SEPTEMBER 2023 • VOLUME 28 • NUMBER 2

40U40: 40 of the region's best and brightest under 40

By Ross Boissoneau & Craig Manning

Following is TCBN's 17th 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 this past year had the most impact on their community, the region and the economy.

The 2023 class is comprised of 21 women and 19 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 seven judges reviewed the submissions and chose the 40 influencers out of 100-plus nominations from the community. The panel included Karin Chung, senior recruiter at Hagerty; Damian Lockhart, first vice president of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Traverse City; Allison Beers, owner of Events North and past 40Under40 recipient; Warren Call, president/CEO of Traverse Connect and past 40Under40 recipient; Luke Haase, publisher of the TCBNNorthern Express and The Ticker; Jillian Manning, executive editor of Northern Express; and Gayle Neu, contributing editor of the TCBN.

First and foremost, judges considered the leadership the nominee shows in his or her job or industry and the economic impact that work has on our region. Judges looked at each nominee’s level of community involvement and actionable forward momentum (i.e., what have they done recently?) Consideration was given to account for relative accomplishments versus relative age.

Many thanks to Hagerty, again this year’s signature sponsor. Watch for 2024 nomination information in the TCBN and The Ticker starting next spring.

 

 

Max Anderson, 37

Assistant Vice President, Commercial Lender, Honor Bank

Volunteerism/Leadership: Father Fred Foundation; The Festival Foundation; the Noon Rotary Club of Traverse City; East Bay Masonic Lodge #264; Scottish Rite; Village of Kingsley DDA, BRA, and ZBA; Paradise Township Planning Commission; Kingsley Area Schools Board of Education

Highlight: Being a part of hiring two new superintendents for Kingsley Area Schools. It is the most challenging and important thing any board of education can undertake. Also helping acquire properties in the village of Kingsley through the DDA in a partnership with the Grand Traverse Conservancy Land Bank Authority to environmentally remediate and market the parcels for better use.

Local inspiration: I first met Herb Lemcool through Boy Scouts at a young age. As I learned more about what Herb was involved in, my respect for him only grew. Herb is the recipient of the DSA award, has served as the president of the Cherry Festival, and has also served on countless other boards over the years. We are all lucky that Herb chose Traverse City as home. 

Regional economic impact: I was always taught that a passion for cheerful service to others, carried out with a quiet, consistent approach, will yield good things. I’m involved because I love my family and this region. I want to see everyone succeed. 

Next big thing: Putting the DDA/GTC Land Bank Authority properties in Kingsley up for (request for proposal) for development with the help of the Kingsley community. It will take community input and hard work, but I know the people of our small village and, by extension, the county will benefit.

Who knew: I love live music! I have attended more than 240 concerts, with plans to attend more. If you count local concerts at small venues, the number is over 1,000.

 

Chris Archangeli, 37

Medical Director, Behavioral Health Service Line, Munson Healthcare; Chair, Psychiatry Department, Munson Medical Center

Volunteerism/leadership: Psychiatric Services Journal, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Highlight: The highlights are always seeing patients get better. From a leadership standpoint, I'm only months into my role as medical director, but it has been fun to recruit several new providers and to think creatively about the problems that face us. I'm proudest of the work on the Grand Traverse Center for Mental Wellness. My colleagues at Munson, in partnership with Northern Lakes CMH and several community partners, have been working for more than a year to find a common vision for crisis care in the region. I'm lucky to get to play a part in that.

Local inspiration: Terri Lacroix-Kelty is the executive director of the Behavioral Health Service Line at Munson. She is hardworking, fair and optimistic. It is a joy to get to work with her and a privilege to know she has my back. 

Regional economic impact: The economic impact of mental health is immeasurable. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals ages 15-44. If we succeed in treating mental illness, people can continue their education or go back to work when they didn't think it was possible.

My next big thing: In addition to working on executing the vision for the Grand Traverse Center for Mental Wellness, I hope to expand behavioral health services for children and make several types of treatment available locally, for which people have historically had to travel to Grand Rapids.

Who knew: I’m the proud owner of 29 chickens.

 

Jess Ashmore, 35

Vice President, Branch Manager, Honor Bank

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

Highlight: I was selected as Honor Bank’s 2022 Employee of the Year.

Local inspiration: In spring 2023, I successfully completed the Traverse Connect Mentorship Program. I consider it a privilege to be supported and chosen to participate in a program that has helped me become a better leader professionally. I was lucky enough to be paired with Jamie Gallagher (4 the Win Partners LLC). Jamie has years of leadership experience and was generous enough to donate his time and mentor me on this journey. His wisdom helped me gain a clear understanding of a larger perspective, ultimately contributing to an increased sense of confidence to help realize my potential.

Regional economic impact: Community banking is the lifeblood of our local economy. Being a part of one that has been around longer than any of us has been alive is something I'm very proud of. It's an honor to work with our local business owners every day to help move this region forward.

My next big thing: Honor Bank’s digital transformation. We have been working on and mapping out our plan from day one of being on the team. Being able to offer everything digital you would expect from the 'big banks' has been a long journey involving teamwork and hard work. It is rewarding to see it come to fruition.

Who knew: I am a huge Jeep fan! For my 30th birthday I splurged on my dream car: a 2005 two-door Jeep Wrangler with 89,000 miles on it. On the summer weekends, don’t be surprised to see me cruising around, top off, with my hair blowing crazy in the wind ... and of course, doing the Jeep wave!

 

Christina Barkel, 36

Food Equity Specialist, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities

Volunteerism/leadership: Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer, Food Rescue volunteer, Northwest Food Coalition Operating Committee member.

Highlight: Working with the Northwest Food Coalition Purchasing Committee members to create and approve a purchasing plan that will support a wide variety of local farm businesses and increase the amount of healthy food access in our community.

Local inspiration: Val Stone, who recently retired after 29 years of leadership in the community as a social worker and leader of the Northwest Food Coalition. Val is kind, caring, funny and endlessly inspirational. In her farewell email to the Coalition she wrote, 'We are all alike with different talents using them towards ending hunger and wanting our neighbors to have good nutritious food to improve their lives.'

Regional economic impact: This year, Groundwork, Food Rescue and the Northwest Food Coalition were included in the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians' Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program proposal, a USDA program that provides funds to purchase food from local farmers and distribute it to food-insecure families in our region. The program brings $550,000 to spend on local food over the next two years, a lot of high-quality, local and healthy food for those who need it, and a significant investment in our local food economy.

My next big thing: I'm interested in not only the immediate and critical work of getting food to our neighbors in need, but also the policy needed so all people have access to food and other basic needs. I was thrilled to support and advocate for the Healthy School Meals for All initiative in the state budget, which covers free breakfast and lunch for students from pre-K through 12th grade for the upcoming school year. Many will include Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables and legumes.

Who knew: Something I look forward to every summer is Swim-a-Day, a group of local friends' celebration of and challenge to enjoy the fresh water all around us as often as possible. Most evenings in the summer you can find me in Good Harbor Bay.

 

Robert Blake III, 39

Human Resources Business Partner, Coherent Corp.

Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse Area Human Resources Association (TAHRA), programming committee; Father Fred Foundation, HR committee; Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Highlight: As a human resources business partner for the Coherent facility in Traverse City, I have had the privilege of working with and supporting our dedicated team of 70-plus employees. In 2022, I also took over the HR responsibilities for our new Coherent location in Plymouth, Mich., supporting their team as well. 

