“This suit requires swagger. On the days I don’t have much, I’ll wear this to make up for it.”

With Amanda’s story, I’m reminded of the women who came before us and how different the pursuit of economic security once looked. Many of our mothers and grandmothers weren’t expected to work outside the home, nor were there many opportunities. They were raised to lead domestic lives by getting married as soon as possible. Amanda is the descendant of 2 women whose pursuits of domestic life were upended by situations they couldn’t control and turned them unexpectedly into career women. 

For her mom, it was a divorce. She had to figure out how to get a job and financially support herself and Amanda. She made it happen though, Amanda never felt like she went without anything. She got her clarinet lessons and many of her clothes were sewn by her mom. Looking back on her mom’s experience, she has a deeper appreciation for how hard she worked. It was never her mom’s goal to work full time and be the bread winner. She wanted to be a mom. 

A generation earlier, Grandma Shirley’s husband died so she too had to figure out the economics, during an even tougher era for women being accepted in the workplace. Her Grandma did just fine, by the way, and ultimately became the head of her division. Both women had to figure out how to get money without men during a time when society didn’t offer many opportunities for women to be financially independent. 

These 2 women are very important role models to Amanda and it’s easy to see how she learned to be driven and independent by growing up with them.  

Amanda grew up in Southwest Missouri and spent her childhood just wanting to get the hell out of Southwest Missouri. While in high school, she took her first journalism classes and thought she would ultimately write for Rolling Stone. She was the editor of her school newspaper and like every good GenX’er started a ‘zine after she graduated. Starting the ‘zine was the first time she realized that she liked organizing the thing more than she liked the actual writing.

She attended college at Missouri State University, majoring in English Literature. In college, she was also the Editor in Chief of her college newspaper. Because she was Editor in Chief, she was personally liable for any libel that may be printed in the newspaper. Mistakenly, a defamatory article was printed about a college football player and he indeed decided to sue her. From October to May of her Senior year, in addition to her schoolwork, she spent 40 hours per week working at the newspaper and 20 hours per week fighting the lawsuit, which was dropped that May. After that, she never wanted to see the inside of a newsroom again.

She took her talents to the world of advertising at an agency in Kansas City. She was intrigued when she interviewed because the people were young and cool, there was a dog in the office and people were wearing jeans. There were still cubes, it was the’90’s after all, but she was seeing the beginning of the more relaxed work culture.

They hired Amanda as a PR writer and she moved to KC, where her first gig was ghostwriting for a pest control magazine. She was super curious about the company and the work and was quickly recruited into Creative Copywriting. Again, hitting on the theme she discovered after high school, she was more interested in “why” they were doing things, rather than the actual writing. 

She transferred into media for 6 months and learned as much as she could. Meanwhile, on her own time, she was writing a book about internet communities. The book was a result of primary research she and her co-author conducted to create one of the first (if not the first) published ethnography of an internet community. Her book was published in 2004 and then CurrentTV called and hired her to consult with their on-air talent about the digital community. 

They ultimately offered her a full time Director role. She had a “WTF” moment when she realized that by accepting this job, she just leapt off the career ladder within agencies. It worked out ok, she worked up to VP of Product and left after 4 years.

She moved on to another start-up in San Francisco and had just met a man who was based in Minnesota. They dated long distance for 3 years, and Amanda knew she had to think about relocating to Minnesota if she was to continue being with him. 

She took a meeting with Zeus Jones. It was scheduled for 30 minutes and turned into 2 hours. She didn’t interview anywhere else because she knew Zeus Jones was the perfect fit. She accepted an offer in 2013 and in 2018 became one of the first female partners. She also married the guy she moved here for.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Patti Smith because of a million reasons. I’ve idolized her since my young goth punk phase. She seems like the coolest woman in the world and has an incredible sense of her own style.

I was super into music as a kid. The Regency Showcase Club was where I saw shows when I was a kid living in Missouri. Then, in college, I worked for an alternative rock station. I have over 3,000 CDs from that era!

