40Under40: Forty of the region’s best and brightest under 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 2021 class is comprised of 24 women and 16 men, and more than half are new to the list. Who inspires these rising stars professionally, what is their next big thing and what does their biggest fan have to say about them?
A panel of judges reviewed the submissions and chose the 40 influencers out of 100-plus nominations from the community. The panel included K.K. Trucco, vice president of recruiting for 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; Lynda Wheatley, executive editor of the Northern Express; and Gayle Neu, contributing editor of the TCBN.
Max Anderson, 35
Assistant Vice President and Commercial Lender, Honor Bank
Volunteerism/leadership: Village of Kingsley DDA, Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and Zoning Board of Approvals; Paradise Township Planning Commission; Kingsley Area School Board; Father Fred Foundation; Festival Foundation; Boy Scouts of America; Rotary Club of Traverse City
Highlight reel: Passing all qualifications to become a Michigan Association of School Boards Certified School Board Member.
Local who inspires me: Laura Galbraith. As the executive director of Venture North Funding & Development, Laura leads a small team of people who work tirelessly to help small businesses in our region be successful. She has grown the organization into one of only 42 Community Development Financial Institutions in the state of Michigan – a monumental accomplishment. She always has time to discuss helping a northern Michigan small business, and has always given me sage advice regarding ideas to meet unique funding needs. Despite all her accomplishments, she remains humble and quietly continues the work that is critically important for our local small businesses. Her clear vision and thoughtful leadership are extraordinary, and we are lucky to have Laura here in Northern Michigan.
Next big thing: I’m beginning to take the first steps toward getting my pilot’s license. It’s been a lifelong goal for me, and I’m excited to get started.
Biggest fan: “Max knows everyone. He is always there to help and simply can’t say no when a local board, event, group, or individual is in need. His community involvement is over the top. Max has helped mentor me in banking and guided me in getting involved with a few local boards. He always says, ‘You make time for those you care about, no excuses.’ I’ve heard many people say that he has helped connect them with people or organizations that have helped them be successful, both personally and professionally. He has a huge heart and it shows. I thought he was crazy for running for school board in Kingsley with everything else he has going on, but I’ve watched him hit the ground running and jump in head first.” – Jess L. Ashmore, Honor Bank
Jess L. Ashmore, 33
Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager, Honor Bank
Volunteerism/leadership: Kingsley Downtown Development Authority, secretary; Kingsley Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, secretary; Optimist Club Member, membership committee chair; BrickWays Foundation, board member; Grand Traverse Industries, board member
Highlight reel: Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) efforts with Honor Bank. I am so fortunate to work for an organization that truly cares about our community, local business owners, and employees alike. COVID was a stressful time for many of us but to be part of the bigger picture and to see firsthand the impact this had for our clients was miraculous.
Local who inspires me: Ron Lemcool, owner of Cherry Country Café inside Cherry Capital Airport. Ron has professional and personal values that show through in his everyday life. I am inspired by the way he listens completely to what you are saying before offering advice or opinions. He donates his time to community while not expecting praise or reward, and encourages me to do the same.
Who knew: I am the owner of Jess L. Ashmore Photography, with a focus on portraits, senior photos, headshots, weddings, and family photography. Fun fact, my photos were once featured on an episode of Dr. Phil!
Biggest fan: “Jess is an incredible person and employee. Her positive attitude is contagious to all of her fellow employees and customers. She is always willing to lend a hand when needed, with a BIG smile. We are so proud to have her on the Honor Bank team.” – Alan Zelinksi, Honor Bank
Nick Beadleston, 33
Executive Director, Commonplace; Founding Partner, Good Impacts
Volunteerism/leadership: Rotary Club of Traverse City, board of directors; Commongrounds, Tenant Advisory Board; Traverse Connect, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee; Northern Michigan Native Commerce Task Force; Great Lakes Business Network; Good for Michigan; 1 Percent for the Planet; Startup Space Small Business Community of Practice, founding member; Midwest Ecosystem Builders Standing; Michigan Green Consortium; Michigan Recycling Coalition, northern regional director
Highlight reel: Few of my individual accomplishments over the past year are all that stellar, but they are all interconnected. Together they form a pattern of social and environmental service of which I’m very proud. We all owe an immense debt to the places which shape us and which we call home. I’m grateful for so many opportunities to repay a little of this debt with each new project.
Local who inspires me: Cop-out answer but also true! I’m continually inspired by our entire community. We have a lot of great local leaders, but none of them are working in isolation. They’re all building engaged and committed community coalitions to really make progress on our region’s biggest challenges – like housing, small business development, environmental conservation, and social justice.
Next big thing: I can’t wait to transition Commonplace to the new Commongrounds building next summer, and to help grow the organization beyond just a coworking space. I’m excited to help launch the NorthSky Compass, to help connect our regions’ changemakers and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to thrive. And my small consultancy, Good Impacts, is in the process of becoming northern Michigan’s next certified B Corp.
Biggest fan: “Nick uses his approachability and humor to forge meaningful connections across our community, always working to make our region better. In the relatively short time that he has called Traverse City home, Nick has made friends and professional alliances across the spectrum of entities that help our town thrive: TC Tourism, BATA, BARC, Traverse Connect, Creative Coast, Rotary…the list goes on. Nick surfaces in gatherings of all those movers and shakers precisely because he belongs there. His energy and enthusiasm for making Traverse City a better place are exactly what all of those groups need in order to operate and grow sustainably.” – Jennifer Yeats, Higher Grounds Trading Company
Katy Bertodatto, 37
Founder and Managing Partner, Golden Swan Management
Volunteerism/leadership: City Opera House, vice chair of the board; Traverse Connect, Governmental Relations Committee; Housing North, Housing Advisory Committee
Highlight reel: I am proud that our property management company has been able to create good jobs and employ great people. We are on track to double in size this year and have managed to recruit some top talent to help us on our path to world domination. This was coming off of 2020, where we had incredible losses in the first quarter and didn’t know if this business still existed. I didn’t take a paycheck that year, and am proud we didn’t have to let anyone go. We offered full refunds for our guests and asked that they stay healthy and spread kindness. We had a 40-percent rebooking rate when things opened up and have been experiencing sustainable growth over the last year.
Local who inspires me: Greta Miseikyte is a creative, intelligent, wise goddess of a woman. She is a commercial real estate guru and has been extremely generous with her thoughts and advice in business situations. A couple pearls of wisdom, compliments of Greta: Never sign anything you don’t completely understand; trust that you are smart and capable and ask that they explain it differently until you are comfortable signing; and don’t forget you can always walk away. Another favorite: Let other people make money. You can’t capitalize on every great idea, so share them. Know your people’s worth, compensate them accordingly, and allow them to grow as you grow. Knowing Greta has made me a wiser business owner, a better boss, and a more conscientious member of our community.
Who knew: I moved up here for flight school at NMC and have my private pilot’s license.
Biggest fan: “As the pandemic hit in spring of 2020 and her vacation rental business was shut down, Katy created a nonprofit called Front Line Housing. She opened her portfolio of local rental properties to asymptomatic first responders and healthcare workers who would otherwise risk their family’s health by going home each night after possible exposure to the coronavirus. Her drive to make a positive difference is well known to the network of business leaders with whom she’s created close ties over the years.” – Clover Keyes Roy, Golden Swan Management
Turner Booth, 37
Managing Partner, Cochran Booth & Co.
Volunteerism/leadership: Glen Arbor Arts Center, board member; The Mill Glen Arbor, owner and preservationist
Highlight reel: Earlier this year, we acquired Trailside45 – a 74-unit apartment building on Garfield Ave – and began a condominium conversion process. Out of the gates, this project was met with a healthy dose of concern and criticism. The uninformed assumed a plan of forcing out tenants and creating short-term rentals. The reality is we have honored every lease at the property while creating an affordable home ownership opportunity in Traverse City. The condominium association that we established does not allow short-term rentals, and the capital we returned to the seller will be reinvested in our region to create more housing.