Local inspiration: My first HR mentor, Laura Neubauer, hired me in February as an HR assistant at Great Wolf Lodge. At the time, I was moving out of the housekeeping department. Laura took the time to coach and mentor me as I learned the ins and outs of human resources. 

Regional economic impact: One way I feel I have helped impact our economy is through my membership in the Traverse Area Human Resources Association (TAHRA), especially as a member of the programming committee. Through these programs, our local HR community receives the education and resources they need to go back and help their organizations grow and succeed in our region.

Who knew: In 2017, following our second anniversary, my wife Erin and I decided to start the journey of becoming foster parents through Child and Family Services. After countless hours of training and paperwork, we took our first placement of a three-month-old and a two-and-a-half-year-old girl. Little did we know that three and a half years later, we would get the honor of adopting Ashlyn and Raelynn in 2021!

Biggest fan: “Robert is making an impact on our community every day as a leader that does the work of the teams he is asked to lead. Due to his experiences with the foster care and adoption process, he brings a positive, can-do attitude to everything he does and this radiates to those he works with.” – Jen Seman, Priority Health

 

Miriam Owsley Briggs, 30

Manager of Strategic Communications, Rotary Charities of Traverse City

Volunteerism/leadership: Rotary Club of Traverse City; Northern Michigan Event Professionals ILEA Michigan - Up North; Council of Michigan Foundations Leadership Development Mentorship Program

Highlight: One of my proudest professional moments was co-presenting the Rotary Club of Traverse City's Fundraising Gala alongside my fellow Rotarian, Max Anderson. We pulled it off while I was 37 weeks pregnant! Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, auction donors, Rotarians, and guests, we were able to raise over $40,000. These funds have had a broad impact, supporting the Rotary Club's Good Works Grants, Kids Free Fishing Day, World Community Service, and more.

Local inspiration: Sakura Takano, CEO of Rotary Charities. Her ability to bring together people from diverse backgrounds and foster collaboration is truly inspiring. Her commitment to the community and her genuine, helpful nature make her not only an outstanding leader but also an awesome mom.

Regional economic impact: Over the last decade, I have organized a dozen nonprofit events, conferences, and fundraisers, raising over $500,000 for organizations like the Groundwork Center and Rotary Club. 

Next big thing: I'm already living it: becoming a mom! Embracing the joys of motherhood while continuing to balance my career and volunteerism is both an exciting and rewarding journey.

Who knew: I have enjoyed making jewelry and sewing clothing since I was young. During the pandemic, I turned my hobby into a business and founded Pleasant Peninsula Designs, crafting handmade accessories and polymer clay jewelry. I developed a technique to create a faux Petoskey stone pattern from polymer clay, and the earrings and necklaces I made from it get mistaken as the real thing regularly!

 

Megan Brown, 39

Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Munson Healthcare

Volunteerism/leadership: Central Neighborhood Association, president; Traverse Connect Executive/C-Suite Roundtable; Munson Healthcare DEI Leadership Task Force; Traverse City Track Club; Public Relations Society of America; Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development

Highlight: Being hired as the chief marketing and communications officer for Munson Healthcare has been a meaningful and pivotal experience in my life. I am honored to be back home working as the chief storyteller for northern Michigan’s largest healthcare system.

Local inspiration: Two people: Cate Bearss at Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority, who is making a real impact on real people in this region. My husband, Chris, also inspires me – he is a small business owner and our family chief of staff! 

Regional economic impact: As a professional mom of two young children, I'm passionate about providing more support across the motherhood continuum: post-partum services and support, expanding childcare access and family leave policies. I worked with the Perinatal Support Alliance this year to organize welcome gifts for new moms who join their support groups, connecting them to encouraging words, books and resources. I’m also committed to helping facilitate conversations on housing. 

My next big thing: Munson Healthcare has a great story to tell. While my coworkers have been recovering physically and emotionally from COVID and healthcare systems continue to face headwinds nationally, all around us there are moving stories of how the MHC team improved someone’s life. In one moment on any given day, there may be an ‘honor walk’ happening upstairs for a patient who is about to undergo organ donation, while a newborn baby is coming into the world downstairs. The team is dealing with miracles, life and death – what industry is more meaningful?

Who knew: I am the only member of the Munson Healthcare Executive Leadership Team who was born at Munson Medical Center.

 

Kyle Brownley, 37

Director of Marketing, Chateau Chantal 

Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse Wine Coast; Old Mission Peninsula Wine Trail; Big Little Hero Race, race director 

Highlight: This past year I participated in PBS’s 'Wine First,' a series focused on the relationship between wine and food. Each episode explores one of the great wine regions of the world. It’s always nice to show off the beauty of Traverse City, but to do so on a national television program was truly special.

Local inspiration: Marie-Chantal Dalese, president and CEO at Chateau Chantal. It’s not uncommon to find her personally assisting guests at the winery while balancing her busy schedule as CEO. 

Regional economic impact: I think of myself as championing our wonderful region. One of the reasons I’ve always loved Traverse City is the overwhelming sense of pride residents have in where we live. When people take pride in where they live and where they work, that’s apparent to visitors. I believe it’s a large part of what makes our region so desirable and successful. 

My next big thing: Growing Traverse City as one of the premier wine regions in the country. As an organization, Traverse Wine Coast has been consistently pushing our region to the forefront of the American wine industry, and I plan to help continue that effort through new partnerships and opportunities. 

Who knew: I have nearly 50 houseplants. What started as a hobby during the pandemic just kept growing, literally. I owe my wife for putting up with me as my home office has slowly turned into a jungle.

 

Deidra Charnes, 35

Director of Human Resources, Cherryland Electric Cooperative; VP of Programming, Traverse Area Human Resource Association (TAHRA)

Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse Area Human Resource Association (TAHRA), IMPACT 100

Highlight: Stepping into the role of director of HR with Cherryland Electric Cooperative. It’s an incredible honor to be a part of such an impactful cooperative laser-focused on serving our members and communities. 

Local inspiration: Russ and Leslie Knopp, owners of Comfort Keepers. They took me in as a recent graduate and gave me every opportunity to learn and grow in my first few years of HR. They empowered me to get involved in our local community and taught me the basics of business with grace and patience. They taught me that mistakes are a gift for growth, not something to 'find any bridges over.' 

Regional economic impact: Ensuring diverse, equitable, rewarding and enjoyable workplaces for our communities is such a beautiful opportunity. My role with TAHRA allows me to support monthly programming for a group of 150+ local HR pros, increasing all of our knowledge and, in turn, impacting our local economy.

My next big thing: To continue to educate myself on the industry I joined in 2023. I plan to buckle up and continue to learn from everyone at Cherryland, particularly our stellar new CEO, Rachel Johnson. 

Who knew: I am a proud Army brat and pastor’s kid (a dangerous combo). In addition, I have an alarming stash of Dad jokes for someone who is not a Dad. 

 

Andy Cole, 39

Senior Vice President – Northwest Michigan, Cunningham-Limp

Volunteerism/leadership: Commongrounds Cooperative, board of directors; Addiction Treatment Services, board of directors; International Coaching Federation; pro bono advisor and leadership coach to local startups and nonprofits

Highlight: I worked with a lot of business leaders as an executive coach over the last year. It’s incredibly meaningful work to me because the decisions they make have a ripple effect that impacts so many others. My proudest moments are when I receive heartfelt thank you notes or unsolicited testimonials from clients who have finally conquered a longstanding challenge, achieved some lofty goal, or experienced life-changing growth.