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Hmmm…I don’t think so. I’m pretty private and close to my friends. I don’t want all the things that come with fame. Sounds like a nightmare. I’m too much of an introvert. Reading books is how I relax.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I would never sing to someone else. I sang in choir and choir competitions. I sang opera. I was always part of a chorus, and not the person in front. I sing to Kelly Clarkson in the car like nobody is watching. When I moved here, my stepdaughter and I would have Taylor Swift dance parties in the kitchen.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I have a fear about how I’ll die. My Grandma died of Alzheimer’s, so I have a fear of that disease. When I forget something I feel like: “Oh, this is it!” Watching someone suffer through that disease is horrible.

Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
By appearance, it looks like Joel and I have a matching aesthetic and that we both like to dress up. Our house appears this way the most, but in reality we compromise a lot. He’s minimalist and I like patterns. When it comes to dressing up, I love it and he doesn’t. However, he’s very fastidious about his appearance. He’s not fancy, but he’s put together and will have 87 navy blue tee-shirts. We both work around marketing so people may think our jobs are close in common, but they couldn’t be more different. My job is broad, where Joel’s is specialized.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I met my stepdaughter. Spending time with her has unlocked something in me I didn’t know existed. It’s something I never thought I’d have because of my fertility issues. Claire’s mother is incredible. She calls me her “co-mom.”

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I never took school seriously. Now, I fully understand what I can accomplish when I apply myself. Looking back, I could have done more incredible things! I wish my mom had been more disciplined about applying myself in school, but it probably didn’t occur to her because she had totally different goals.  

What do you value most in a friendship?
Honesty. That was easy. I have enough people around me who blow smoke up my ass. I want people to tell me the truth. I over-index on truth telling, which is sometimes off-putting to people.

What is your most treasured memory?
The night before my first wedding I spent at my Grandma Shirley’s house. She asked me: “Is the sex good? Cuz life is long and if it’s not good, don’t marry him.” 

What is your most terrible memory?
Right before my Grandma Shirley died, my mother and I took her to the eye doctor. It was the first time I realized what the Alzheimer’s had done to her — she sat there with her hair unkempt, in a ratty sweater, the rings on her fingers filthy from who-knows-what. All her life she was very well put together. Not stuffy, but she liked to get dressed, if that makes sense? But sitting in that doctor’s office it was clear she had been undone and wasn’t herself at all. People were looking at her and frowning, and it was all too much. I ran out and cried in the parking lot.

“In the morning, my feet don’t hit the ground until I’ve set an intention and prayed for all my people.”

Rachel was nominated to be featured by one of her business partners. She was on my list, but her partner’s nomination bumped the timeline. As I was reading through his impassioned application, I was nodding in agreement and thinking: “Of course!” I was thrilled to receive a nomination from a professional man lifting up a professional woman who inspires him. More of that, would be amazing.

If you ever get the privilege to meet Rachel, one of the first things you’ll discover is her contagious laugh. As soon as I heard her laugh, I immediately started laughing. It reminds me of a girlfriend from my hometown who had what I always called a “trigger laugh.” She could be across the classroom, bust out laughing and instantly I would start laughing, having no idea what she was even laughing about. There was just something about her laughter that made me want to join in the fun and ask what we’re laughing about later. I had the same reaction to Rachel’s laugh.

She not only laughs a lot, she likes to make other people laugh. Her childhood dream was to be a cast member on Saturday Night Live. She earned her performing chops as the opening act for her dad’s gospel band. Always the performer, she thought she was destined for comedy television. Unfortunately, her parents crushed that dream. They didn’t think being on SNL was practical. They would always tell her to go to college, get a real job and make money. They also thought the big city of NYC would eat her up and spit her out. They thought she was too innocent and naive to make it in the big city. They were probably right, but they underestimated the warrior and survivor they raised.

Instead of comedy, she found the next best thing, advertising, which can be pretty comical. As a young person, she was consumed with ads and found herself constantly critiquing them. So, when she attended Moorhead State University, she majored in it. 

Her first job out of college was at Blackdot Agency, working on the Herberger’s account. Herberger’s corporate headquarters is located in St. Cloud, Minnesota which at the time was a minor detail she didn’t pay much attention to. It wasn’t until she met her current husband that she started to connect the dots of their paths and how they almost crossed so many times. 