Next big thing: The Mill Glen Arbor. I am very much looking forward to continuing our preservation efforts with the Mill and opening its doors to the public.
Who knew: In 2007, I had the opportunity to play professional football. I reported to training camp with the Minnesota Vikings. After an untimely injury, I hung up my cleats and headed to the University of Michigan for Law School.
Biggest fan: “Turner’s plan to preserve and reopen The Mill Glen Arbor as a museum, cafe, and center for community health and wellness is welcome and appreciated by many of us who live year-round in Glen Arbor. We have seen other commercial properties turn into residences for short-term rentals, so it is gratifying to know that the mill will reopen as a community gathering spot and not a condominium complex.” – Kim Volk, Glen Arbor Arts Center
Mathew Cooke, 31
Community Planner, Networks Northwest
Volunteerism/leadership: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan, Special Olympics Area 2, HOPE Lives in Northern Michigan, Safe Harbor
Highlight reel: Researching, drafting, and having approved the first Northwest Michigan Freight Plan as part of ongoing work toward the impending Traverse City Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
Local who inspires me: From the time I met Janeen Wardie as part of the committee that brought the first suicide awareness walk to Traverse City, she has inspired me to persevere through the tough times and always be willing to help someone.
Next big thing: COVID impacted my community involvement, so I am ready to get back in a better, stronger way. Specifically, I am hopeful to assist in bringing another suicide awareness event to the area in 2022.
Biggest fan: “Mathew is a lead-from-behind kind of guy. At work, he is respected by all – from the federal and state agencies, to the local boards and commissions, to the individuals he works with. I don’t know everything Mathew is involved with because he doesn’t broadcast it, but I do know about the coaching and refereeing for Special Olympics, raising thousands for suicide prevention, and being a Big Brother. Even COVID didn’t stop him from answering a need in the community: When everything shut down, he stepped in and volunteered for Safe Harbor. He is someone who always finds the time to assist wherever support is needed. His motivation for a good life is to serve others.” – Kathy Egan, formerly of Networks Northwest
Ashley Halladay-Schmandt, 35
Director, Northwest Michigan Coalition to End Homelessness
Volunteerism/leadership: Michigan Balance of State Continuum of Care, Governance Council and Coordinated Entry Committee Chair; The Children’s House Parent Association
Highlight reel: I am extremely proud of every single staff person and volunteer who worked tirelessly over the past year and a half to keep our most vulnerable citizens safe from COVID-19. We never experienced an outbreak within the homeless population, and were able to quarantine and eliminate spread whenever positive cases arose. Staff and volunteers risked their own safety to meet with people on the streets, in emergency shelters, and in housing each day throughout the worst months of the pandemic.
Local who inspires me: Dave Ransom, former assistant director of the Northwest Michigan Coalition to End Homelessness. Dave and I met about seven years ago when we both worked at the Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency. At first glance we were an unlikely pair: a fifty-something (often pessimistic) veteran who loves solitude and the outdoors; and a twenty-something overly ambitious (often naively optimistic) woman moving back to northern Michigan from Chicago. However, as the years went on, Dave and I bonded over our passion for ending homelessness. Dave took a chance on the crazy idea to go out on our own to coordinate and lead the Coalition through our values of collaboration, accountability, and data-driven decision making. Dave was instrumental in ending veteran homelessness in Wexford, Missaukee and Manistee counties in 2019 and brought that framework to the larger Coalition. He implemented working groups that were 10-county wide and were based on the criteria and benchmarks it takes to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time. During the summer of 2021, Dave had to step down from his role due to health issues, but his passion, dedication to always improve, and commitment to do whatever it takes to end homelessness will never be forgotten in this work.
Next big thing: This year we will be able to track, at the individual level, how many people are entering homelessness each month compared to how many are exiting it to permanent housing solutions. Until we added staffing capacity at the Coalition and implemented a new structure, we were unable to track this measure at the 10-county level. This data will help inform our upcoming public awareness campaign, which is intended to inform, educate. and empower communities to work collaboratively to end homelessness – and in turn create thriving places for all people to live.
Biggest fan: “Ashley is dedicated to the efforts of ending homelessness in our community. Her years of experience as a case manager, collaboration with agency partners, and passion for the people served make her an amazing individual with a work ethic like no other. Ashley’s ability to get involved with the daily details, while also keeping a macro vision of the community needs, makes her invaluable. She is kind-hearted and funny, and I’m fortunate to call her a colleague and friend.” – Becca Binder, Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing
Kat Hanson, 35
Development Director, Conservation Resource Alliance
Volunteerism/leadership: Zonta Club of Traverse City, vice president and membership chair; Traverse Connect, ambassador
Highlight reel: As development director of Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA), I look back at the last year and am thrilled to see our fundraising and community engagement outperforming benchmarks. During the pandemic, we leaned into the mantra that ‘Mother Nature is still open for business,’ and it resonated with people. Countless folks were finding or rediscovering their passion for the outdoors and taking stock of all the natural beauty surrounding us here in Northern Michigan. In many ways, it’s been an awakening, as so many new donors are stepping up asking how they can help protect our rivers, streams, and forests. The growth is exciting and challenging, but our team is making it happen with unstoppable energy.
Local who inspires me: Suzanne Miller Allen, senior director of community responsibility and social mission for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, has always been a hero of mine. Suzanne’s determination, work ethic, brilliant mind, and collaboration skills are incredible. She can execute multiple simultaneous projects flawlessly, which is a rare gift. I always knew she was a dynamic professional but seeing her dedication to the community firsthand has been inspiring. She truly cares about ensuring northern Michigan continues to be a great place to live, work, and play.
Next big thing: Wild Roots, a large reforestation pilot program aimed at planting 100,000 native trees in Northern Michigan, wraps up in two years. We’re excited to brainstorm about what’s next for this exciting new initiative. The community response has been extraordinary and has led to energetic new partnerships. I am looking forward to many discussions with the brilliant minds in our region to help us navigate the next adventure for Wild Roots.
Who knew: My wedding was in a somewhat unique spot: the Horticultural Demonstration Gardens on Michigan State University’s campus, which is where our large multi-family tailgate meets every home game. My husband and I are Spartan fans for life and our first date was a game day tailgate against Iowa, so it only made sense to bring it full circle.
Lauren Harris, 36
Employee Benefits Specialist, Advantage Benefits Group
Volunteerism/leadership: Goodwill of Northern Michigan, board of directors; Venture North, board of directors; Traverse Connect, Government Relations Committee and Diversity, Equity Inclusion, and Belonging Committee; Impact100
Highlight reel: In my volunteer work with the Goodwill Board, another board member and I coordinated a project to ensure every family experiencing homelessness under Goodwill’s care had gifts for their children this past holiday season. The board of directors and several community members donated funds that allowed us to purchase, wrap, and deliver at least three gifts and one stocking bag each for 40 children. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.
Local who inspires me: Jennifer Petterson with Advantage Benefits Group (ABG). In the short five years since she started the ABG Traverse City office, she’s been able to bring new solutions to key employers in northern Michigan. She’s persistent, highly respected, and genuinely invested in doing what’s in the best interest of her clients, as well as her colleagues.
Who knew: When I was 16, I lived in New York City for six weeks to train with American Ballet Theatre’s summer intensive training program.
Biggest fan: “Lauren is a rockstar. Her talent in creating best-in-class employee benefit packages with employers will ensure that employee benefits will remain competitive and affordable for our region to attract, retain, and grow our local talent and economy.” – Kenneth Petterson, Smith & Johnson Attorneys, P.C.
Haley Hildebrand, 28
Community Affairs Liaison, Executive Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Highlight reel: Last November, I stepped into this role and I am very proud to not only represent the governor, but also the residents of 21 counties across northern lower Michigan. It is a privilege to amplify the inspiring, collaborative work happening across many sectors and to build a bridge between our region and Lansing.