Regional economic impact:  I’m proud of my work in establishing 20Fathoms, the tech and startup hub of northern Michigan. Since launching in 2018, the organization continues to be a magnet for talent and a generator of hundreds of six-figure jobs. 

Next big thing: As northern Michigan continues to grow, it’s important that it grows the right way. My new role with Cunningham-Limp, a mission-based and community-focused leader in commercial real estate, puts me in a great position to help shape how northern Michigan grows.

Who knew: I had a streak of adventurous jobs in my 20s. I fixed wind turbines in Canada, installed water filters in the Dominican Republic, studied Traditional Chinese Medicine in China, was a civil engineer in Ecuador, and worked as a cattle hand in the Australian Outback. 

Biggest fan: "Andy brings patience, dedication and collaborative leadership to everything he does. He is exceptional at identifying what the community or organizational needs are, and then working diligently and thoughtfully to provide leadership to achieve impact. He is both creative and highly strategic in his approach to developing opportunities and solving problems, and always looks for partnerships to increase the impact of his work.” – Kate Redman, co-founder, Commongrounds

 

Mathew Cooke, 33

Community Planner, Networks Northwest

Volunteerism/leadership: Special Olympics of Michigan Area 2, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Michigan

Highlight: Being part of the 2023 Leadership Grand Traverse cohort.

Local inspiration: Since I met her in 2019, Jan Warren has been one of the most supportive and encouraging people in my life. Jan's wealth of knowledge, her experiences, and her contributions especially to the region continue to inspire me. I am very lucky to have Jan as a friend. 

Regional economic impact: Networks Northwest as an organization has the ability to make a tremendous impact on the region, which has allowed me to assist communities with planning processes, grants, and technical assistance that lead to community growth.

My next big thing: Starting Special Olympics tennis/pickleball in the area. 

Who knew: I sliced part of my fingertip with a mandoline. Not the instrument!

 

Elise Crafts, 33

Founder, Placecraft, a community planning/development consultancy based in Traverse City

Volunteerism/leadership: Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, Commonplace 

Highlight: My team was awarded the City of Dearborn’s community plan update project and I will be leading our community engagement. We are hiring an Arabic translator and local community organizers to work alongside us to ensure that our communications and activities are accessible and welcoming to the entire community.

Local inspiration: This is an impossible question, there are so many! Yarrow Brown, Amy Shamroe, Kate Redman, Patricia Soutas-Little, Beth Milligan, Megan Motil, Kristin Hussey, Kaitlyn Nance, Meghan Reszka, Kaylee Lovejoy, Grace Hudson, Jessica Kooiman Parker, Amanda Kik, Stephanie Coates, Becky Cain, Joy Martin-Omar and Katie Jones are among the many people I deeply admire both personally and professionally. 

Regional economic impact: Much of my 'economic development' work is focused on community engagement and making sure all people have the opportunity to share their ideas and feel heard and understood. Often these conversations are focused on how to repurpose a park, vacant site, corridor, or other significant feature of a community. These improvements take years and involve lots of people playing their part in the process.

My next big thing: This will be a for-the-rest-of-my-life thing, but I’ve been very focused on learning all I can about DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) and practicing what I learn in my personal and professional life. I want to ensure that my work is inclusive, welcoming and open to people of all backgrounds, abilities and experiences. 

Who knew: I’ll be officiating a wedding in Rocky Top, Tenn. and have thought about starting an officiant business called LOVEBYRD because I enjoy the process so much. My tagline would be 'Let’s make lovebyrds.'

 

Mara Davidson, 24

Social Media Manager, Interlochen Center for the Arts; owner/operator, MJ Digital Marketing

Volunteerism/leadership: Young Progressive Activists of Northwest Michigan, co-founder; Rural Michigan Action Alliance; Manistee County Democratic Party, committee chair

Highlight: Serving as intergenerational organizing workshop facilitator at the National Small Town Summit, being a dinnertime speaker for the Michigan Democratic Party Rural Caucus Summit, and breaking even during the first year of business at MJ Digital Marketing!

Local inspiration: I'd like to recognize the community members under 40 who work faceless, thankless jobs in the service and agricultural industries. Without these young people supporting our local communities and the bustling activity of summertime visitors, our region would not have the potential it does now. 

Next big thing: I am working to design a series of low-cost, standalone digital courses and in-person intensive sessions to help break down knowledge barriers in digital literacy, along with making information around social media marketing more accessible to local small businesses and community organizations. I am hoping to partner with regional organizations like the Center for Change to make these resources available to our communities. 

Who knew: I’ve been involved in advocacy since I was 10 or 11 years old. My first protest was with my grandmother in 2011 against several Scott Walker-backed bills passed by the Wisconsin state legislature. Not long after, I started speaking up about LGBTQ+ representation in the public school I attended. 

Biggest fan: “Mara is internationally educated and sought-after for her expertise around the world. However, she made the decision to move to our region to have an impact where it's needed most. She is incredibly active in the community, and makes it her personal mission to donate her expertise to nonprofits.” – Maureen Oleson, director of communications, Interlochen Center for the Arts

 

Caitlin Early, 34

Campaign & Development Officer, TART Trails

Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse City Arts Commission, Recycle-a-Bicycle, Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network, The Children's House, Old Town Playhouse

Highlight: Celebrating the opening of the Boardman Lake Loop alongside project leaders and recreational enthusiasts will be a life-long memory. This community trail is truly reflective of the heights that collaboration can take us, and I'm excited to see what is next!

Local inspiration: I had the privilege of working alongside Kristina Nichols, vice provost at Interlochen Center of the Arts. She is an incredible problem-solver and inspires me to stay curious. I would also be remiss if I didn't include Julie Clark, TART Trails CEO. Her passion for delivering projects that are reflective of community values is a daily inspiration.

Regional economic impact: Working on the Nakwema Trailway, a 45-mile trail that will connect Traverse City and Charlevoix, and the incredible natural areas and communities in between. Nakwema will fill a gap between the TART Trails and Top of Michigan Trails Council networks, connecting over 400 miles of trail for us to explore. 

My next big thing: More public art! In the coming months, the Art on the TART program will be unveiling several new trailside art projects on both the Boardman Lake Loop and the Leelanau Trail. As well, the Traverse City Arts Commission has several projects on tap, including a mural at Bryant Park.

Who knew: I lived in a 16-foot diameter yurt for eight months with my now-husband and our cat.

 

Sebastian Garbsch, 38

Owner, Blue Goat Wine & Provisions; Founder, Formative Fitness

Volunteerism/leadership: Father Fred Foundation, advancement committee; Traverse Symphony Orchestra, board president; TC Tritons Rowing, founding board member; Downtown Traverse City Association, board member

Highlight: A bittersweet and proud moment has been mentoring Brenden Booth, who took over ownership of Formative Fitness in July after co-founding and owning the business with me over the past 14 years.

Local inspiration: McKeel (Hagerty) has helped me grow in countless ways. I couldn’t remotely guess how many books he has given me over the years, ranging from philosophy to health to entrepreneurship and even history. But what really inspires me is his constant desire to learn and grow – not just professionally, but in a wide range of areas. Early on, I met many business owners who put all of their energy into work and didn’t lead remarkable and balanced lives like McKeel does. It’s something I strive to emulate.