She continued working up the professional ladder in advertising, making her way to executive leadership. In the mid-2000’s she started to look around and no longer recognized the appeal of that artificial world. “What am I doing?” she asked herself. Realizing that she was out of alignment with who she thought she was and who she was serving, she went on a journey of discovery. She was looking for something different and something that felt more in line with her values. 

She moved around to different agencies, tried corporate and nothing really felt completely right, until she discovered technology. Finally, an industry that excited her again because of the ability to solve real problems that affected how people do their work. 

Rachel worked in consulting for several years, still feeling that pull of something else. That “something else” was entrepreneurship. It makes sense that she has an entrepreneurial tendency because it ran in her family. In addition to full time jobs, her parents flipped houses by working evenings and weekends. They were doing this in the ‘80’s before this model for additional income became popular. Her grandfather, who was a preacher, started over 400 churches! So, you can see how Rachel could easily evaluate the risk of starting her own business.

Last year she took the leap and founded Covalent North, a business and technology consulting firm, with her two business partners “They complete me!” 

What is your most treasured memory?
November 2, 2017 is the day my husband adopted my kids, Charli and Cooper. It was the end of a period of heightened alert for me. It was the first time I was in front of a judge without the fear of the unknown. Prior to this day, my ex-husband continued to bring me to court in retaliation of my decision to leave him because of domestic violence. On November 2, 2017, I witnessed my current husband step up and expose his heart. It’s one of the gifts he’s given me that I will always anchor to.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Besides being on SNL? It’s never going to die! I want to be on a stage motivating people to be their best selves. I haven’t done it yet because I needed to live through some of these experiences and get to a place where I can feel authentic on stage. I believe I’m closer to that place and am able to harness my stories for good. Being on stage isn’t the goal, it’s the part after when I get to connect with an audience one-on-one. Seeing hope in someones eyes is the most satisfying feeling you can be part of.

What do you value most in a friendship?
Time 

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Sharing the gift of seeing people for who they are, not what they are. I already know how to do this, I’m deeply intuitive. I wish I could show more people how. My son Cooper for example, he’s autistic, and he’s so awesome! I wish people could see beyond the autism label because it would open a lot of eyes. 

Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
We both grew up in rural Minnesota. We’re both total jokesters and very outgoing.

When did you last sing to yourself? 
This morning, alone in the car! It was some random song on the radio. I always sing in the car.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Alive or dead? I would want to have dinner with the founder of Fraser, Louise Whitbeck Fraser. She was a pioneer and could see the special.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Rachel and I debated this for a good 10 minutes. There’s no easy answer, but she finally committed to the mind.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Sometimes, but rarely. I’m an improvisational person, I go with my heart and gut. If I practice, it feels artificial.

Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…
Interesting because I’m an open book. So then I think, is it an activity? Nachos is honestly what popped into my head.

“I found a way to help others while working in marketing.”

As a young girl, Amanda was always drawn to TV, design and advertising. Her mom would say that when the family was watching a TV show, Amanda would pay closer attention to the commercials than the show. Amanda thought that was charming until she had her own daughter and realized that all kids are captured by TV advertising.

In high school, while determining her career pursuit, she always felt an internal conflict between her calling to help people, based in her strong faith, and her desire to work in advertising. She entertained the idea of joing the Peace Corp to fulfill her goal of working in service of others. It wasn’t until she had a conversation with a teacher about her career goals and how she viewed advertising vs. helping people as an either/or decision. She was 17 and the teacher told her that “Good people need to be in marketing to make it better.” 

The teacher helped her realize that we all have the ability to do good and we have to spread ourselves across industries to make it happen. We can’t put the responsibility solely on nonprofits. 

So, off she went to pursue her degree in Mass Communications at Winona State University, where she was very active in peer ministry and worked 20 years per week. Graduating in 3 years and debt free is a source of pride for her because it shows what a hard worker she was and is.

After college, she worked at several ad agencies, Fallon being one of them, in various account roles rising to leadership very quickly. I first heard of her in 2009 when she was recognized on the 40 under 40 list in the Minneapolis Business Journal. At that time, she was the VP of Creative Services at UHG where she built their internal agency, Carrot. I remember reading about her work in that issue of the Journal and thinking that I wanted to know this woman.

