and playfully respect and enjoy our Mother Earth. Jonathan died this year but his vision lives on through our memories and the Edible Trails fruit trees he planted. He is among those who have envisioned and clearly articulated a better community, one that prioritizes justice, peace and humanity. To share your vision, your opinion can be both inspiring and dangerous, it can make you feel alone. Jonathan inspires me to take more time to envision a more equitable and compassionate world and to not be afraid to speak out.

Regional economic impact: Michigan’s total ‘hunger bill’ comes to an unconscionable $5.51 billion dollars per year in healthcare costs, educational costs, lost productivity, and lower lifetime earnings. Even with the essential and extraordinary community effort to rescue nearly $3.3 million dollars in food per year, the cost of maintaining a system that allows for children to go hungry in the face of excess needs to keep us up at night. With such abundance, we ought to have no neighbor without the basic needs to live a healthy, happy life.

Next big thing: Organizing and advocating for a living wage and decision-making power for local nonprofit employees. Nonprofit workers provide essential services to our most marginalized neighbors. If we want to ensure sustained care for children who are abused, depressed, and hungry; elders who are immobile and isolated; and adults who are experiencing homelessness and addiction, then we must also ensure that those workers have the resources they need, that their expertise is sought after, and that they have a voice and a vote in boardroom and community decisions.

Who knew: I live in Maple City which is located on the ancestral, traditional, and contemporary lands of the Anishinaabeg – the Three Fires Confederacy of the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and the Potawatomi peoples.


 

Leah Moskovitz, 28

Financial and Grant Manager, Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency (NMCAA)

Volunteerism/leadership: Safe Harbor; Sleeping Bear Gateways Council; Leelanau County Farmers Market Association; Traverse Area Human Resources Association

Highlight: Beginning my career at Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency (NMCAA). I am proud to be a member of an organization that does so much for our community and strengthens the 10-county area by empowering people to overcome barriers, build connections and improve their quality of life. I am excited to help oversee grant writing and financial management for our weatherization and home repair programs within the Housing Energy and Efficiency Services department.

Local inspiration: Ryan Hannon has been a huge inspiration to me since moving here. His selflessness and compassion for ending homelessness has inspired me directly to realign my professional goals toward helping the community. Ryan advocates for long-term solutions for people to achieve housing and helps provide many resources to those directly on the street. His advocacy at the agency, local, regional, and national level is outstanding and the impact he has on this community is lasting.

Regional economic impact: I am truly honored to be a part of NMCAA’s mission to help community members by linking them to services, resources, and opportunities. It is a privilege to be involved with housing improvement and development activities for homeowners with income below 80% of the area median income, as well as weatherization activities that provide free energy conservation services to low-income households. By being able to supply these services, we’re able to update existing occupied housing units and promote energy efficiency to households throughout the 10-county region. This also means that there is an individual short-term benefit and immediate impact on the household itself while facilitating a long-term community benefit that improves the current housing inventory.

Next big thing: I am currently in the works of starting up a bread business that specifically sells challah bread! I hope to call it Challah at Leah…stay tuned!

Who knew: I am excited to serve on Safe Harbor’s volunteer committee for the 2022-2023 season!


 

Warner Queeny, 39

Head of Finance, Dunzo

Highlight: In the last year, the team at Dunzo (a grocery delivery service in India) has raised $240 million to fuel our growth, and the business is up over 200%. Another major accomplishment: My wife and I managed to fly to India and back with our two-year-old without any major incidents!

Local inspiration: My wife, Edith Elliott, is the CEO of Noora Health and has been able to have a massive impact on India and Bangladesh through her work, all while being located here in Michigan. The challenges with this arrangement are enormous. Her team is 8,000 miles away, with a 10-hour time difference. Yet, they are probably the most productive and happy group of people I’ve ever seen. I take inspiration from her daily as I try to motivate and align my team while facing a similar set of constraints.

Regional economic impact: I’ve loved being part of Traverse City, and have had the opportunity to meet with several brilliant young entrepreneurs here. One of the most satisfying parts of my life has been working with these people to think through how to scale their businesses and eliminate the blockers for their growth.

My next big thing: Growing Dunzo is my biggest thing right now.

Who knew: I love making pizza.