Regional economic impact: I made the decision to start Formative Fitness when I was 24, during the recession. A lot of my peers were leaving for bigger opportunities elsewhere, but I wanted to invest in Traverse City. Along the way, I tried to make time to help others, be it employees or friends or through nonprofits. I love inspiring others to follow their dreams as I follow mine. 

Next big thing: I’ve definitely got some big ideas, now that I have taken a step back from Formative Fitness. More to come!

Who knew: I have my dual citizenship with Germany and study German each day. One of my big goals is to find a way to do business both here and Germany.

 

Cyrus Ghaemi, 36

Chief Clinical Officer, Traverse Health Clinic

Highlight: Being part of a workplace systems transformation as Traverse Health Clinic has gone through major transitions in its team and leadership. I've worked with others to start laying the groundwork for more collaborative methods of engaging with others for problem solving and development. It's also very exciting to be developing systems to implement truly integrated medical and behavioral health services within our clinic itself, collaborating between our medical providers and behavioral health therapists.

Local inspiration: Dr. Joe Cook has been a mentor during my medical training. He embodies excellence in his craft as a physician while also demonstrating deep kindness and humility and embracing a deep sense of joy in life itself.

Regional economic impact: By being part of an organization that focuses on providing care to all those who come to us – regardless of their ability to pay – I strive to make sure that no one's health gets left behind. As the physical and mental health of our neighbors improves, people are more able to focus on living their lives and caring for themselves, friends, and families, which in turn means placing less of a burden on local emergency health services. 

Next big thing: I'm very excited to move forward with our integrated medical and behavioral healthcare approach; the mind and body are inseparable, and it's exciting to approach caring for patients in a way that works to center that perspective.  

Who knew: I used to play a few instruments, and I'm trying to pick up the piano and drums again. I've been teaching myself songs from classic Studio Ghibli films like 'Princess Mononoke,' along with (as nerdy as it may sound) old video games like 'Super Mario 64' and 'Chrono Trigger.' ‘Dire, Dire Docks’ anyone? 

Biggest fan: “Dr. Ghaemi strives to not only improve the health of the individuals for whom he cares, but also to improve the health of the community as a whole through his advocacy for healthier policies and systems. This work makes our region a more vibrant and viable place to live – regardless of one’s economic circumstances.” – Mi Stanley, corporate director of special projects and communications, Traverse Health Clinic

 

Lauren Harris, 38

Employee Benefits Specialist – Agent, Advantage Benefits Group

Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse Area Human Resource Association, Venture North Board of Directors, Goodwill Northern Michigan Board of Directors, Traverse Connect Government Relations Committee

Highlight: In the last 12 months I’ve had the opportunity to partner with several of northern Michigan’s employers, and had the pleasure of presenting at Traverse Connect’s Economic Strategy Session to discuss their first Employee Benefits Survey. 

Local inspiration: Laura Galbraith, executive director of Venture North. Under Laura’s leadership, Venture North has become a critical funding and resource organization for our local businesses to achieve long-term, economic success. Laura led the organization during the COVID-19 pandemic, pivoting to launch the Regional Resiliency Program that kept over 300 businesses alive by connecting them with (free) grants. 

Regional economic impact: Employee benefits are a quiet, yet critical piece to our local economy’s success attracting and retaining talent for our region. Using data analytics, innovation and creativity, we’re helping employers reimagine their employee benefits strategy and creating new options not previously seen in northern Michigan.

My next big thing: This fall my colleague and I will present at the 2023 Michigan Society of Human Resource Management conference (MISHRM) on the recent changes in healthcare transparency laws, and how employers can prevent cost shifting to their employees. 

Who knew: Last fall, my family and nine other families opened a dirt bike riding facility in Mancelona called 10Pines. 

 

Megan Holtrey, 32

Operations Manager, Dennos Museum

Volunteerism/leadership: Friends of the Traverse Area District Library, Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network, Interlochen Public Radio Community Advisory Council

Highlight: Being asked to write a feature piece for the Record Eagle's Women's History Month issue. I was so honored to be among such great company of women in our community!

Local inspiration: Colleen Paveglio from the City of Traverse City. This past spring, I was a member of the inaugural City Academy class the City of Traverse City offered. Colleen was a huge part of the team that put that program together, and it was so inspiring to see how passionate she is about the community and getting more people involved in local government.

Regional economic impact: As manager of the Dennos's budget, it's my job to keep spending on track, find ways to increase revenue and help manage the grants the Dennos receives. We use these resources to create programming and bring exhibitions that attract locals and tourists to visit the museum and the region. The money the museum brings into the community ripples out to other areas in the economy, and adds to the cultural capital of the region. 

My next big thing: Completing the accreditation process with the American Alliance of Museums. After completing professional assessments of our general operations and collections management, the next big step will be applying for accreditation review. Fewer than 4% of the country's museums are accredited, so it's exciting to be a part of this process.

Who knew: This past year, I took up hunting with my dad. 

 

Seth Johnson, 34

President and CEO, United Way of Northwest Michigan

Volunteerism/leadership: Rotary Club of Traverse City, VISTAGE Michigan, Safer Kids Safer Schools

Highlight: In July, after a year of planning and collaborating with essential partners, United Way launched the United We Smile dental clinic. This innovative new dental clinic is serving all children, including those with developmental and cognitive disabilities, pregnant women, and military veterans.

Local inspiration: There are many individuals in the region that inspire me every day and make our region better. It would be impossible to name just one.

Regional economic impact: I am proud of what we have done as staff, volunteers and community members in the last year to grow United Way in our 10-county region. We are making childcare more affordable, increasing access to mental health care to those in crisis, and creating employment pathways to help families become financially stable. We are ensuring that our region and economy has the opportunities to thrive.

My next big thing: As we move forward, we will continue with (the) Less Talk, More Walk (strategy). We will be doing more work around policy development and advocacy work in Lansing, all while tackling regional issues head-on, taking chances and starting new programs, and revamping old systems with fresh ideas.

Who knew: I went to North Park University in Chicago on a vocal scholarship, where I sang with a traveling gospel choir and studied opera.

 

Parker Jones, 31

Innovation Counselor, MSU Extension

Volunteerism/leadership: Great Lakes Incubator Farm Board, Oryana Food Co-op Board, Crosshatch’s Carbon Farming Cohort committee member

Highlight: Being elected to the Oryana Food Co-op Board of Directors is such an honor, helping represent the values of over 10,000 owners. In 2022, Oryana sold over $9 million in products from 194 local entrepreneurs. That’s about 25% of sales, directly supporting businesses within 100 miles of Traverse City. Oryana also supports over 100 local organizations and donated $85,000 of product to Food Rescue.

Local inspiration: Wendy Wieland is a hard-working and innovative food systems professional. She effected transformative change in her 20-plus years with MSU Extension, from visioning the New Entrepreneurial Agriculture to co-founding the Northwest Michigan Food and Farming Network and the Northern Michigan Small Farms Conference. 

Regional economic impact: In the next 10 years, the most farmland in American history will transition to new ownership. That’s a threat to the rural lifestyle that draws people and business activity to Traverse City. I’m proud to have helped launch the Great Lakes Incubator Farm (GLIF), which offers land, equipment, and expertise for beginning farmers to grow their business here in northwest Michigan.

My next big thing: MSU Extension is bringing the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference to Cadillac in May. The conference embeds educational sessions on economic development within small businesses across a real downtown. It’s amazing to see attendees learn not only from experts and entrepreneurs, but by directly experiencing the downtown spaces with each other. Our model has been replicated by seven other universities since 2009.