Local who inspires me: Gabe Schneider of Northern Strategies 360, a policy guru and wearer of many hats. whenever I have a question on legislation or want to better understand local impact and context, Gabe is my first call. He is a strategic thinker who can break down complex issues into tangible solutions, and he has a deep commitment to public service which always inspires me.
Next big thing: My fiancé Sam and I are very excited to be getting married this fall. Our plans have shifted many times throughout the uncertainty of the past year, but we couldn’t be happier to have an intimate ceremony locally. After purchasing our first home this year, we feel like we’ve planted roots in Traverse City and we’re grateful for our abundant backyard garden and our never-ending list of projects.
Who knew: Last year inspired me to channel some of my creative energy into making earrings for friends and family, to bring joy during a difficult season. The passion grew, and it led me to launch a small business called Sweet Fern Co. You can find my earrings locally at one of my favorite local shops, West Bay Handmade.
Biggest fan: “In a short period of time, Haley has established herself as an influential leader representing Governor Whitmer in northern Lower Michigan. Bringing a background in social science, community development, and public policy, Haley is effective at being a voice for northern Michigan businesses, nonprofits, and public sector entities in Lansing, and has worked hard to gain the trust of leaders in the region over the last year. She has impressed me with her interest in digging into key topics – such as short-term rental policy, healthcare financing, and higher education investments like the Futures for Frontliners Program – and quickly gaining an understanding of these complex and challenging issues.” – Gabe Schneider, Northern Strategies 360
Camille Hoisington, 36
Director of Strategic Projects, Traverse Connect
Volunteerism/leadership: TCNewTech, board director; Generations Ahead, treasurer; Commongrounds, Engagement Committee; NorthSky Compass, advisory group; Traverse Connect’s Fresh Coast Quarterly, Professional Development, and Talent Attraction committees
Highlight reel: Most of my professional energy is devoted to bringing new residents to live and work in the Grand Traverse Region, so our Creative Coast program is something I’m really proud to have built out further this year. It was also an honor to lead the Scale Up North Awards into another year of success; we had some really exceptional companies participating, with Short’s Brewing Company and Taste The Local Difference crowned as 2021 winners. I joined the board of Generations Ahead as treasurer; it’s an amazing nonprofit which empowers young parents to become resilient by building positive relationships, strengthening family stability, and raising healthy children. And finally, in March I graduated from Leadership Grand Traverse.
Local who inspires me: Attia Qureshi has not only been a great friend since I moved to Traverse City almost three years ago, but also a constant source of professional inspiration. She handles problems with grace and openness, and always provides me with a smart perspective as well as tools for negotiation that are needed to tackle the next project. Attia runs her own consulting firm, co-runs a fruit farm, is co-authoring a book, and is faculty at University of Michigan. How’s that for a power woman?
Next big thing: Following the successful launch of our Northern Navigators program – which is doing the work to help newcomers to the region feel welcomed and connected – we have now added even more great local people to our roster of Navigators. I am excited to become a Northern Navigator myself and to start meeting with new prospective talent. My plan is to lure as many new people as I can to come and live in Traverse City and the surrounding region. I want everyone who doesn’t live here yet to know about our community spirit and to see the great quality of life one can have here.
Who knew: I once came in third in a Jack Sparrow look-a-like contest.
Maxwell Janis, 39
President, Maxwell Medals & Awards
Volunteerism/leadership: I realized long ago that time is a limited resource. Therefore, I made the decision to allocate my time in service of one local nonprofit organization where I could create lasting impact. I selected Big Brothers Big Sisters, where I have been a board member for 10 years and counting, a Big Brother to two children, an investment committee chair, and more.
Highlight reel: The last year has been one of significant change in my life. Like many parents, my wife and I balanced work-from-home productivity with parenting our two young kids, with little to no childcare. I also exited a 16-year career in the financial services business to run and grow B&B Marine, my pontoon rental business, all while planning to transition into and purchase our family custom award business. Charles Schulz once said, ‘Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.’ The last year has challenged me to use all of them.
Local who inspires me: Dan Brady, owner of Dan Brady Painting and multiple vacation rentals. Not only is he one of the most positive and generous individuals I know, Dan has an amazing ability to see opportunity where most see nothing but hard work or a lost cause. Like they say, ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’ This colorblind painter with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion to refresh – or ‘re-vibe,’ as he would say – has brought new life to countless properties here in northern Michigan. Dan even danced like a star and swam like a fish to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity, which allowed them to build additional affordable homes for many well deserving families.
Next big thing: I would like to find additional ways for Maxwell Medals & Awards to diversify from being primarily an event-based business. Having watched the pandemic shut down all events worldwide overnight, I recognize the importance of serving multiple award industries and niches in order to ensure that this family business continues to be successful for another generation to come.
Biggest fan: “When Max commits himself to something, he’s all-in. He’s consistent and always follows through. He’s an influential leader on our board and definitely walks the talk. Max is an extremely patient and encouraging Big Brother, and we are so blessed to have him on our team.” – Cecilia Chesney, Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan
Claire Karner, 35
Director of Planning & Zoning, East Bay Charter Township
Volunteerism/leadership: Homestretch Board Member, Norte Assistant Coach, Child & Family Services Foster Care
Highlight reel: I have really enjoyed working on proactive planning projects in East Bay Township, including Safe Routes to School, the Three Mile Trail Extension, and economic development initiatives along the U.S. 31 corridor and throughout the township to support local businesses.
Local person who inspires me: Sarah Lucas, former Housing North Executive Director and local housing advocate. Sarah recently moved to Marquette but I greatly admire her leadership on inclusive housing policies and her collaborative approach to planning.
Next big thing: I am looking forward to working with the Planning Commission to finalize the community master plan update and get started on revamping the East Bay Township Zoning Ordinance. The master plan update represents the culmination of a lot of community and stakeholder input through surveys, focus groups, online engagement, and planning commission work sessions. The updated zoning ordinance will reflect the community vision of the master plan.
Biggest fan: “We hired Claire about a year and a half ago. She’s extremely intelligent but humble, and thoughtful and nuanced in how she approaches things. I trust and value her abilities. She’s been a joy to work with and we’re very, very lucky she’s here.” – Beth Friend, East Bay Township Supervisor
Michael Lahey, 32
Public Health Administrator – Emergency Preparedness Director, Grand Traverse County Health Department
Volunteerism/Leadership: Serving the Health Department during the pandemic has left less time for all other activities. Besides previous membership in Leadership Grand Traverse, National Association of City and County Health Officials and Michigan Association for Local Public Health.
Highlight reel: Serving my community through the large-scale vaccination efforts for COVID-19 has been an honor and a privilege. The dedication our public health teams have demonstrated in their efforts to provide public health resources such as vaccines to our community inspired me in this leadership role to dedicate myself to ensure we positioned our teams for success. The collaboration with community partners from both the public and private sectors was paramount to the efforts and created a deep sense of pride in my position of service for our community, our public health teams, and for my community.
Local person who inspires me: Our public health teams have been a driving force behind my inspiration in my position. This last year has been a difficult one for so many people and organizations, and the dedication our team members have shown to their work and to protecting our community’s health has been inspiring. Our public health workforce was presented with unique challenges this year while asked to work alongside the community to help navigate through the pandemic and their dedication to service was and continues to serve as an inspiration.
Next big thing: I hate the phrase “the new normal,” but things will look different in some regards as we continue our efforts to put COVID-19 behind us. I am looking forward to these new challenges and community dynamics and how we may help integrate our department into better serving the community with the information we gathered and the lessons that we learned.
Who knew: I love to be out on the water. Time spent on the boat is where the complexities of life and work fade away and I can enjoy time with my family and friends as well as our dog Ellie.