Biggest fan: “Warner Queeny. I’ve worked with him extensively and I’m a big fan. He’s a quick study; really bright, really sharp. He’s thorough, rigorous, effective at focusing on what counts and filtering out noise. He’s genuine: When he says it, you can count on it. And he’s all-in: When he commits to it, you can count on it.” – Casey Cowell, Boomerang Catapult


 

Andrew Raymond, 38

Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Kalkaska Memorial Health Center

Volunteerism/leadership: Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, Board of Education Treasurer at Traverse City Area Public Schools, member of the TCAPS Board Finance and Operations Committee, member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, member of the Small Hospital Council of the Michigan Hospital Association, member of the CFO Council of the Michigan Hospital Association

Highlight: Kalkaska Memorial Health Center has seen significant growth over the past few years. We truly have a jewel of a hospital for the northern Michigan community. Recently, we broke ground on a new emergency department and inpatient unit. These upgrades to the facility will further expand the hospital’s capabilities to improve the health and quality of life for even more of our community closer to where they live.

Local inspiration: Lindsay Raymond. Lindsay and her partners have successfully created their own unique all-female law firm. Not only is Lindsay an extremely accomplished attorney who goes above and beyond for her clients, she somehow also finds time to give back to the community in numerous ways. Lindsay is genuine, intelligent, kind, talented and funny. From all of her successes, I know she would be most proud of her two daughters.

Regional economic impact: It is very evident that the area is growing in population. That increase in population requires additional services, including access to healthcare. I am proud to be part of an organization that has risen to the challenge to increase access to care, recruit and retain staff to provide that care, and do so in a way that allows for patients to be cared for in their community, close to home.

Next big thing: Recently, the TCAPS Board of Education passed a true strategic plan. This plan was the culmination of a process that took many months of work, and was shaped by thousands of voices from the community. I am running for re-election to the TCAPS board of education, and would feel very privileged to continue to work for our kids and help put this plan into place.

Who knew: I worked for a landscaping company in high school and college. We mostly installed landscapes for new homes. It was hot, hard work, but I learned numerous skills that I am able to use at our own home to this day.


 

Lindsay J. Raymond, 37

Attorney, Partner/Owner, Danbrook Adams Raymond, PLC

Volunteerism/leadership: Member and grant review chair of the board of directors for Impact100 Traverse City; member of Old Town Playhouse board of trustees; member of the Traverse Area Human Resources Association; member of GTLA, Michigan, and Virginia bar associations

Highlight: DAR recently celebrated our five-year anniversary and moved to a new location in July, now occupying our own building with more space and a private parking lot. Self-employment has been a challenging and rewarding adventure, and I am humbled and grateful that our firm continues to be embraced by this community.

Local inspiration: Tonya Wildfong, director of communications and marketing at Team Elmer’s. Her enduring positivity is infectious and her heart is pure gold. A businesswoman and mom who can truly do it all!

Regional economic impact: I am a small business owner and assist employers in our region with their legal needs. In my personal time, I am so excited about the nearly $1.8 million Impact100 TC will have awarded to 16 nonprofits in our region in a period of only six years. These funds go directly to providing needed services in our community and have an amazing impact on our economy.

Next big thing: I am stepping my feet back into the pool of the performing arts and joined the cast of the OTP’s 2022 Gala. Now that my girls are getting older, I have more time to try singing and dancing again!

Who knew: As a mezzo-soprano in my pre-law days, I won a concerto competition and performed two selections wearing a dreamy red ballgown in the winner’s concert with a full symphony.


 

Stephanie Rustem, 34

Program and Fundraising Coordinator, Discovery Center & Pier

Volunteerism/leadership: Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, board of directors; Zonta Club of Traverse City; Rotary Club of Traverse City; Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education

Highlight: Securing my first major grant for the Discovery Pier project after joining the Discovery Center & Pier team in September 2021. I am so grateful for those that had the idea to transform a brownfield into a barrier-free park, and for the opportunity I have now to help make it come to fruition.

Regional economic impact: I am excited about the small role I am playing in diversity, equity and inclusion in our community. Through my work at Discovery Center & Pier and as a member of Groundwork’s Board Equity Committee, I am working to remove barriers for BIPOC communities, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people – and to create an inclusive community for all. I believe diverse perspectives, equitable opportunities and inclusivity are key components for a thriving regional economy.

My next big thing: In October, Discovery Center & Pier will break ground on the Discovery Pier improvement project, which will transform Traverse City’s old coal dock into a fee-free, barrier-free public park. I can’t wait to watch the space take shape and feel so lucky to be part of a project that will create a new community asset and make Great Lakes opportunities accessible for people of all ages, needs, and abilities.