Who knew: I lived in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer many moons ago. In my village, I’d only speak Mandinka in my day-to-day. While I haven’t forgotten the language, today I use it solely to encrypt my computer passwords.

 

Ellie Kebler, 26

Product Marketing & Content Manager, Cherry Republic; Founder, Archie’s Dog Co.

Highlight: Archie’s Dog Co. started a year ago as a way to give local dogs – including my own – the very best all-natural treats, and has allowed me to become an active part of the community while driving me to have a direct impact on the growth of Traverse City. I've been fortunate enough to partner with local companies like Mundos Roasting & Co., Jacob’s Farm, Happy Camper Coffee Co., Riley’s Candles, Contigo Dogs, and many more.

Local inspiration: Bob Sutherland is the founder of Cherry Republic and a man I feel fortunate enough to learn from every day. He is a visionary who is always thinking about the future of his company, employees and northern Michigan. 

Regional economic impact: Through product marketing and content creation at Cherry Republic, I get to showcase local cherry farmers and the region to help drive sales and growth. Through Archie’s Dog Co., I've been able to expand my services and opportunities to the dog community by driving sales and visitors to local farmers markets. Archie’s also has a commitment to give 1% of all profits to the Cherryland Humane Society.

My next big thing: Growing archiesdogco.com through search engine optimization, email marketing, and content creation. I want to grow Archie’s digitally to reach a national level, with the end goal of donating more to organizations that help the world.

Who knew: I worked in the U.S. House of Representatives and received my master’s degree in corporate communications and public relations from Georgetown University while living in Washington, D.C.

Biggest fan: “With Ellie on our team, the future holds endless possibilities. Her boundless enthusiasm and unyielding commitment to our mission drives us forward, ensuring that we not only sell more cherries of joy but also share more of the love, light, and innovation that define us. She is more than a colleague; she is a beacon of positivity and a catalyst for our collective success.” – Sara Harding, vice president of marketing and impact, Cherry Republic

 

Bradley Matson, 39

Venture Program Manager, Spartan Innovations

Volunteerism/leadership: Lead organizer of Northern Michigan Startup Week (NMSW), board member of TCNewTech

Highlight: Within the last year I've transitioned from working with Northern Michigan Angels to working full-time with Spartan Innovations. I am now in a role that allows me to work more closely with startup founders on a daily basis helping to grow their companies.

Local inspiration: Bill Myers is a great asset to our startup ecosystem as the CEO of Promethient and chair of Newton's Road. He is engaged and willing to help at many stages of the innovation pipeline. 

My next big thing:  NMSW 2024 will be bigger and better with more events and partner organizations. Spartan Innovation has recently added a Detroit office and will continue to offer venture programming throughout the state. 

Who knew: I spent 2018 touring the country in a converted Sprinter van volunteering at various national parks.

 

Meghan McDermott, 33

Deputy Director, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities

Volunteerism/leadership: Groundwork Center, Commongrounds, Northwest Food Coalition, Food Rescue

Highlight: This summer I had the honor of witnessing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sign the fiscal year 2024 School Aid budget, which included a continuation of 10 Cents a Meal at $9.3 million, an expansion to offer universal meals for all schoolchildren in Michigan, a historic investment in per-pupil funding and rural bussing. 

Local inspiration: Becky Mang & Homer Nye, part of the founding bedrock of Food Rescue (and so much more), stand as pillars of what it means to be committed, connected, and caring within a community. They complement each other so well, and together can achieve just about anything.

Impact on the region’s economy: When I moved to Traverse City 10 years ago, I had never been here, and expected to only stay for a year or two, completing a service term with FoodCorps. Here I am a full decade later, more in love with this region than ever, from 10 Cents a Meal in the state budget to millions of dollars in state and federal investment in rail, the purchase of local food for food pantries, investments in clean energy, protection of the Great Lakes.

My next big thing: My partner and I have been embarking on a DIY renovation of a house at the edge of town. I'm loving the process, but also look forward to moving past spending every spare moment on home improvement projects. 

Who knew: Growing up in Illinois as a child, I competed in horse shows, with a green sequined vest, chaps, cowboy hat and all. I even went on to participate in my college's equestrian team, but still haven't been to the Traverse City Horse Shows. I need to get on that!

 

Meagan McLain, 38

Owner/Lead Designer, McLain Designs

Volunteerism/leadership: SheBikes, Northern Michigan Women Mastermind Group

Highlight: Our kitchen designs were featured in Traverse Magazine October 2022. McLain Designs hired two employees, leased new office space in Traverse City, and added interior design services to our portfolio. Project volume increased over the last year by 15 projects and counting.

Local inspiration:  The person who inspires me the most is my dad, Bob McLain. From the time I was young I was exposed to business, with family dinners often taking place around a conference table. He taught me not only the business side of strategic growth, good margins, and sales, but also how to give back to the community through volunteering and organizing community events and outreach through cycling. 

Regional economic impact: I've been partnering with local builders focused on increasing the availability of affordable housing. I also work with contractors and homeowners on custom high-end projects, which bring revenue to the region. I've been able to expand my staff by hiring local moms and working around their schedules, given the limited childcare available in the area. 

My next big thing: I'm looking forward to the possibility of expanding our office space in the future to include a design showroom and am really excited about getting my kids involved in volunteering with local cycling events.

 

Auston Minnich, 36

Executive Chef, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Highlight: My proudest moment from the past year was being involved in the international PBS show 'Wine First.' Being challenged to create dishes with three secret ingredients that were then paired with wine from local wineries was exciting. The year-round project wrapped up with a showing of the episode at the State Theatre to the local community, as well as a special one-night 'Wine First' dinner at the Resort’s Aerie Restaurant & Lounge. It’s an experience I’ll cherish forever.

Local inspiration: Gaye O’Neal, our assistant director of food and beverage at the Resort, has taught me how to successfully manage food operations at our 900-acre property. Whether it’s a 1,200-person banquet dinner, an intimate wedding, or daily service in one of our eight dining outlets, she works to give everyone a grand experience.

Regional economic impact: Working with local vendors is one way I strive to impact our region’s economy. From distributors to local farms, meat suppliers and wineries, plus local breweries, it’s great to show off our Michigan products on our menus and in our dining outlets. 

Next big thing I love being able to bring new guests to the Resort through food. I love talking with first-time visitors and sharing what else our property offers in terms of the spa, golf courses and other amenities. As a result, I'm always looking at what new events or experiences we can offer at the Resort.

Who knew: I lived in Las Vegas for almost 10 years and worked at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant for seven of those.

Biggest fan: “Chef Auston is a top influencer in the Grand Traverse region with the work he does mentoring and teaching the next generation of culinary professionals. Whether it is our foreign labor staff at the Resort, interns, or students in local culinary programs, Chef Auston exudes patience, professionalism and creativity. He is always looking to do new things, get new people involved, and showcase what this region offers.” – Caroline Rizzo, Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

 

JT Olio, 37

Chief Architect & Strategy Officer, Storj Labs Inc

Highlight: Based in Atlanta, Storj has grown tremendously in the last year. Storj is like Airbnb for hard drives: If you have hard drive space you can get paid for it, and if you need space, you can use it. Distributed storage like this is something I've been working on for close to two decades, and Storj is really the culmination of my career's work in software engineering and startups. People are running our software in over 120 countries. The best part is that, because Storj is reusing existing computer hardware instead of building new data centers, it's massively more environmentally friendly.