Courtney Lorenz, 30
Founder & Idealist, Cultured Kombucha
Volunteerism/leadership: Father Fred Foundation Advancement Committee, Sara Hardy Farmers Market Board Member & Secretary, Great Lake Culinary Institute – Advisory Board Member, American Culinary Federation – Certified Culinarian, Kombucha Brewers International, International Center for Reiki Training
Highlight reel: In the last year I’ve had the joy of growing Cultured Kombucha’s retail presence by 38 percent. To celebrate our 6th birthday, Cultured Kombucha Co. partnered with a national distribution network and is now available at additional Midwest chains and retailers, including Meijer stores. In January, Cultured competed and took first place in WomanUp and Pitch for Michigan Company Growth category.
Local person who inspires me: Sarah Landry Ryder of The Redheads has been an inspiration throughout my growth with Cultured. Her ability to grow a conscious food brand for 20 years while keeping her ethos and quality is inspirational in a category where so many are willing to make sacrifices.
Next big thing: Cultured Kombucha Co. will be launching a new line of non-alcoholic beverages in late 2021 and will be launching a hard kombucha in early 2022
Who knew: In June, I became a professional body builder! I discovered weight lifting during quarantine as a healthy outlet and decided to give a competition a go. I went pro at my first show – who knew!
Chris Loud, 37
Co-Founder of The Boardman Review and Loud Brothers Productions
Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse Magazine, Glen Arbor Sun, Michigan’s Creative Coast by Traverse Connect, Leelanau Conservancy, Commongrounds Cooperative
Highlight reel: Assisted in the completion of the first feature film I’ve ever produced, alongside director JohnPaul Morris, my brother Nick Loud, and dozens of amazing filmmakers, many of them local. I also helped develop The Creative Coast Guide with Traverse Connect, a book highlighting some of the top creatives in the region. Two very different projects, but both connected amazing people doing good work across northern Michigan.
Local person who inspires me: Ok, so I’ve said Joe Beyer before, but he keeps doubling down, so I need to recognize him again. He’s always pursuing projects and organizations that he truly believes in, and it shows in his work. He recently took a lead role with Parallel 45 Theatre, now bringing his career full circle back to one of his earliest passions. How can you not be inspired by that?
Next big thing: I’m planning to bring primary production of multiple television series to the Traverse City area in the fall of 2021, which I hope will provide consistent and sustained work for local video production artists.
Who knew: I was a drama major in college, and considered acting and playwriting as a profession in my early twenties.
Nick Loud, 32
Co-Founder of The Boardman Review and Loud Brothers Productions
Volunteerism/leadership: Leelanau Conservancy, Michigan’s Creative Coast by Traverse Connect, Commongrounds Cooperative, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities
Highlight reel: With all of the challenges of the pandemic this past year, we continued to grow The Boardman Review with increased sales, distribution, and sponsorship. We also started a podcast network which now boasts three podcast shows, including our own Boardman Review Podcast. We are continually excited and proud to expand our audience and build community in northern Michigan. After working with the Leelanau Conservancy on a variety of films and volunteering on one of their committees, I was asked to join their Board of Directors and have loved the opportunity to help protect and increase access to some of our most beautiful natural areas in the region.
Local person who inspires me: After managing The Workshop Brewing Company for a number of years, Andrew Lutes made a career shift to become the Operations & Membership Director at the Commongrounds Cooperative (where we are excited to have a future office as part of the development). He also jumped back into making music and performed at our summer issue launch event, his first live show in years. His courage to switch careers, along with rekindling a longtime creative outlet of his inspires me to not only think forward in my career, but to continually evaluate and foster my passions.
Next big thing: We have plans to develop a Boardman Review Store that includes products from artists and craft makers who have been highlighted in our publication and to create custom collaborations with them to exclusively feature in the store. This will initially be online with hopes to establish a brick and mortar location. We also have plans to create a bi-annual design-focused magazine that features northern Michigan design: architecture, landscape, furniture, clothing, etc.
Biggest fan: “I’ve known Nick since I first moved here. I was drawn to his authenticity and the way he puts things out in the world. I’ve worked on the Boardman Review and it’s been fun to watch how it’s put together and everything that’s expanded from that. He’s a storyteller. I don’t know if he sees it that way, but I sure do.” – Joe Beyer, Parallel 45 executive director
Jillian Manning, 31
Executive Director, National Writers Series
Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse Connect DEIB Committee, 2021 Women’s Leadership Cohort, Northern Navigators
Highlight reel: Last fall, I worked with Brilliant Books and Traverse City Central graduate Ashley Ko to create a virtual book fair featuring diverse authors. We knew curriculum changes happen slowly and wanted to give students and parents a way to connect with diverse literature in the meantime. We partnered up with several TCAPS librarians, including two of my all-time favorite educators, Stephanie Luyt and Larissa VanderZee. The book fair is still going, and proceeds from the fair go back to TCAPS libraries. We’ve raised hundreds of dollars so far!
Local person who inspires me: Since starting at the National Writers Series, I have gotten to know Erin Anderson Whiting, co-founder of Parallel 45 and now Chief Philanthropy Officer of Impact100 Global. She is not only a thoughtful leader and creator, but also has an amazing, positive energy that is wonderful to be around. She has been a fantastic mentor and friend as I learn the ins and outs of nonprofit life.
Next big thing: The National Writers Series is returning to live events for our fall season, and I’m so excited to welcome authors back to the stage at the City Opera House. We’ll also be livestreaming all of our in-person events, which will be a new and cool way for people around the country to tune in.
Who knew: During the pandemic, I fostered three cats – a neighborhood stray and two cats from a semi-feral colony that were going to be euthanized if they didn’t find a home. My husband and I already have three kitties of our own, so you can imagine the drama of so many felines in one place! All three of our fosters turned out to be absolute angels and were adopted to their forever homes within a month.
Katy McCain, 35
Director of Community Development, Traverse City Downtown Development Authority
Volunteerism/leadership: Rotary Club of Traverse City (Member), Impact100 (member), Rotary Camps and Services (board member), Northwest Michigan Arts & Culture Network (board member), Healthier Drinking Culture (project team member), Co-Chair of the Friends of the Boardman Watershed Dinner, Rotary Youth Exchange Committee, Rotary Membership Committee, Kappa Delta Sorority Alpha Alpha Chapter Council Advisory Board Member
Highlight reel: During the pandemic, my co-worker and I created two programs to benefit our downtown businesses and the community at large. The Downtown Relief Fund provided grant dollars to downtown businesses in need of financial support as we allocated $57,000 to seven downtown Traverse City businesses. When Michigan went back into a semi-lockdown in fall of 2020 and indoor dining was once again put on hold, we raised $6,310 in one month to provide 631 meals to six local organizations, with the food being provided from eight Downtown Traverse City restaurants. Not only did Giving Thanks Through Giving Meals provide immediate business and financial support to restaurants that were hurting, it also fed healthcare workers at Munson Medical Center, employees and families at the Women’s Resource Center, over 100 clients in the Northwest Michigan Supportive Housing program, the Grand Traverse Health Department staff, the Goodwill Inn, and the in-patient clients of Addiction Treatment Services.
Local person who inspires me: I really admire Sakura Takano, the new CEO of Rotary Charities. Sakura is a visionary for this community and is the perfect person to take Rotary Charities to the next level. She has a heart of gold and a sharp mind. As a community leader, she gets things done in both an efficient and fun-loving manner.
Next big thing: I just celebrated a year in my position with the DDA. I am looking forward to continuing to develop new ideas and events that will positively impact our downtown residents and businesses, as well as the community at large.