Who knew: I was a nature play intern through the United State Fish and Wildlife Service’s first and only Nature Play Corps, during which I helped design and pilot test nature play areas at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in East Lake, North Carolina.

Biggest fan: “Stephanie is a rising star in the nonprofit field. As Discovery Center’s first program and fundraising coordinator, her collaborative mindset builds bridges between organizations that serve underprivileged segments of our population and our nonprofit and business partners at the Pier. Leveraging the strengths of our partners and her strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, Stephanie breaks down barriers to make recreational and educational opportunities accessible for all.” – Matt McDonough, Discovery Center


 

Tina Schuett, 36

Owner/Brewer, Rare Bird Brewpub; Founder, Pour for More

Volunteerism/leadership: Northwest Michigan Community Development Coalition; Northern Michigan Women in Hospitality; Fermenta

Highlight: In the past year we’ve made a lot of small improvements at Rare Bird that have smoothed out our operations and made things more comfortable for patrons and staff. We created new seating in the front of the building and added awnings to add some more cozy outdoor seating, added several cocktails on tap to make service quick and easy, and increased our non-alcoholic beverage options about fivefold to make Rare Bird a more inviting space for sober people

Local inspiration: Cammie Buehler of Epicure Culinary. Cammie had a very successful catering and event space for many years. When the pandemic hit, she took a good look at the industry and decided it was time to move on. I respect her so much for this decision. She realized her work-life balance was way off and it was time for a change. Now, she has a more manageable life as a private chef and food consultant, and even started the Northern Michigan Women in Hospitality group, which brings together women in the food and beverage industry to network and empower one another.

Next big thing: Becoming a parent! My goal is to try and have a good work-life balance so I can be very present in my future child’s life. I am extremely fortunate to have amazing staff that allow me to take personal time and not be at the business 24/7.

Who knew: I have a growing obsession with mid-century furniture. I recently refinished my first antique piece and I’m hooked. It is so rewarding to take a piece of furniture that has seen better days and bring back the beauty in it.

Biggest fan: “Tina is a community-focused business owner who is always willing to help others and collaborate in any way she can. She frequently brews beers for a cause, and works with other female business owners in our area to support one another and lift each other up. She is committed to ensuring that Rare Bird is a welcoming and safe space for diverse audiences and is never afraid to speak up for what she feels is right.” – Terra Bogart, MSU Extension


 

Sally Smarsty, 39

Student Success Coordinator, Northwestern Michigan College

Volunteerism/leadership: Big Brothers Big Sisters of  Northwestern Michigan; Traverse City Recovery Community; NMC’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging Advisory Council

Highlight: NMC Welcome Week 2022! This past week, we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming over 300 dorm students to campus, and welcoming the entire NMC community back for fall. What I’m most proud of about this moment is the amazing Student Success team – the student ambassadors, the coaches, and the support crew – who give their time to help others find connections and succeed. The team that we’ve created will have an impact on thousands of students in years to come. It takes a village, and I’m so proud of ours!

Local inspiration: Lindsey Dickinson. Lindsey is a professional in every way, and her passion for helping others shows every day in her position as director of academic advising at NMC. She is active in her community, the best mom, and the most incredible friend.

Regional economic impact: Creating an environment for students to feel like they belong and have a sense of community is imperative to helping students reach their college goals. Whether it’s taking a class to brush up on Excel skills, earning a credential to move up in a current position, or transferring to a four-year institution, helping students to feel supported and find success directly impacts our region’s economy. Students that complete their goals and earn credentials are then available to fill the skills needed here in northern Michigan. In addition, with 16 years clean, my involvement with the local recovery community allows me to help people facing addiction find their way back into higher education and provides them with extra support.

Next big thing: Travel! I love to meet new people and experience new cultures. The pandemic put a hold on international travel for me. Now that my son Rome is four years old, it’s time to head overseas and show him the world.

Who knew: I have a BS in Mathematics from Grand Valley State University, and was a software developer-turned-mainframe systems programmer for almost 10 years before transitioning into higher education. I’m still the IT help person for many of my pals and colleagues!


 

Geoff Streit, 39

Vice President of Commercial Lending, 4Front Credit Union

Volunteerism/leadership: Homestretch Nonprofit Housing Corporation, president; Old Mission Peninsula School, board member; Charlie Golf One, board member

Highlight: I spent all of January recovering from a ruptured Achilles and was unable to drive or really walk. Many clients still wanted face-to-face meetings and they were understanding enough to either come to my home or pick me up for a meeting. I am proud that so many of the people I work with are also people I am able to call friends.