Local inspiration: I'm really impressed with Hans Voss and everyone else at the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. As the greater Traverse area and other climate havens like it grow, focusing on affordable housing, food security, efficient transportation, and really anything that improves local community resilience is critical.

Regional economic impact: A few years ago, I did an analysis of every county in the United States. I downloaded climate models out to 2090 from most of the major climate research projects, along with census, agricultural, and economic data. Considering affordability, education, air quality, nearby city infrastructure, soil moisture, projected plant hardiness zones, freshwater availability and use, temperature range, crop diversity, humidity, precipitation, drought risk, wildfire risk, and other factors, my family and I concluded that Traverse City was the best place in the nation to raise a child, and we moved here. I'm new here so I want to tread lightly, but I have already started connecting with local folks who are interested in or already working on improving the amount of affordable, energy efficient, and sustainable housing in the area. I definitely want to be part of an inclusive and equitable solution.

Next big thing: I am doing everything I can to get my carbon impact to zero and encourage others to do the same.

Who knew: My one and only time skydiving, I was wearing a gorilla suit.

 

Tyler Palsrok, 34

General Manager, Image 360

Volunteerism/leadership: Harvest Bible Chapel Worship Team (Bass)

Highlight: At the end of last year we set some goals for our business. We decided that if we could reach these goals through the first portion of the year, we would make the financial investment to develop the legal framework for our Employee Ownership program. In April we met those goals.

Local inspiration: Our owner, Andrew Kohlmann, whose commitment to this community and selfless generosity toward our team inspires me every day. I’m also very fortunate to have a close working relationship with Brian Walter, the president of Clark Manufacturing. His tireless work ethic, attention to detail, and employee-first focus set the bar for me in terms of what it takes to lead a business. And Cody Hendrickson, the owner of Innovo Spa Solutions, has been doing tremendous work growing his small business and creating jobs here and throughout the state.

Regional economic impact: We pride ourselves on helping businesses of all sizes brand themselves confidently and put their best foot forward. For our employees, I believe we are building a pathway toward the American Dream in the face of rising inflation. Developing a plan to transition to an Employee-Owned Cooperative can be daunting, but we are committed to providing our team with appropriately equitable outcomes for the work they put in. In addition, by proving the viability of this model, we can help northern Michigan retain more industry and employment opportunities into the future.

My next big thing: We are completing a major facility layout overhaul that has unlocked a ton of efficiency for us. But more than anything, I'm excited for us to have the Employee Ownership framework functional over the next year and begin rolling that out to our team.

Who knew: I have a BFA in Sculpture from Eastern Michigan University. 

 

Byron Pettigrew, 37

Owner, High Five Threads, Great Lakes Proud, and Forward Inking Design & Print Studio

Volunteerism/leadership: Charlie Golf One, Project Feed the Kids, National Cherry Festival, Cedar Polka Fest, and Great Lakes Strongest Man

Highlight: Last summer we bought out one of our customers, Great Lakes Proud. We are now able to offer our products through wholesale partnerships in over 500 stores throughout the state. Along with our existing retail location and existing in-house production capabilities, that put us in the perfect position to be awarded the contract by the Michigan DNR to be the exclusive merchandise provider for the Michigan State Parks, trails and waterways.

Local inspiration: Holly Hack, owner/broker of Exit Realty Paramount, is the definition of a community leader, always displaying an 'attitude of gratitude' and encouraging anyone around her to be thankful for their blessings. Her work ethic is second to none, but she always puts family and community first. She sits on numerous nonprofit boards throughout the region and gives countless hours volunteering for charitable events. 

Regional economic impact: We founded our Michigan lifestyle brand High Five Threads around the premise of 'Support Local,' which remains a critical component of our culture today. The more our neighbors buy from us, the more we have a responsibility to circulate that money back into our local economy by purchasing locally when possible and through charitable contributions.

My next big thing: We'll be celebrating Forward Inking's 10-year anniversary in March! We saw some major unplanned growth over the last year, so the focus for the near future is sustainable growth with improving internal processes and adding more talent to our awesome team.

Who knew: I started my first official business at the age of 14 (I don't count the numerous lemonade stands I had as a kid) and haven't gone without owning a business since then.

 

Natalie Ramsey, 38

Pediatric Physical Therapist and Director, Kids On The Go (Traverse City)

Volunteerism/leadership: American Physical Therapist Association, Michigan Physical Therapist Association, Kids On The Go (TC director), Munson Healthcare (Outpatient Pediatric Physical Therapist)

Highlight: Kids On The Go is a nonprofit that provides free physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy to kids with special needs through summer camp programs. We successfully completed our fourth summer camp and were thrilled to offer new programs, expanded enrollment, increased staff size, and new community collaborations. We partnered with NMC Extended Education and relocated our programs to its main campus. Plus, we partnered with MSU to create a new summer internship for speech-language pathology students.

Local inspiration: I’m most inspired by the incredible children we serve. These kids bravely meet physical, emotional, medical, and developmental challenges each day, and I’m so proud of every one of them. I’m equally inspired by their families who support and advocate to help them reach their full potential. 

Regional economic impact: Since I took on my role in 2019, we’ve provided summer therapy services for 77 children with special needs, free of charge. We’re expanding healthcare opportunities in our region and increasing access to therapy for local children. We’ve created new job opportunities for pediatric therapists and created a range of new volunteer opportunities for individuals interested in healthcare, child development, and education in an inclusive, play-based setting.

My next big thing: Along with our amazing team of healthcare providers and local leaders, I’m continuing to work on adapting our camp space at NMC into a sensory-friendly, therapeutic environment that fits the needs of our campers and staff.

Who knew: I’m a Canadian. I love bacon and I play the guitar, piano and fiddle. Plus I grow grapes as an amateur winemaker.

 

Andrew Raymond, 39

Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Kalkaska Memorial Health Center 

Volunteerism/leadership: Board of Education treasurer at Traverse City Area Public Schools, member of the TCAPS Board Finance and Operations Committee, Fellow 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: I recently took and passed the American College of Healthcare Executive’s Board of Governors’ Exam to become an ACHE Fellow.

Local inspiration: Jay Berger, co-founder of the Safer Kids, Safer Schools taskforce. After the May 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Jay decided he was going to do something to hopefully prevent a similar tragedy in Traverse City. The SKSS taskforce was created with around 30 members. They held several meetings and created a draft report that identifies five conclusions around school safety, as well as recommendations on how the northern Michigan community might start making strides toward school shooting prevention.

Regional economic impact: Kalkaska Memorial Health Center (KMHC) continues to grow to meet the increasing demand for services. I'm proud to be part of the KMHC team that continues to rise to the challenge to provide high quality care to our communities.

My next big thing: KMHC will be opening our new emergency department and inpatient unit this fall. This new facility will allow the organization to expand capabilities and services to our patients in the community, closer to their home and support system. KMHC will also be celebrating our 70th year of operations! 

Biggest fan: “I could say all kinds of great things about Andrew. He has a servant leadership style, not only at the hospital but through the TCAPS board and the community. What I appreciate is he’s also a great dad and a great husband. He’s a role model for all leaders.” – Jeremy Cannon, vice president nursing services, Kalkaska Memorial Hospital

 

Lindsay Raymond, 38

Labor & Employment Attorney/Owner, Danbrook Adams Raymond PLC

Volunteerism/leadership: President-elect, Friends of Impact chair, and board member for Impact100 Traverse City; board trustee and Gala Committee chair for Old Town Playhouse; member of Traverse Area Human Resources Association and the Society for Human Resources Management; member of the state bar associations for Virginia and Michigan

Highlight: I conducted several complex workplace investigations this past year, and was able to help organizations through some extremely difficult personnel issues. I am proud and honored to be a trusted advisor during both the good and tough times. That my clients choose to call me when they need help means the world to me.  