Biggest fan: “Katy, through her work experience and all the ways she volunteers, seems to know everyone. Those connections make her so effective in bringing the right people together to get great things done for our community. She is one of Traverse City’s best advocates and we are lucky to have her here.” – Mayor pro tem Amy Shamroe
Meghan McDermott, 30
Director of Programs, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities
Volunteerism/leadership: Groundwork, Food Rescue (advisory board), Grand Traverse Foodshed Alliance (board member), Sara Hardy Farmers Market (advisory board), Northwest Food Coalition (operating committee member), AC Paw (foster home)
Highlight reel: Raising $192,875 for area food pantries to purchase food from local farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local person who inspires me: My fearless and doggedly determined colleague, Diane Conners. Diane’s creative, powerful storytelling and persistent yet empathetic advocacy has inspired the Michigan legislature and Governor to provide $5 million for local food in schools (10 Cents a Meal for Kids & Farms, a statewide program that started as a pilot program right here in Traverse City). The program has expanded every year since it became a state pilot program in 2016, and has inspired other states around the country to launch similar programs.
Next big thing: Building Resilient Communities (BRC), a micro-grant designed to help a variety of community sites (schools, food pantries, hospitals, farms, etc.) build the infrastructure they need to support and expand healthful food environments. BRC is based on the fundamental principle that a micro-grant, along with project support and strategy, can have an outsized impact in moving the mission of an organization forward. For example, a commercial grade food processor in a church kitchen can meaningfully increase the amount and quality of food served at its weekly meals, improving food security in a community. A cooler or freezer can dramatically change the kind of items a food pantry provides, expanding beyond heavily processed, shelf-stable items to fresh fruits and vegetables. BRC is currently in the first year of a two-year pilot phase focused on food and farming initiatives, and we hope to expand the project to include Groundwork’s other program areas in the years to come.
Biggest fan: “Meghan has distinguished herself as a consummate professional and is highly regarded by her colleagues and peers in the NGO community and throughout the area. Meghan has emerged as a leader in the area’s systems for distribution of local food to at risk populations in the region as well as the promotion of Culinary Medicine. She has done a tremendous amount of work to advance access to nutritious food in Northern Michigan.” – Les Hagaman, Operations Director, Father Fred Foundation
Alison Metiva, 39
Vice President Donor Engagement and Operations, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation
Volunteerism/leadership: Generations Ahead, which is a local organization focused on supporting and empowering pregnant teens and young parents. I was first involved as an advisory committee member prior to our launch as in independent organization in 2020 when I was then named to the founding Board of Directors. In addition, I serve as an Advisory Council and Finance Committee member for Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.
Highlight reel: There are definitely exciting highlights I’m proud to have been a part of – building a nearly $1 million Urgent Needs Fund, approaching $100 million in assets we steward for the community, investing $3+ million back to the region in grants and scholarships, launching a collaborative Community Development Strategy, committing to being a better partner and leader in equity and inclusion. But what I’m really most proud of is our team. We recently came together – in-person! – for a planning session, which we kicked off by celebrating highlights from the first half of the year. Comments related to our team were mentioned more than any other highlight. I’m proud to be part of a team that is flexible, supportive, and prioritizes having fun together. When our staff is at its best, the work of the organization is at its best and we’re able to be a stronger partner in supporting our communities.
Local person who inspires me: I really believe that you can find inspiration anywhere and I’m lucky in my career to be surrounded by really amazing colleagues, friends, and family from whom I draw inspiration. Each, in their own ways, support and encourage my strengths and show me ways to grow and better lead with heart and empathy, consider varied perspectives, and find ways to be bolder and braver.
Next big thing: Looking ahead to the coming year and beyond, I feel good about continuing to move forward and striving to do the next best thing. For me this means enjoying my kids (they’re growing so much faster than I’d like), making more space to experience the community we live in, and being part of driving forward the work of the Foundation and how we can be part of building a better future for this place – taking shape through equity and inclusion actions, collaboratively leading a Community Development strategy focused on tackling some big opportunities and challenges, and growing our ability to be a leader in responding to emerging needs and opportunities.
Who knew: My grandmother taught me to sew when I was in junior high. We made a floral print dress together. My interest in sewing stopped with that project until a few years ago when I pulled my sewing machine out again and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been dabbling lately in quilting – I love the methodical, systematic approach to the creativity and the ability to make something really beautiful out of an otherwise unassuming pile of fabric.
Taylor Moore, 30 (he | him | his)
Manager, Goodwill Food Rescue
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, Glen Lake Yacht Club
Highlight reel: The vote by the Northwest Food Coalition Purchasing Committee to approve $118,005 in forward contracts with local farms through the spring of 2022. I envision a community where everyone has access to healthy food. Healthy food comes from farms. To ensure we have enough healthy food accessible to everyone, we need to work together to support local farms. Six years ago we had dreams of this happening and I had no idea what it would take. What it took was a diverse, courageous and dedicated group of people, supported by our organizations and communities, working together to get as much local healthy produce as possible to our neighbors.
Local person who inspires me: Courtney Wiggins, Holly T. Bird, Marshall Collins, Breana Demaray, Cyrus Ghaemi, Bea Cruz, Betsy Coffia, E Wolff, Victoria Craig, Meghan McDermott, Christina Barkel, Val Stone, Anneke Wegman, Jane Lippert, Michelle Northrup, Mary Clulo, Tangila Lemcool, Sally Hanley, Nancy Johnson are amongst other women, mothers, Black, Indigenous, POC, and LBTQ+ identifying who inspire me. In face of incessant injustices and struggling through a pandemic, they stand up and speak out. They envision a better community, one that prioritizes justice, peace, and humanity.
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, their expertise is sought after, and 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, 27
Workgroups & Housing Supervisor, Cherry Republic
Volunteerism/leadership: Traverse City’s Women’s Leadership Cohort, Impact100, Glen Lake Chamber of Commerce, CMU Grand Traverse Scholarship Golf Outing Committee Member
Highlight reel: Creating and developing a housing department from the ground up. It’s been a great honor to implement employment contracts, leases and addendums, and bi-weekly housing inspection policies. While establishing our housing processes, I simultaneously worked on arranging our newest house from the ground up for our seasonal workers. I’ve been having so much fun continuously improving and strengthening our workforce housing!
Local person you who inspires me: My HR Director, Nicole Agruda. Since my first day at Cherry Republic, Nicole has been nothing but helpful and supportive. She is also involved with so many organizations such as United Way and the Traverse City Human Rights Commission which, in turn, motivates me to give back and get involved with the local community. Nicole also inspires me to keep learning and asking questions. I may have finished my MBA in December of 2020, but she is always sharing books and courses for me to look into as I continue to grow with the company.
Next big thing: My next big plan is to become even more involved with housing coalitions to provide solutions for more affordable workforce housing. It is my hope to create an understanding about why we need more affordable housing here in Northern Michigan. By being able to provide affordable homes, we can then create a stronger economy for the Grand Traverse area. I am also currently looking into expanding Cherry Republic’s workforce housing by finding and buying homes in Traverse City and Charlevoix for our seasonal ambassadors!
Who knew: If I hadn’t gone to school for business, I would have gone to culinary school. I love experimenting in the kitchen after work!
Rochelle Nevedal-Dombrowski, 36
Boss Lady at Quirky Crate subscription box and Quirky HQ gift shop
Volunteerism/leadership: Kalkaska DDA Chair Member, Kalkaska Farmers Market Chair, Explore Kalkaska Digital Committee member, Small Town Roller Derby Co-Founder and Member, Kalkaska Skate Park Committee
Highlight reel: In the last year, Quirky Crate hit its highest number of monthly subscriptions, with packages being shipped out around the globe. I purchased the building I was renting and expanded and remodeled my gift shop Quirky HQ. It’s also been really rewarding seeing all the hard work pay off with the DDA. We launched our new website, ExploreKalkaska.com, organized monthly downtown strolls for the community, and our Farmers Market has grown exponentially.
Local person who inspires me: My father-in-law, Mike Dombrowski, who is 76 and still paints houses professionally. He’s one of the hardest workers I know, and constantly proves that age is just a number.
Next big thing: I am going to take the next year to catch my breath a bit. Instead of making new plans & coming up with more ideas, my goal is to really work on the foundation I have already laid, and grow it as much as possible.