Local inspiration: Skyler Fort, owner of Fortified Coatings. Seeing his growth as a business owner and a human being has been really cool. From a guy with a truck to now providing employee housing as part of his business, watching his belief in himself grow over the years has been inspiring.

Regional economic impact: In the last year I’ve helped over 100 different business owners or local investors. Driving around Traverse City and the surrounding communities, I find joy in seeing the businesses I was able to help get started.

Next big thing: This year, my eldest daughter will be a junior at West Senior High. Even talking about college makes this part of the journey seem surreal.

Biggest fan: “Geoff is a passionate advocate for small business. He strives daily to find the best opportunities for his clients to not only grow short-term, but to thrive in the long-term. These last two years have been extremely trying for many small businesses, and Geoff was working 18-hour days to ensure that everyone was getting the help they needed.” – Holly Hack, EXIT Realty Paramount


 

Gina Thornbury, 39

Program and Grants Manager, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation

Volunteerism/leadership: BEST Benzie County, leadership team; Northwestern Lower MiSTEM Region, Advisory Council member; Traverse Bay Children’s Advocacy Center, Prevention Council member; American Brain Tumor Association, mentor and volunteer

Highlight: Our team at the Community Foundation knows that, as a leader in local philanthropy, we must be committed to using our resources and voice to help create a future where all people have the ability to reach their full potential. In 2021, we created our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fund, which supports DEI efforts in our region, including by providing support for organizations led by BIPOC, LGBTQ+, immigrant, neurodiverse, or members of the disability community. So far, we’ve awarded over $40,000 to support a wide variety of projects in our region.

Regional economic impact: Through my work at the Community Foundation, I have a hand in investing more than $3 million each year back to the region in grants and scholarships. This is a community I grew up in and care about deeply, so it’s truly amazing to be able to give back in this way.

Next big thing: I am focusing on continuing to serve our community in a positive way, as well as making more space to create art and to travel.

Who knew: I am an artist and free spirit at heart. I keep creativity in my life through gardening, cooking, writing, and painting.

Biggest fan: “Gina’s leadership, although not always visible to others, is having a dramatic and sustained effect on northern Michigan. Her dedication to our community and her unique skills related to community development, grantmaking, and youth leadership make her a dynamic influencer not just today but also for generations to come.” – Steven Wade, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation


 

Jonathan Timm, 38

Founder and Clinical Executive, North Arrow ABA

Volunteerism/leadership: Michigan Behavior Analysis Provider Association, quality committee chair

Highlight: Receiving a three-year accreditation for North Arrow ABA from the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence and scoring a 97% on our clinical and business permanent products.

Regional economic impact: We have upped the ante for providers of Applied Behavior Analysis services in the area. We are the only locally-owned and operated ABA organization that serves our regions, and are proud to be practitioner-led. (Editor’s note: Applied Behavior Analysis is a type of therapy often used to help those affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder achieve gains in language and communication skills, attention and focus, social skills, and more.)

Next big thing: I would like to consider offering an alternative school placement for learners impacted by Autism Spectrum Disorder. Many families report interest in a program like this, and I think we have a lot to offer kids who need ABA fully integrated in a school setting.

Who knew: I write and play music regionally, with a band and under my own name as a solo artist.

Biggest fan: “Jon’s impact on individuals diagnosed with autism – and on their families – cannot be overstated. Effective ABA treatment can help provide a pathway to success in public school and to eventually find meaningful employment and become self-sufficient. Not only does Jon own and run a company that impacts hundreds of children in the region, but he personally treats some of the most challenging cases in the area.” – Michael Dow, North Arrow ABA


 

Jody Trietch, 39

Chief Financial Officer, Boomerang Catapult; Executive Director, Northern Michigan Angels; Owner, Taste the Local Difference

Volunteerism/leadership: Impact100 Traverse City, immediate past president; Goodwill Northern Michigan, board secretary; Traverse City Rotary Club; Grand Traverse County American Rescue Plan Committee

Highlight: Taking on the role of executive director for Northern Michigan Angels last November has given me the opportunity to lead an organization comprised of over 50 members with deep and diverse experience and expertise, furthering my exposure to the incredible passion and drive found in northern Michigan’s startup ecosystem. It’s all fulfilling work, but the most fun part was representing NMA and winning TCNewTech’s Reverse Investor Pitch night, at which I presented on angel investing.