Local inspiration: Angie Witkowski is an absolute powerhouse. As a business owner, New York Times­-bestselling author, podcast host, athlete and mom, she is the real deal. I love her authenticity and vulnerability in leadership, and her enthusiasm is contagious.

Regional economic impact: As small business owners, my partners and I contribute directly to our region’s economy. We are proud to work with and support numerous other local businesses as vendors, clients and friends. My job is to help my clients continue their success and be the best employers they can be. Further, with Impact100 TC, after our annual meeting in September, we will have given over $2.1 million to our region’s nonprofits in only seven years.

Next big thing: I am looking forward to leading Impact100 Traverse City in the coming year, and plan on continuing to connect with hundreds of amazing women and pooling our funds to make transformational gifts to address important needs in our community.

Who knew: I was in a freak bike accident this year while riding my girls to school – which we do most days. I was hospitalized, but the quick thinking of my bike brigade parents and my helmet saved me. Always wear a helmet! You’re worth the investment.

 

Remington Rice, 30

Health & Farm Stress Extension Educator, Michigan State University Extension

Volunteerism/leadership: Michigan State University Extension, Benzie Conservation District

Highlight: A northern Michigan farmer shared this with me: 'Thank you. I didn't believe in the program when you shared it with me, but this program gave me my life back and might have saved it in the process.'

Local inspiration: Josh Stoltz, the executive director of Grow Benzie, a non-profit Rural Prosperity Incubator and community center in Northwest Lower Michigan, is a constant professional inspiration. His community-first focus, magnetic personality, and unwavering support for our local community have left a lasting impact on me. Watching him champion ideas for the betterment of northern Michigan has motivated me to adopt a similar mindset and strive for positive change. 

Regional economic impact: The significance of farming cannot be overstated. It is a pillar of our society and has a profound impact on everyone. No farmers = no food. Being able to contribute to such a critical industry, particularly one that my family has been involved in for over a century, gives my work a deeper sense of purpose and meaning. 

My next big thing: Establishing an endowment to ensure behavioral health resources are available for the Michigan agricultural community in perpetuity.

Who knew: I’m passionate about TTRPGs (tabletop role-playing games) and behavioral health. TTRPGs, such as Dungeons & Dragons, have gained popularity in part because of shows like 'Stranger Things' and 'Critical Role,' but TTRPGs also deserve our attention for their positive effects on health too. 

 

Matthew Ross, 39

Executive Director, Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park

Volunteerism/leadership: Sunrise Rotary Club, Friends of Historic Commons, Northern Michigan Nursery Landscape Association Board, Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association, Wild Ones, North American Rock Gardening Society, American Public Gardens Association, Garden Clubs of America.

Highlight: I am overwhelmed with the reception I have received since recently starting. Community members and partners, members of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, volunteers, Laurel Voran and her garden team, students from Pathfinder, and volunteers from the United Way have all embraced two new gardens: The Native American Medicine Wheel and the Foraging Meadow. They celebrate plants with important roles in the ethnobotany and heritage of our region.

Local inspiration: It has been an honor working alongside Joann Cook and Tera John developing the plant palette, deepening my understanding of the important role plants play in the lives of the Anishinaabe, and learning more about the work they and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians are doing in the community. Both have made me think differently about the botanical world.

Regional economic impact: Hosting the first ever Great Lakes, Great Plants Symposium brought together a national audience of horticulture professionals and avid gardeners for a three-day event with top botanists, lectures from top authors and plant celebrities, a rare plant auction, and garden tours. It helped the Northern Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association cement its role in elevating our local green industry partners.

My next big thing: The Botanic Garden is amidst a capital campaign to develop a year-round educational center and children’s sensory garden, including a classroom, gallery and event space. We are working with Disability Northern Michigan to select plants and features that will be enjoyed by children of all ages and abilities. It is being developed in partnership with the Friendly Garden Club, and includes a life-size statue of Colantha, a fantastic water feature and an amphitheater.

Who knew: I am a competitive floral designer and have assisted with developing floral installations at the Philadelphia Flower Show for many years, including a 12-foot-tall kangaroo!

 

Stephanie Rustem, 35

Program and Fundraising Coordinator, Discovery Center & Pier

Volunteeerism/leadership: Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, Zonta Club of Traverse City, Rotary Club of Traverse City

Highlight: I'm so incredibly proud of the partnerships we formed and strengthened to make the Discover Fishing at the Pier program a reality. Through many hours of work, our first program was a success, with 60 youth participants and 40 parents/guardians.

Local inspiration: Becky Ewing inspires me both professionally and personally. She is not only an incredibly strong leader and connector, but she does so with an incredible amount of kindness, compassion and patience. She has been a wonderful mentor to me and someone whose leadership style I aspire to emulate.

Regional economic impact: I feel so lucky to play a small role in improving 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'm working to remove barriers for BIPOC communities, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ people and 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: The first phase of the Discovery Pier Project is nearly finished and the next phase will begin this winter. I'm excited that the next set of improvements will mean even more opportunities for the development of inclusive Great Lakes recreation programming. 

Who knew: I studied abroad in South Africa, where I learned about fire ecology in South African parks and nature reserves, went on safari and bush hikes daily, and petted a cheetah at an animal rehabilitation center.

 

Tina Schuett, 37

Owner/Brewer, Rare Bird Brewpub; Founder/President, Pour For More

Volunteerism/leadership: Pour for More, Northwest Michigan Community Development Coalition, Northern Michigan Women in Hospitality

Highlight: My proudest moment in the past 12 years has been becoming a parent. It made me look at my professional life and find a good work/life balance, and I found it has made me way more productive when I'm at work because every minute counts. Being a parent also makes me want to do better every day so I can provide for my daughter and have a positive impact on our community. 

Local inspiration: Sue Kurta, owner of Boss Mouse Cheese. Sue had a high-profile, high-paying job on the East Coast and decided to give it up to follow her passion of making cheese and moved back to Michigan to be near her aging parents. Sue makes some of the best cheese around but also is one of the nicest people you'll meet.

Regional economic impact: Pour for More has had a quiet but lasting impact on our region for the past seven years. We have donated more than $300,000 into local nonprofit organizations in our community. It's all done by micro-scale donations from the customer that local establishments collect and then get redistributed by Pour for More.

Next big thing: Rare Bird will celebrate our 10th year in 2024, and it's hard to believe we've been around that long. My co-owner Nate Crane and I started the brewpub with no experience in running a business and we have both grown so much. We weathered COVID and came back stronger and better, so now I believe we can take on anything.

Who knew: I'm a Jill of all trades. I think it comes out of necessity from owning a business, but it has now become second nature. From plumbing to IT management, if a problem arises, I will do my best to fix it on my own and not call in a professional.

 

Renee Sovis, 33

Program Officer, Neithercut Philanthropy Advisors

Volunteerism/leadership: In our local community, I am a Big Sister for Big Brothers Big Sisters and actively volunteer with both Norte and Great Lakes Humane Society. I’ve also been on the TEDxTraverseCity Advisory Committee since 2011 and was its event coordinator for many years. In the state, I am a board member and the secretary of Emerging Leaders in Philanthropy, Michigan Chapter.