Whether she knew it or not, she was building her path as a successful intrapreneur. An intrapreneur is someone with entrepreneurial spirit who is able to position themselves within large organizations to bring their ideas to life. It’s a unique funding strategy and quite smart really, if you can manage the constant push back on your ideas, as well as the politics in a large company.

Her most recent work of art, I’m sure you’re familiar with, is the Small Business Revolution. Amanda has brought this series to life on Hulu, Amazon Prime and .com, working as the Chief Brand Officer at Deluxe Corporation. From where I sit, this is where all the good stuff comes together.

Amanda leads by the principle of “doing well by doing good.” You’ll hear her say it all the time, in conversations, articles and speeches. It’s not just another pithy mission statement from an executive. She really lives it. She lives it so authentically that she often can’t describe it when asked about her leadership style. It’s so innate and comes from her core. It’s like asking Monet: “How did you paint the Water Lillies?” I doubt he’d be able to explain the detail people yearn for because sometimes things just come from inside a person. I see Amanda’s work in the same way.

If you haven’t watched Small Business Revolution, you’re missing out. Her team at Deluxe is revitalizing small businesses in small towns across the country. America gets a say on which town by voting on the submitted nominations. The winning town gets awarded a $500,000 boost to revitalize businesses and Deluxe documents the transformation by creating a touching series of small business stories for us to enjoy.

Let me take moment and tell you why this work is so truly aligned with Amanda’s mission to “do well by doing good.” Small business ownership ain’t sexy. Nobody has the same love affair with small businesses like they do with the “start-up” culture based in Silicon Valley. Especially not in small towns.

In a small business, you earn every single penny. When employees don’t show up for work, the owner will put on a uniform because someone has to cover the hours. When the small business owner can’t make payroll, she’ll forgo her salary to ensure that her employees are paid. Sexy, right?

Small business owners typically start their companies for altruistic reasons. They want to create a lifestyle for their families so one parent can stay home. Or, they see a problem they can solve to help people. It may simply be that they want to open a coffee shop on main street because even small towns should have good coffee and a place to meet with friends. The beginning of the idea is rarely about money, which is contrary to the start-up fantasies we read about today.

All of these wonderful stories and nobody was paying attention, at scale, until Amanda came along. Through her vision and commitment to helping others, she has shown a light on a community of people that rarely get the spotlight, even though they are a huge economic force in this country. Small businesses create about 50% of the non-farming gross domestic product (GDP), or roughly $6 trillion every year. Since the small business revolution program launched in 2015, it has achieved over 9 billion impressions in social and earned media. Nearly 4,000 articles have been written about it. It was named by Inc Magazine as one of the top show entrepreneurs should be watching. It is the #1 unscripted show on Hulu, outperforming network competitors by 5 times. And finally, it has been discussed on the floor of Congress, twice.

That is quite a spotlight.

What’s truly exciting, is that I believe Amanda is only getting started. We haven’t really seen anything yet. She shared with me that her experience with the Small Business Revolution has been incredibly fulfilling and has also exposed hints to her about her next mission to help people. Her experiences in these small towns across the country have opened her eyes to opportunities around the topics of diversity and inclusion. Being a woman of faith and her commitment to working in service of others, I’m confident she’ll find clarity around those topics and what’s she’s supposed to do next. Let’s just say that I’ll be waiting, watching and cheering her on.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Ellen or Oprah. They both use their platform for doing good. I don’t think they have fame for nice houses and cars. I think they have answered a higher calling.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I would not mind being famous if there was a greater purpose for it. Any notoriety I may already have is because I’m destined to do something good. As I continue to earn more visibility because of my platform with Deluxe, I’m still discovering what I’m supposed to do and where I need to lend my voice. Through my work on the Small Business Revolution, diversity, inclusion and love are topics that are trending for me to have a voice around.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Sleeping in only to get up and be active right away so it’s done for the day. Giving a speech and connecting with people afterward. Then, going out with my family to have good beer and good food.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
This morning. I play Pandora when I’m getting ready. I sing in the car. I sing anywhere people aren’t listening.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I’ll be hit by a bus because I always have my head down, on my phone, not paying attention to where I’m going.

Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
We both love craft beer and traveling. We also appreciate our midwestern roots. Being raised in the midwest, we learned a good work ethic and how to be frugal. “Save before you spend,” is one of our mantras.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I know I’m supposed to say my daughter. Motherhood is an important part of my life, but I wasn’t put on earth solely to be a mother. I wouldn’t change it, I like being a mom, but I’m most grateful for my ability to look at life and appreciate the serendipity of it all. I rest in this space of believing that life is one part hustle and one part the universe doing it’s work. I can control the hustle by showing up everday and doing the work. The universe part, I can’t control, but I believe in it and that mindset gives me perspective. 

What is your most terrible memory?
One time I said something mean to someone in Sunday school and I replay it all the time in my head. I was trying to be funny and it didn’t land right. I didn’t realize the impact until the teacher told me how it came across. I was devastated because my love language is Words of Affirmation and if that is reversed, it’s painful. It was just a joke that went wrong, but I ruminate on it to this day.

What does friendship mean to you?
It means encouragement. Being that support system when needed. I see my role in friendship as being a cheerleader for my friends. 

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
I’ve dreamed of taking a year off, traveling around the world and homeschooling my daughter. We haven’t done it for all the same reasons everyone else hasn’t. It’s expensive and I fear not being able to get a job when I return. I have the same worries as everyone else.

Hope is a game-changer, a gift and it changes the landscape

Meeting entrepreneurs who are so clear about their purpose, is infectious. Spending time with them, elevates my mood and leaves me feeling like anything is possible.

Junita is one of those entrepreneurs. If you ask her about why she started Junita’s Jar, this spirited woman gets a very serious expression on her face, looks you straight in the eye and says: “I never want another woman to feel like she can’t talk about the abuse she may be suffering from an intimate or domestic partner.”

Junita has known since she was 12 years old that she’d own her own business, she just didn’t know what it was. As a strong-willed girl growing up in St. Paul, she was always fascinated by creating something out of nothing if that something didn’t exist. 

Her grandfather owned a barbershop and her mom started a nonprofit, so she witnessed entrepreneurship in her family. In my experience with entrepreneurs, there’s commonly a family connection to that lifestyle. As a kid, if you witness your parents or close family members running their own business, it tends to be an easier leap to make because you’ve seen it with your own eyes.

Junita was closest to her mom’s entrepreneurial experience, witnessing her success as an owner. Junita’s mom was a fulltime mom until the last of her 8 children started Kindergarten. Then, she returned to school and started her nonprofit, Family Values for Life. Junita and her siblings helped out when needed and are able to proudly say that Family Values for Life is best known for a Back to School Community Event on the Eastside. They filled a whole parking lot with tents of vendors donating supplies to kids to start their school year right. Junita and her siblings worked alongside their mom at this event and saw what was possible at an early age, even if she didn’t realize it until later in life.

To understand how a precocious 12-year old girl declaring her future entrepreneurial endeavors to the current realization of that declaration as the owner of a mission-driven cookie company, you have to understand Junita’s experience surviving domestic violence.

Married for 14 years and a mom to 2 amazing children, to the outside world, her life looked good. But the painful reality is that she was slowly losing herself to emotional, verbal and physical abuse. 

As the years passed, she wanted to leave her marriage, but she didn’t know how to get out. Nobody talked about relationship violence and the more isolated she felt in her situation, the more she started to believe it was her fault. “If only I could do (fill in the blank) better, things at home will improve.”

She didn’t talk to her family about it and she didn’t talk to friends because of the “perfect couple” perception. So, she decided to look to her church and her faith for counsel. Unfortunately, the church let her down. At the time, the message delivered was to “pray more” and then things would turn around.

One day. she hit her lowest point and she went for a run and didn’t come back. She checked into a hotel, not telling anyone so she could try and figure out how she could leave with her kids. She ultimately was able to leave and has been on her own for 5 years!

Her personal experience with violence in her marriage laid the foundation for her mission-driven cookie company, Junita’s Jar. Baking cookies brought her peace because it connected her back to her childhood when her grandmother used to come over and prepare meals every Wednesday. It was during these meal preps that Junita would hear all the family stories. 