Local inspiration: For nearly five years, Boomerang Catapult’s Managing Partner Lowell Gruman has been a mentor, colleague and friend. In that time, I’ve benefited from and witnessed his wise counsel to entrepreneurs as a resident expert on venture capital and a genuine supporter of others’ success. His ability to assess business strategy, negotiate, and articulate deal terms are only some of his vast skills amplified by his fair and good-humored approach.

Regional economic impact: The missions of each of my endeavors directly seed the growth of the region’s economy, from Taste the Local Difference’s support of local food growers and sellers to the cumulative investments of Northern Michigan Angels and Boomerang Catapult, which total over $20 million across 34 Michigan startups.

Next big thing: Training for a marathon requires a different form of mental and physical discipline than I’ve experienced before. Wish me luck as I point toward my first 26.2 mile race this October!

Who knew: Although my father passed away when I was 15, thanks to 23andMe and scraps of his original adoption papers, I’ve recently united with an entirely new, completely Finnish branch of my biological family tree.


 

Marta Turnbull, 34

Owner, Up North and Away; Director of Marketing and Business Development, ​​Stardust Memorials

Volunteerism/leadership: Justice for our Neighbor – Michigan; Up North Pride; Pour for More; World Central Kitchen; Save the Children; Direct Relief; Kyiv Pride

Highlight:The highlight of my year was seeing our communities’ reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine. I recently lived in Kyiv. Suddenly seeing my friends hiding in bomb shelters, waiting in lines at the borders and joining the military was unimaginable. I needed to do something. I made ‘asks’ of everyone I could think of, and hundreds of people and 50-plus businesses and community organizations said, ‘Yes!’ We hosted over a dozen community events, collected car loads of aid items, and donated tens of thousands of dollars to several organizations on the ground in Ukraine. We showered our local Ukrainian population in resources and love. Personally, I was able to relocate a friend of mine from Ukraine to Traverse City. All my Ukrainian friends are still living a nightmare, the war is far from over, but there is this community in Northern Michigan doing what it can. It means more to them than we’ll ever understand.

Local inspiration: Josh Anderson and Chad Hall who own Red Spire Brunch House are great business owners, advisors and friends. They hustle hard and take so much pride in their work. I regularly go to them for advice and to workshop new project ideas. They ask great questions, frame every challenge as manageable and are endlessly encouraging.

Regional economic impact: I’ve transitioned half of my short-term rental business into a diverse housing operation that includes long-term affordable housing, rotational housing, and free refugee housing. The economic impact is small, but it’s a business model that can be emulated to address our area’s labor and housing shortage. It’s people over profit. In my role with Stardust Memorials, we’ve been able to expand to compete with giants like Amazon and Walmart while staying a lean Traverse City-based, family-owned business that employs an all-female staff. We’re a small business with a huge heart and a lot of hustle.

Next big thing: I’m most excited about my involvement with Justice for Our Neighbors – MI. JFON offers pro bono legal services to low-income immigrants living in Michigan communities. We have a labor shortage. Getting more people legal and working contributes to our economy and creates cultural richness. I want to engage our manufacturing, hospitality, legal, and faith communities to change the immigrant narrative back into something that is celebrated. Look for upcoming events hosted in partnership with Amical. It’ll be a great night out.

Who knew:  Я говорю по-русски, но хочу изучать украинский. (Translation: I speak Russian, but I want to learn Ukrainian.) I have friends who are fighting in the Ukrainian army and many others who are displaced around the world. The war is still happening, and it’s so important that we continue to talk about it.


 

Jen Viren, 39

Owner/CEO, Taproot Cider House

Volunteerism/leadership: Women’s Resource Center, partner; Downtown Traverse City Association, member; Norte, Kids on the Go; Pour for More, business sponsor

Highlight: This past spring, I was met by a rare moment of peace, realizing I had made it through the most challenging two years of my professional career. Since March 16, 2020, I have spent countless sleepless nights focused on how to continue to support my employees and their families – as well as my own family – with the nearly constant looming fear of my restaurant closing like so many others across our country and around the world. Throughout that time, I managed to keep all of my employees who chose to stay employed. Taproot stayed open seven days a week and only shut down (by choice) a total of three times during the pandemic. We survived and continued to be able to serve our community and support other local businesses, and for this I am incredibly humbled and grateful.

Local inspiration: Our local farmers, who allow us to take a simple vegetable and turn it into a composed dish.