Biggest fan: “Rochelle is the most creative person I’ve ever met. She went to school for fashion design and has turned it to fit her niche. She’s super passionate about her community.” – Arica Eagleton, friend and roller derby teammate
Kat Paye, 39
Executive Director of the National Cherry Festival and Festival Foundation
Volunteerism/leadership: Impact 100 TC, Rotary Club of Traverse City, Michigan Festival and Events Association, International Festival and Events Association.
Highlight reel: Leading an event organization that throws the biggest celebrations in Northern Michigan through a pandemic while maintaining the majority of our staff and pivoting our business model on a sometimes daily basis. We created Festival in a Box, Porch Parades, Gift Boxing and Ball Drop Bubbly (thank you Mawby!).
Local person you who inspires me: Honestly, it’s not one person, it’s the other four people in our office: Alex Zelinski, Alexis Bremer, Jessica Hodges and Bailey Judson. These four individuals and myself along with our amazing Board of Directors pushed forward and chose to keep going when we watched others not able to do the same. Professionally and personally we pushed each other through the last 16 months and I couldn’t be more proud and inspired by the Festival Foundation Staff.
Next big thing: We have so many plans from 2020 that we have not been able to make a reality, so we are working on some big plans for the National Cherry Festival 2022 with the return of the Bay Side Music Stage Concert Series, the Air Show featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, and of course the return of our parades to Front Street where they belong. The Iceman Cometh is next on our docket to return in the fall of 2021, with a several thousand riders embarking on their adventure November 6.
Who knew: I have been five different mascots in my lifetime, including Snoopy, Seamore the Seaduck from Lake Superior State University, Mr. Cherry, Cherry Man and most recently Super Cherry.
Renee Penny, 29
Conservation Specialist, Kalkaska Conservation District
Volunteerism/leadership: Kalkaska Conservation District, Kalkaska Farmers Market, Grand Traverse Hiking Club, Quality Thyme Garden Club, Kalkaska Environmental Education Network, Conservation District Employees of Michigan Region 3 Representative, Copper Ridge Farm
Highlight reel: I am beyond thrilled at the partnership to host the Kalkaska Farmers Market through an agreement between my office and the Kalkaska DDA. This season has been very successful with the recent improvements to Railroad Square. I was able to expand our Market from six vendors in 2020 to over 20 in 2021. We continue to grow in vendor size even though we are halfway through our market season. I’m so proud to be Market Host and see the continuous support from community members for our local Market as well as the farms and businesses that are a part of it.
Local person who inspires me: James Dake at Grass River Natural Area is a local inspiration for me. He does a great job at staying organized and hosting a wide variety of kids and adult programming at GRNA. James is also very willing to share his knowledge and has done various ‘teach the teacher’ workshops that have been wonderful. Not only can he teach about nature, but he gets out on the town and plays music at local establishments for fun. It’s a great reminder to have a balanced work and home life and to not take anything too seriously.
Next big thing: Working with Kalkaska Public Schools to expand our children’s programming. Currently our Huron Pines AmeriCorp member, Leah, is starting to trial some fall programs with elementary students that we hope to expand in the future. We are even starting to dream about installing educational signage and an outdoor classroom at the school forest in Kalkaska. It’s a beautiful piece of property that we can help facilitate water and soil sampling lessons and study animals that utilize wetland habitats like salamanders and frogs.
Who knew: I am starting a farm with my husband in South Boardman. It’s been a lot of work starting from scratch with raw land, but 100 percent worth it. We’ve learned a lot through the process (like what we won’t try to do ourselves in the future, such as roofing our 26-foot gambrel barn). We have raised a few heritage breed pigs for market, and have a growing poultry flock of chickens, ducks, and turkeys. The chickens are especially great composters! Anything we don’t eat, they do, and with a little extra TLC and grass clippings mixed in, it’s black gold that gets mixed into my garden.
Melissa Ann Petoskey, 39
Human Resource Manager, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
Volunteerism/leadership: Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), Traverse Area Human Resource Association (TAHRA), Leelanau Indivisible, Suttons Bay Public Schools board member
Highlight reel: Working with Leelanau Conservancy to create a Land Acknowledgement for the region’s indigenous people known as the Anishinaabek, which began after the Indigenous Day of Celebration on Monday October 12. It was read by our Tribal Chairman David Arroyo on June 30, 2021 in Suttons Bay, when Sen. Debbie Stabenow visited our region as a recipient of Environmental Protection Agency Nonprofit Source Pollution Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
Local person who inspires me: Casey Petz, Superintendent of Suttons Bay Public Schools. This year has been a tough one to navigate both professionally and personally through our work with parents, students, employees and families. Casey has inspired me to listen to your team, increase methods of communication. Suttons Bay families are OUR family and you do what you would do to check-in with your family: Do you have food, are you okay, do you need help. Without him saying it, he reminded me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when they are applied in crisis management.
Next big thing: I would like to continue raising awareness of land acknowledgements and healing through trauma-informed communities.
Who knew: I find it fascinating how I’ve been able to attend college locally: utilizing our partnerships through the University Center and receiving my master’s degree, then building a great career while raising a family of eight in our beautiful region.
Andrew Raymond, 37
Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Kalkaska Memorial Health Center
Volunteerism/leadership: CFO at Kalkaska Memorial Health Center, Board Trustee 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
Highlight reel: Being in the healthcare industry, I am most proud of everyone on our hospital team. They have all gone above and beyond in this most difficult and trying year to improve the health and quality of life for our community members. Beyond that, I am very proud of everyone in our region. The pandemic has been extremely challenging for everyone, not just the so-called “essential” employees. Some had hours reduced, some lost jobs, and some had to work more this year than ever before. We all had our lives interrupted in one way or another, and I am very proud of all of the neighbors helping neighbors stories that I have heard.
Local person who inspires me: Forrest and Nicole Moline, owners of Forrest a Food Studio. They both had a vision of what they wanted their unique restaurant and private chef business to be, and, despite opening up just a few months before a global pandemic, have been a huge success! They are great people, and the food is incredible.
Next big thing: I am excited to be a part of the upcoming strategic planning process for TCAPS. We have such an amazing school district to really be proud of, and hopefully this strategic planning will highlight areas that we are doing great in, and bring awareness to areas we can do better.
Biggest fan: “I recruited Andrew. Professionally and personally, he’s focused on and understands the big picture: how to provide service, how to make it affordable. He’s also focused on the broad well-being of the community. He’s interested in the youth, serves on the Board of Education in Traverse City. He takes it upon himself to give back to the community. I’m proud of what Andrew has brought to Kalkaska Memorial Hospital.” – Kevin Rogols, CEO, Kalkaska Memorial Health Center
Lindsay Raymond, 36
Owner, Labor and Employment Attorney at Danbrook Adams Raymond PLC
Volunteerism/leadership: President and Chair of the Board of Directors for Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan; Grant Review Chair of the Board of Directors for Impact100 Traverse City, and serves on its Executive Committee; member of and presenter for the Traverse Area Human Resources Association; Small Business Association of Michigan; the Michigan Bar and Women Lawyers Association – GTLA Bar Association
Local person who inspires me: Wendy Steele – she radiates compassion, possesses the entrepreneurial spirit, and leads with a philanthropic and servant’s heart. She is confident in her own strengths and regularly empowers the strength in others.
Next big thing: We have completed four years of operation at DAR and are moving into our fifth. I am grateful for our continued success, especially during the pandemic, and I am excited for our future.
Who knew: I have two older brothers and a twin sister, who is older than me by five minutes. We are fraternal, but definitely have had the twin-sense throughout our lives – arriving home unplanned at the same time, getting the same gifts/cards for each other or others, calling/messaging each other at the same time, and sensing the emotions of the other at times.