The process of baking became therapeutic because it was an escape from her marriage. Pulling the ingredients, mixing them, putting the formed cookies in the oven and then sharing with her kids. She had control over something in her life and it felt terrific. 

She took this process and made a product she could sell to fund her true calling to help people. The program she started is called “Cookies & Conversations”. She works with student leadership organizations on college campuses to host a two hour event discussing relationship violence. Junita brings a panel of experts in domestic and intimate partner violence. She invites a representative from the medical community, a therapist and a survivor. After their presentation, they leave time for Q & A and that is the most engaged portion of the event, revealing to her that it’s something people need. People need to know how to work with the medical community whether it’s for their own mental health or to reach out when they are in danger. These conversations must be had.

“That’s the crazy thing about purpose. I articulated mine when I was 12 years old, but it wasn’t until I felt like I had nothing to give the world that I was able to pursue it. I think it’s because I never lost hope.”

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
My dad. He was a man of few words, but he as a very wise man. He died at 58 and he had this deep wisdom. He could listen to what was going on and always give a good solution. I was the first daughter to get married in the family, so I’m the only one he walked down the aisle. Because he died so young, he didn’t get to see the impact he had on our lives. Even though I never told him about the abuse in my marriage, looking back on some of the comments he made, I believe he knew. 

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
My dream is to be a world-renowned speaker to inspire people to move beyond their comfort zone to create change. So, if that’s famous, sign me up! 

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
This morning in the car with my son. The Hamilton soundtrack. He knows every word to every song on that soundtrack.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
No, but I want it to be peaceful. I want to go to sleep and not wake up, but not now! Maybe when I’m about 110.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My family and my faith.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I don’t think I would change anything. I wouldn’t be the person I am without the experiences that I’ve had. 

What do you value most in a friendship?
Trust, but you better be funny!

Share an embarrassing moment in your life.
Just one? I have a good embarrassing and hilarious story. Because my dad worked for an airline, we flew everywhere as kids. Back when we were traveling as a family, you could bring a lot of bags. We traveled with everything, so many bags. On one particular trip, as teenagers, we were going to a church convention and then to Mississippi to see family. We brought a bag of catfish on ice back to Minnesota with us. When we were riding up the escalator, the bag burst and catfish went everywhere! We were mortified and all of us kids just scattered away from my mom because we were so embarrassed.

What is your most treasured memory?
On what became the final father’s day that my siblings and I would physically share with my dad, we sat by his bedside, reminiscing and sharing stores. I was 10 weeks pregnant with my son and was lucky to be able to share the news with my dad. He didn’t live to meet my son, but I gave my son his name.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
The mind. Well…I don’t know. It doesn’t say I’d be senile. I’d work that body.

“No ab selfies! The Fly Feet experience is about the community in the room.”

Kristin’s energy is infectious. Spend 10 minutes with her and she’ll have you believing that anything is possible. What’s interesting to me, is how she’s designed a business, Fly Feet Running Studio based on that feeling. She’s developed a workout experience where you can get in shape, but more importantly, you feel like you can do anything. 

Fly Feet is a boutique workout studio with two locations: One in downtown Minneapolis and the second in Wayzata. I’ve done this workout several times and every time I walk into the studio thinking: “Oh crap, I don’t know if I can do this.” That feeling actually endures throughout the workout because the stakes keep getting raised by the coach who guides you for the hour.

After I’ve completed the workout and days after when I tell my friends why I’m walking funny, that’s when the impact of the experience really hits you. Anything really is possible when you, as Kristin puts it: “Stare failure in the face, trust and accept yourself.” While the hour-long workout is tough and you push yourself through it. It’s looking back on that hour where you learn about yourself and what you’re capable of. That’s when you feel the results. 

Kristin grew up in an entrepreneurial family. Her dad started and built a successful manufacturing company, so she saw firsthand what running a business looks like. She was the first kid in her family to graduate college and found fitness early in life. As soon as she got her driver’s license and could drive herself to a fitness class, she’s had a fitness practice.

Fitness is something that Kristin always held onto. Through graduate school, marriage, 3 kids and working as a corporate executive at Target, she’s always had a fitness routine. When she got her first job out of college at Accenture, she taught group fitness as her side hustle. She always felt like she would open a gym someday.