Regional economic impact: It has been my mission no matter where I am in life to support our local farms and businesses who care about the health of our community and environment. I currently employ nearly 50 locals who are able to make a living wage and feel proud of their work. Our team also continues to grow, encouraging tourism while focusing on leaving behind a minimal carbon footprint.

Next big thing: In 2019 my husband and I purchased 32 acres just five miles from downtown Traverse City. We are currently working on regenerating our wild land through organic practices, with minimal disturbances. We are in the process of establishing five acres of fruit trees, raising livestock, and growing herbs and vegetables – all to be fused into our Taproot Cider House menu. The raw scraps from the restaurant are even fed to our five Old Spots pigs, who will one day circle back around to our kitchen.

Who knew: I encourage my kids to discover nature – in part so that I can get lost in it every chance I get!


 

Kevin Vlach, 34

Co-owner and Co-founder, Elev8 Climbing and Fitness

Volunteerism/leadership: I help organize Porchfest, a free-to-attend music event that occurs on the porches of the Central Neighborhood and highlights local musical talent.

Highlight: Day one of opening our doors to the public last August. The community showed up, and we got to see our amazing staff do their thing. The continued growth over the following months only validated all the years of scheming and dreaming.

Local inspiration: My mom and dad, Marilyn and Jan Vlach. They were instrumental in helping get this climbing gym project off the ground. From being a sounding board for my ideas and projections, to connecting me with local professionals for business formation discussions, helping in the search for a location to develop, contributing financially, being intimately involved in the architectural and design, and assisting in the final tasks in preparation for opening our doors, they have been a big part of this journey. Had they not been involved, we would not have the final product we get to enjoy today. They were ELEV8’s biggest supporters from the inception of the idea. Big love to them!

Regional economic impact: Aside from creating some unique jobs, we are also adding diversity to the available attractions our area has to offer. Events like our May Day Bouldering Camp bring climbers and their families from all over the state to the area for the weekend, and just our mere presence here has influenced the decisions of professionals that enjoy climbing to relocate and bring their talents and resources to the TC area.

Next big thing: I’ve got a thing or three in the hopper, but at the moment, the focus is on growing our programming at ELEV8 – especially our competitive youth team. We are excited to build a strong contingent of dedicated young climbers wanting to better their climbing and travel to competitions throughout the Midwest.

Who knew: My backup plan, had the climbing gym fallen through, was to join the circus! Not really, but I do know how to unicycle, juggle, walk a highline and tame bears. (One of those might have been a fabrication.)


 

Ben Whiting, 38

Keynote Speaker

Volunteerism/leadership: I’m a member of the Traverse City Rotary Club and its Good Works Committee. I’m also on the board of Crooked Tree Arts Center. Over the past year I’ve been fortunate enough to work and collaborate with multiple organizations and associations such as The Michigan Realtors Association, The Michigan Bankers Association, mParks, The Michigan Auctioneers Association, Michigan Community College Association, The Michigan Career Educator & Employer Alliance, Operation Action UP, Parallel 45 Theatre, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Turtle Creek Casino, TC Firefighters, St. Jude’s, Northwestern Michigan College, the Michigan Citizens Panel on COVID-19, and the Rotary Youth Life Leadership Conference.

Highlight: This year I had the opportunity to work with the Rotary Youth Life Leadership Conference. It was inspiring to see so many young people from all over the state who simply and selflessly want to be better citizens so they can make the world a better place.

Local inspiration: Will Kitchen has an incredible story. He was a lobbyist for education in Washington D.C., went on to become head of Learning and Development for IBM Asia, and then he and his wife started one of the country’s most successful Shakespeare festivals in a place where everyone said it couldn’t be done. Like me, he never expected to move to Traverse City, and when he did, he found his community. What inspires me the most about Will is not his impressive CV, his amazing consulting career, or his otherworldly ability to network, but his ability to love life and genuinely engage with every person he encounters. His excitement is contagious and makes you believe anything is possible.

Regional economic impact: As live events are coming back it was great to work with so many organizations to reevaluate (and sometimes emcee) their fundraising events. Rotary had a very different style event this year that was a huge success. It was fun to help amazing club leaders such as Max Anderson and Miriam Owsley adapt to the changing times and knock it out of the park.

Next big thing: I’m writing a book on connection and influence based on the time in my life I spent as a street performer.

Who knew: When I speak on stage, I like to quote Dr. Maya Angelou a lot. People don’t realize the reason I do that is because she was my poetry professor in college.


 

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