Highlight: I joined the Rotary Charities Capacity Advisor Pool (CAP) to assist nonprofits with foundation relations. Our clients at Neithercut Philanthropy Advisors are primarily based in southeast Michigan, so I have little opportunity to work with local nonprofits in a professional capacity. Joining CAP allows me to share my experience and expertise closer to home.

Local inspiration: Becky Ewing (formerly the executive director of Rotary Charities) and Sara Harding (VP of marketing and impact for Cherry Republic). Becky takes a holistic approach to navigating the philanthropic landscape and is always willing to share her time and knowledge. Sara is an inspiring leader and I have benefited from her support and guidance for many years.

Regional economic impact: As a former small business manager and owner, I have been making a mark on Front Street for many years. I was the manager of Yen Yoga & Fitness for seven years, where I led a team of over 60 employees and helped navigate the studio’s growth and development during its startup phase. I also co-owned a bridal shop for which we were recognized by the TCBN as one of the "Women Shaping Downtown Traverse City."

Next big thing: I’m in my last semester of my Master of Science in Administration degree from CMU. Graduating will be my next big milestone.

Biggest fan: “Renee has an entrepreneurial spirit and a heart for helping others succeed. She is a model of what this world needs in a leader: heart-centered, intelligent, constantly looking for ways to learn and grow – and inviting others to do the same.” – Becky Ewing, former executive director, Rotary Charities

 

Tarra Warnes, 39

Vice President of Creative Strategy, Hagerty; Founder & Designer, Lookabout Swimwear

Volunteerism/leadership: I donate 1% of Lookabout Swimwear profits annually to Womens Resource Center. I am also a sponsor of Up North Pride and have been recognized by them as an LGBTQ+ safe and affirming business.

Highlight: In the past year, I’ve doubled my swimwear line’s online sales, expanded my retail presence from one local store to three, and tripled my social media following. One important goal I set for myself going into 2023 was to broaden the size range of body types I have represented modeling my suits, and I am happy with the progress I’ve made there.

Local inspiration: Holly Dalley – my mom! I remember as a child going with my mom to the copy shop and watching her create ads for her local business. Now a designer, I look back with gratitude at the creativity she inspired in me. She also worked really hard, running multiple businesses, doing her own bookkeeping, and waitressing at night. I hope I have some of that drive in me.

Regional economic impact: As a creative leader at Hagerty, over the past 15 years I have had the opportunity to create and implement strategic brand and marketing initiatives – alongside my team – that helped to position us for exponential growth and strengthen our place as a brand leader. As the region’s largest private employer, all of Hagerty’s success has a great impact on our local economy.

Next big thing: I’m currently focused on next spring’s swimwear launch of new prints and styles, and I'm exploring expanding my line into resort wear pieces as well as children’s swim.

Who knew: When I was my school’s Cherry Festival princess in 1991, I became the second generation of junior royalty in my family: My dad was the Traverse Heights Elementary Cherry Festival prince in 1968!

 

McKenzie Weeks, 30

Marketing Manager, ATLAS Space Operations

Highlight: My proudest professional moment was writing nominations for ATLAS Space’s Freedom™ software for the World Teleport Association and ViaSatellite, two recognizable organizations in the satellite and space industry. In both cases, we were accepted as runners-up that competed with big names, including Apple and Maxar. 

Local inspiration: Paul Mead of ClearPath Strategic. Paul and I have been colleagues since I first moved to Traverse City in 2016, and he has been not only a mentor but a great friend. Paul has helped a number of businesses achieve success and is respected by everyone he meets. 

Regional economic impact: My impact has been a bit multifaceted. In my time at Munson Healthcare Foundations, I contributed to improving the wellbeing of the community by raising money for local healthcare – and during a pandemic nonetheless. My time working at Maxbauer, meanwhile, taught me the importance of giving back to those in need.

My next big thing: I recently started my own after-hours marketing company, Michigan Mac Marketing. I've learned a lot about local businesses, how to run a business, and how to manage time effectively. It’s really expanded my skill set.

Who knew: People are always surprised to hear that I was a 100-meter dash state champion in high school. Maybe it's because I'm 5'2”?

Biggest fan: “In my 25 years as a marketing leader – across three different industries – I have interacted with many impressive young marketing professionals. Never have I seen someone with such a broad understanding of both the strategic and execution side of marketing. As our first marketing manager, McKenzie has demonstrated her remarkable way of thinking strategically, positioning our startup company as a leading brand in the satellite communications industry.” – Norman Lee, ATLAS Space Operations

 

Emily Wilbert, 36

Director of Talent Management, Hagerty; Varsity Volleyball Coach, Traverse City Central High School

Volunteerism/leadership: Rotary Club of Traverse City; Versiti Blood Center, regular blood donor; volunteer work for Salvation Army, Cherry Festival, and Project Feed the Kids

Highlight: Being named Record Eagle’s Coach of the Year for volleyball!

Local inspiration: NMC President Nick Nissley, a fellow Rotarian and neighbor. It is incredible how quickly he has become an integral member and pillar of this community. The way he engages with his students is genuine and he is committed to helping them build a better future. I'm thankful we have him as a community leader, and for his investment in our region and its residents.

Regional economic impact: In my work for Hagerty, I am actively trying to retain talent through engagement and development activities that prepare them for future leadership growth. I'm also passionate about developing young people and helping them achieve more than they think is possible. Through coaching volleyball and mentoring tennis, I'm able to encourage and inspire student-athletes to believe in their abilities and help them become more confident and capable young people.

Next big thing: Continuing to find ways to positively impact my community through volunteering and inspiring young people. In particular, I plan to connect young people with volunteer opportunities to allow them to start making an impact in the place they live. Volunteering can help people make new connections and learn new skills – and by helping those that may be less fortunate, it can make you a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled person. 

Biggest fan: “Through her volunteer service and impact on youth development through coaching, Emily is helping to ensure that our region and its people have the resources, skills, and confidence to thrive and grow. She demonstrates similar passion and impact in her role as director of talent management at Hagerty, where she is contributing to the growth of a local company and leading initiatives focused on engagement and development of Hagerty talent – many of whom are residents of Traverse City.” – Stephanie Johnson, director, employee relations, Hagerty

 

Alex Zelinski, 35

Commercial Account Executive, Ford Insurance

Volunteerism/leadership: Rotary member and Membership Committee Chairperson; Mud, Sweat, and Beers team member; Festival Foundation volunteer; Elks Member

Highlight: Gaining a commercial insurance license and starting a new career with Ford Insurance.

Local inspiration: There are many reasons why Chuck O'Connor has inspired me professionally. He is kind, creative, intelligent, funny and curious and his professional approach is to generate long-term value for the client. He taught me just how important it is to keep learning and improving (while not taking ourselves too seriously!)

Regional economic impact: It is an honor to be a part of the Ford Insurance team, which works with regional businesses to help make sure their assets are protected as they grow and prosper. I also enjoy and am proud to volunteer and work with local events to make sure they experience success and growth, which in turn positively impacts our region by way of dollars being kept and spent here.

My next big thing: Riding my first Iceman Cometh Challenge in November. Thank you to the Festival Foundation and all those who make the event possible. Wish me luck!

Who knew: I used to be the drummer in a band called Fondue – I haven’t played in years, but am excited to dust off the old drums and start playing again!

 

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