That day arrived when she left her corporate VP job to launch her fitness studio 3 years ago. Kristin is that perfect mix of analytical and visionary so the day she left her full time job, she had a fully baked business plan and was ready to launch the first class. People are often surprised that she made that leap, but she believes that you have nothing to lose in life. If something is speaking to you, you have to pay attention to it.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? 
Oprah. For many reasons, but one that stands out is a 60 Minutes interview of her that I saw from the ‘80’s when she was about to launch her show. Mike Wallace asked her what happens if the show doesn’t do well. She responded that she will still do well because she is not defined by a show. She said that she is defined by how she treats herself and other people. 

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I want to be honest about how I answer. I want to be famous for the right thing. I get energy from impacting people and believe in the “why” behind Fly Feet. I want Fly Feet to be big and if that brings fame, then I’d feel ok about it.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
No, but I used to. In past professional roles, I would get negative feedback about being direct. So, I would rehearse so I wouldn’t come across too direct. 

What would constitute a perfect day for you?
The weather would be warm and we’d be at a beach. I would wake up at 5:00 a.m., drink my coffee and catch up on news and emails. Go on a run or do a Fly Feet workout. Get home and everyone is still asleep so we can have breakfast as a family. Hang out on the beach and be active with my family.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
My 6-year-old gets a personalized version of Hush Little Baby, so I probably did that some time in the last week.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
That’s a difficult choice because they feed each other, but I would choose to keep my mind.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? 
No, I’ve never thought about this! Have you? I’m a glass half full kind of person and have honestly never spent time thinking about it, but now I’m going to!

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My health, family and the circumstances to which I was born.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? 
The way I was raised wasn’t perfect, but what is? I wouldn’t change anything because it made me who I am.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
I would love to be able to sing. I’m pretty terrible, but I love it. I am pretty good at rapping though. Teleportation for me and my family because we’d travel everywhere!

The Side Hustle

Relationships between women at work can be some of the most important connections you can make as a woman. We can be great gut checks for each other. Whether it’s an idea that you may be thinking about, a conflict with a co-worker you may have encountered or just plain old “girl talk”.

These relationships have been crucial to my survival in the corporate world. Moments of reprieve, connection and lots of laughs. Many of the women I work with, I consider friends and sometimes these friendships can birth a business. Partnerships in creation outside the office walls, also known as the side hustle.

The side hustle is an important part of a creative professional’s life. It allows them to test their assumptions and stretch their creative muscle. It offers a rotation of work that ultimately feeds other work. It keeps you fresh, nimble and motivated in your full-time job.

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When Erin, Cassidy, Naomi and Colleen met working as stylists at Martha Stewart Weddings in New York City, they didn’t know that working and sitting together would lead to a fulfilling side hustle, which would lead to launching an innovative business.

They planned and styled events at Martha and also sat together in the same row of desks, so the conversations and collaborations came naturally. Sitting next to the same people 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, creates a safe space for brainstorming ideas. It’s why we see more office spaces designed for collaborative conversations.

They started discussing an idea around designing funerals. They wondered why funerals weren’t held to the same standards of style and design as weddings were. People celebrate every milestone in life, except death. It’s something that people don’t want to think about until it happens, so all the special details about this life are overlooked because the families are grieving.

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They talked about an idea of a funeral design business and a vision came together after about a year. They realized that together, they could leverage their expertise in the wedding planning business and apply it to the funeral business.

Going Out in Style was founded on “The belief that life at its ending deserves a grand exit.” It started as a side hustle where they would work with families of the deceased to plan celebrations that perfectly captured the person’s individual style. Today, they find themselves getting lots of press coverage, interest from TV studios, and yes, planning funerals.

I met with 2 of the 4 founders (Erin & Cassidy) at Bardo to learn more about their business. I told them that I love the idea and have experienced bits of this concept at a funeral for one of my uncles. He was an avid cyclist and a fan of brass music, so at the beginning of the church service, his son-in-law walked a bike down the aisle to Carolina Brass’s version of Amazing Grace. I only know that because after the funeral, I immediately searched for the song so I could listen to it again.