Casey Ressl, 38
Development Director, TART Trails
Volunteerism/leadership: TART Trails, The Children’s House, AmeriCorps Alum
Highlight reel: It wasn’t necessarily a moment, but coming out of 2020 as strongly as we did last year. There was so much uncertainty around what might happen with nonprofit fundraising. What we witnessed was an incredibly supportive community uniting to take care of one another. Our community demonstrated how we can come together in a year like no other.
Local person who inspires me: Our local business owners and employees. They have been through so much since last March – constantly reimagining and adapting. That perseverance and grit is unparalleled.
Next big thing: More miles of smiles! We’re working on the next leg of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, connecting Traverse City and Charlevoix through the Nakwema Trailway, extending the Three Mile Trail and more. As trail use increases, we are working to keep pace with more community connections and make every home a trailhead.
Who knew: I live in the home I grew up in with my incredible husband and three kiddos.
Kirstie Sieloff, 32
Chief of Staff, State Senator Wayne Schmidt
Highlight reel: In my former role with Traverse Connect and the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance, in June, the Alliance joined Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Legislative leaders to announce a bipartisan package of bills addressing quality child care. Working in partnership with State Representative John Roth, legislation was crafted to address the Commongrounds development, where efforts to locate child care near families encountered hurdles. The work our community is doing around quality licensed child care is energizing. Through collaboration and collective work of community partners, our region has positioned itself to be ready for pilot programs and funding opportunities.
Local person who inspires me: State Senator Wayne Schmidt is a true statesman, and I admire his courage to stand up for his beliefs and his passion for the people of northern Michigan. I view him as a role model because he is a true example of service above self. I started working for Senator Schmidt while attending Michigan State University. He has always been one of my biggest supporters and has guided me to build a career that provides satisfaction and allows me to give back. I’ll never forget when I was on staff for the former Lt. Governor and sitting in his office behind the Senate Chamber. Senator Schmidt popped in to say hi and asked if I had ever thought I would be sitting there. Certainly not – and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve.
Next big thing: I joined State Senator Wayne Schmidt’s office for a second time, now as his new Chief of Staff, in mid-August. This role is especially gratifying because it enables me to continue serving northern Michigan, the UP, and the rest of our great state. There is still much work to be done in the 101st Legislature. On the horizon is finishing the state budget process to provide a balanced budget. I will also support the Senator in continuing to move forward his policy priorities.
Who knew: I was a 4-H kid and showed rabbits and lambs at the Northwestern Michigan Fair. Some of my best memories are of the fair and our ‘fair family.’ Fun fact: I even reigned as Fair Queen for a year.
Frederik Stig-Nielsen, 35
Attorney, Co-owner, Mas/Stig-Nielsen
Volunteerism/leadership: ACLU; Friends of the Betsie Valley Trail; Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy; Manistee-Benzie Regional Public Defender’s Office; Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Frankfort-Elberta Area Chamber of Commerce; Three Corner Round Pack Outfit
Highlight reel: Over the course of 2019 and 2020, details emerged regarding a massive failure of oversight by the Michigan State Police (MSP). Third-party contractors neglected their duties, falsified records, and forged maintenance logs pertaining to breathalyzer instruments, the results of which are the determining factor in the outcome of drunk driving cases. An untold number of Michiganders were prosecuted using these questionable results. I worked on several of these cases locally and last fall I had the opportunity to cross-examine MSP’s breath alcohol technical leader during a hearing in the 86th District Court in Grand Traverse County. Through the cross-examination we were able to uncover further evidence of questionable maintenance in Grand Traverse County, which had previously been denied by the powers-that-be.
Local who inspires me: Dr. Cyrus Ghaemi of Empire Family Care inspires me professionally because of the way he takes time with his patients and the way he hears them out. Professionals can be impatient and aloof. Dr. Ghaemi is the antithesis of that: He is always courteous and kind, and has this manner of gently steering you in the right direction without disregarding or belittling your concerns. It’s a wonderful reminder that you can excel in your profession and still be a genuine, good human.
Next big thing: Jury trials! I am looking forward to being in court with my wife and law partner, Betsy. We opened the doors of our own firm in January 2021. On the heels of the pandemic the opportunities of in-person substantive hearings have been limited so far, but as things stand now, we have several trials scheduled this fall. As new business owners we have spent considerable time dreaming and planning the methodology and values of our firm. It will be so great to implement these plans and strategies together, in front of a jury, on behalf of our clients.
Who knew: Arnold Schwarzenegger was my childhood idol. Once, I shook his hand. Haven’t washed it since!
Geoff Streit, 38
Vice President of Commercial Lending, 4Front Credit Union
Volunteerism/leadership: Homestretch, president of the board; Charlie Golf One, board member; Old Mission Peninsula, school board member; Kiwanis
Highlight reel: At 4Front, we helped over 400 businesses access PPP loans, and helped over 30 new businesses obtain financing to open their doors.
Local who inspires me: This one is tough. It’s my good friend Skyler Fort, who owns Fortified Coatings. He’s a single parent who gets up every day and works to be the best version of himself for his kids, his business, and his friends. It’s my friend Zach Kelly, who owns Elite Interiors and Fresh Coast Homes, and who has done so much to improve the way he lives his life, runs his business, and takes care of his family. It’s Jean Derenzy, CEO of the Traverse City DDA; we’ve worked together on affordable housing issues and she seemingly has a bottomless pool of energy to fight the battles she’s passionate about. And it’s my friend Sarna Salzman, executive director of SEEDS, who continues to be open to differing perspectives when it comes to problem solving.
Who knew: I have won three chili cook-offs. The secret is brown sugar and sweet potatoes; the super-secret is the amounts, to balance the heat.
Biggest fan: “Geoff devotes his time to helping others achieve improvements in their lives. Whether through his work as a lender helping small business owners realize their dreams, or in his volunteer work focused mainly on affordable housing, Geoff lends his knowledge and skills to making his community a better place.” – Skyler Fort, Fortified Coatings
Rob Summers, 38
Operations Director, AAR Mobility Systems
Volunteerism/leadership: Grand Traverse Area Manufacturing Council, Newton’s Road, Networks Northwest
Highlight reel: Supporting Cherry Republic and MR Products as they repositioned their businesses for the future. Both businesses had significant changes due to the pandemic and I supported them with process and facility changes that would help them to be successful. I believe they both benefited from the work and are in a position to further prosper – supporting their customers, employees, and communities going forward.
Local who inspires me: Paul Britten. He has courage and a big heart, isn’t afraid to try new things, cares about his community, and provides opportunities for people to be successful. I love his entrepreneurial spirit. He’s built a great company that provides tons of impact to our area.
What’s next: Having just started my role at AAR Mobility, my next big thing is to help empower and enable the team in Cadillac to establish their production facilities as a world-class operation that is benchmarked regionally and by industry peers. I believe strongly in the value of manufacturing in a community, and that improving the business will support long-term opportunity for families of northwest Michigan.
Biggest fan: “Rob is passionate about manufacturing and making our region vibrant and prosperous. He is an expert in the area of continuous improvement and teaching others the tools of Lean methodology is what fires him up professionally. Rob has had an impact on the area by creating leaders and encouraging collaboration.” – Betsy Williams, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center
Jody Trietch, 38
Chief Financial Officer, Boomerang Catapult; Owner, Taste the Local Difference
Volunteerism/leadership: Impact100 Traverse City, Board President; Traverse City Rotary Club
Highlight reel: I just celebrated my first anniversary as the proud owner of Taste the Local Difference, which was honored by Traverse Connect with the 2021 Emerging Business Award. During COVID we increased support for local food growers and sellers through state partnerships, providing small businesses throughout Michigan with low- and no-cost professional marketing and technical assistance services. Working with CEO Tricia Phelps, we have led the TLD team through a series of sessions to refine our strategy for growth as we optimize and increase the impact we’re making throughout Michigan’s local food economy and prepare ourselves for expansion.
Local person who inspires me: Spend an afternoon with Casey Cowell and it’s easy to understand how he built US Robotics from a $200 post-college start-up to the world’s largest manufacturer of modems and related products. He’s strategic, competitive and tenacious, and has a brilliant mind – able to assess, assimilate and retain information and names. Every minute with him is valuable for the wisdom he imparts even through casual conversation, such as in discussing allocation of resources in a start-up referencing an old racing adage: “The point is to win at the slowest possible speed.” Beyond that, he’s kind, generous and loyal.
Next big thing: I am in my second year of a two-year term as Impact100 Traverse City’s President. I am excited to preside over our annual meeting on Sept. 21 at which 330 women will decide which three nonprofit finalists will be awarded grants of $110,000 each, concluding our fifth and largest grant cycle since forming in 2017.
Who knew: I’ve leapt off of a mountain, jumped off of a bridge and out of two airplanes but have never been on an adult roller coaster.
Nick Viox, 29 he | him | his
Producing Director, Parallel 45 Theatre
Volunteerism/leadership: Up North Pride, Development Director; Mashup Rock & Roll Musical, Volunteer Coordinator; Crooked Tree Arts Center, Board of Directors; Commongrounds Co-op Development, Board of Directors & Engagement Co-chair; Grand Traverse DEI Consortium Advisory Group
Highlight reel: I started a new job with Parallel 45 Theatre in May, and jumped into the whirlwind of creating innovative theatre after a pandemic by bringing people together for art and vision for the first time in over a year. I’m also very proud of my work with Up North Pride, creating safe spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ Community. Whether facilitating the “Catharsis” exhibition this past June, or painting the street a rainbow with the DDA in summer 2020, I’ve been so proud to lead ways to create safe spaces through art, spread love, and make this community just a little more queer.
Local person who inspires me: I have been continually inspired and proud to be surrounded by women in my life that challenge me, ground me, and make me a better person. Susan Fisher, Meaghan Kenny, Kit McKay, Erin Anderson Whiting, Debbie Hershey, Heather Spooner, Pam Amundsen, Marta Turnbull, Kate Redman, Jean Derenzy, Colleen Paveglio, Katy McCain, Lesley Tye, Stacia Sexton, Kristen Stewart and more have all made me a better person and professional. I thank them for their leadership and their friendship.
Next big thing: The Parallel 45 season for 2022 will be one to rival! I’m so incredibly excited for that. Furthermore, I’m incredibly excited for the Commonground Development to be complete and for us to celebrate our first post-pandemic Pride this October with the entire community.
Who knew: Although I’m part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community, I’m still a cisgender white man, and our Traverse City community has a lot of work to do to be inclusive, and in need of extending more leadership roles to our BIPOC and transgender population.
Susan Ward, 29
Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) Manager
Volunteerism/leadership: Leadership Grand Traverse Class of 2021, Northwestern Lower MiStem Event Committee Chair, Newton’s Road Advisory Committee, the Presbyterian Church of Traverse City, and my workplace, Networks Northwest
Highlight reel: Our Networks Northwest JMG team earned the coveted 5 of 5 Award for the sixth year in a row. This means that the youth in our program achieved an outstanding: graduation, employment, full-time employment, positive outcome, and further education rate. We also held our first-ever virtual MiCareerQuest, which was a feat that could not have happened without the support of our amazing community.
Local person who inspires me: The JMG team, first of all. They are the most dedicated, caring, and outstanding professionals I have ever met. They inspire me everyday with their passion for ensuring young people reach their potential. Second of all, the MiCareerQuest team including all our area employers. It has been a difficult couple of years but their flexibility and passion for showcasing the career opportunities in Northwest Michigan is second to none.
Next big thing: We are so excited to be (hopefully) back in person for MiCareerQuest 2022! This event is so important for our region because the goal is to show youth that there are amazing career opportunities right in their backyard. Also looking forward to another year of changing lives through the JMG program, hopefully with some new programs this year.
Who knew: I love to swim and completed my first open water swimming competition, The Swim for Grand Traverse Bay, in 2019. I hope to complete the Mighty Mac Swim in the next couple of years.
Ben Whiting, 37
Speaker, Entertainer, Consultant
Volunteerism/leadership: I’m a member of the Traverse City Rotary Club and chair of its Good Works Committee. I’m also on the board of the National Writers Series and Crooked Tree Arts Center. Over the past year I’ve worked with Michigan Legacy Art Park, Great Lakes Children’s Museum, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Old Town Playhouse, Parallel 45 Theatre, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Turtle Creek Casino, TC Firefighters, St. Jude’s, The Children’s House, Spectrum Health Foundation, NMC, and the Michigan Citizens Panel on COVID-19.
Highlight reel: I was very proud to be a facilitator for the Michigan Citizens Panel on COVID-19. It brought together 30 everyday Michiganders to find common ground and make policy recommendations to guide the response to the pandemic. It was inspiring to see people with different backgrounds and very different political beliefs collaborating and having respectful discourse four nights a week over the course of four months (even during the election). It was a great reminder that we’re more alike than we are different, and that we can disagree without being disagreeable.
Local person who inspires me: I’m inspired by people who work hard to turn ideas into reality, have the ability to adapt, and who understand how to balance results and relationships. The first one that comes to mind is Stephanie Wiitala. I met her when she was an event coordinator at Black Star Farms and have watched her and her partner Jonathan work hard to create not just one of the best seasonally driven breakfast places in Traverse City, but in Michigan. I’d eat at Sugar2Salt everyday if I could!
Next big thing: I believe when people have a mindset that begins imagining the impossible. When they feel connected and cared about and when they can communicate effectively, there are no limits to what they can achieve. These are the three things I talk about in my keynote and what I teach in my corporate trainings. The next big step for me is putting all the ideas I share with my audiences into a book.
Who knew: I didn’t know what my race was until a couple years ago, when my biological family found me through 23andMe. I’m 25 percent Native American, 37.5 percent Mexican, and 37.5 percent Irish
Courtney Wiggins, 39
Vibrational Sound Therapist/Death Doula/Co-owner of Blessed Be Tea & Apothecary
Volunteerism/leadership: Northern Michigan E3 Co-founder
Highlight reel from last year: Gaining community support for implementing body cameras in our local law enforcement units, and subsequently having buy-in from the law enforcement community and City & County Commissioners.
Local person who inspires me: Tya Harrison, Elisheva Wolff, Breana Demaray, Betsy Coffia, Holly Bird, Marshall Collins, Damian Lockhart, Chris Stone and Brett Sinclair. This amazing group of humans has been pushing for change in Northern Michigan for a long time. Together we are stronger and making a difference with community support.
Next big thing: Working on offering community grieving spaces/grief circles for opening the dialogue about everyday grief – not just grieving associated with death and dying. More work around the 10 Demands Northern Michigan E3 listed June of 2020.
Who knew: My mother put me in synchronized swimming as a child.
Shawn Winter, 39
Planning Director, City of Traverse City
Volunteerism/leadership: Unfortunately, my schedule of evening meetings prevents me from being involved in other organizations as I have in the past. But I am looking forward to curling again with the Traverse City Curling Club this year after a pandemic-hiatus!
Highlight reel: Receiving the offer for my current position. This job has always been my dream, so it feels a little surreal for it to be my reality.
Local person you who inspires me: My predecessor, Russ Soyring, who is without doubt one of the best planners in the state. He left big shoes to fill, which at times can feel intimidating, but also comforting in that it provides some direction. He’s also continued to make himself available to mentor me as I transition into my new position for which I am extremely grateful.
Next big thing: Kicking off the City’s next master plan process to create our community’s path forward for the next 20 to 30 years. It’s such an exciting process to hear the vision all our citizens have for what our city can be in the future.
Who knew: I’m deathly afraid of large bridges. The last two times I had to go the U.P. I flew into Iron Mountain, and did the two-ferry hop via Mackinac Island. I’ve also been to approximately 150 Widespread Panic concerts.