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I remember that moment in my uncle’s service like it was yesterday and whenever that song pops up in my iTunes, it makes me both happy and sad. Incorporating that bit of authenticity into the ceremony was a such a gift. I’ll remember it forever.

That’s why I think this business concept is so cool. We invest so much thought, time and money into celebrating “beginnings” like weddings, first baby showers, first home, but we neglect the moment in time when the beautiful story of a whole life has concluded. There are many reasons for that like: It’s how it’s always been done, it’s a difficult time for the family and the deceased may have never expressed their final wishes.

It’s time for disruption.

Imagine you could plan all the details so your final celebration would be a true representation of your style and included all the momentos that you cared about. The flowers could be your favorite and the playlist would express the energy you want people to remember to feel about you.

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The women from Going Out In Style can help draw out design choices like color palette, fashion choices, typography for your programs and invitations, food and beverages. The ideas are endless and the value that Going Out In Style offers is that they can help you curate those choices and come to a solution that is perfectly you. The value is two-fold. One, you’re assured that the party will be just as you want it, and more importantly, your family can devote their time celebrating your life, rather than being bogged down with the details of planning and executing a funeral.

Since that moment at my uncle’s funeral had such an impact on me, I have to admit, I do think about the last impression I want to leave people with. I don’t want my funeral to be anywhere near a church. I’m thinking about a dance party, with lots of Prince music. Really high-end food with Rosé, Champagne and coconut cake (trust me). And of course, I want my guests dressed to impress.

“I’m focused on building my legacy”

It makes sense that Anne is an entrepreneur because it’s in her DNA. She grew up with parents who are self-made, so she understands the journey. Her dad built a construction company and her mom built and sold several businesses.

It makes sense that Anne is an entrepreneur because it’s in her DNA. She grew up with parents who are self-made, so she understands the journey. Her dad built a construction company and her mom built and sold several businesses. The discoveries Anne is uncovering through her entrepreneurial journey are vast and challenging. She welcomes the risk and is excited about the legacy she is building.

Her path to business ownership wasn’t a straight line, she started her career wanting to be a news anchor. When she was a kid, she would perform the weather report for her parents. She attended the University of Minnesota and studied broadcast journalism. Shortly after college, she moved to New York City to pursue her anchor dreams.

Once there, she realized that the market was too big for her to make it. Nobody was going to give a Midwest talent, with no experience, a break. So, she got a job at JCrew. It was here she met and connected with a photographer who worked at NBC. This connection led her to getting a job in the advertising department at NBC.

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She worked at 30 Rock, the famous building that is the home of some of our favorite shows: SNL, The Today Show, Conan (when she worked there). One of the perks of working at 30 Rock, was she could go anywhere in the building, including the sets of these shows. She’d run into talent in the elevator. It was a fun time in her career.

After working in NYC for about 2 years, she moved back to Minneapolis. When she returned, she worked as a producer at Channel 9. She still wanted to be a reporter, so she shadowed other reporters and wrote her own reports. Until one day, she experienced the realities of being a reporter that went beyond just telling stories for the camera.

She was dispatched to a house fire, where a family had just returned from vacationing in Florida. They lost their house and all of their belongings in the fire. Anne’s job was to interview the family about their devastation so she could get the story. That experience felt awful.

Then, there was the story she had to cover about a shooting in NE Minneapolis, where she saw her first dead body. Her dream of becoming an on-air reporter started to fade.

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After working in news, she went back to advertising and worked at two of the top agencies in town, Fallon & Martin Williams. In between those two jobs, she started a successful catering business and also pitched (and won) a cooking segment on Channel 9.

Then, it was on to Target, where she was selected to work on a large innovation project, Store of the Future. Unfortunately, that project got defunded, so she left Target and ventured out on her own.

She co-founded Red Archer Retail, which provides consulting services for anyone thinking about the future of retail, in addition to the content platform, Omni Talk, where they candidly discuss tech retail industry.

When I asked Anne about her style, her response was: “Sheesh, is ‘machine washable’ a style category?”

Her life is spent with dirty kids, in a gym or pitching investors these days, so her go-to style is something that’s classic, comfortable and most important, easily washable. When there’s a rare occasion to dress up, wearing heels is fun and most of the outfits she wears for a night out, are vintage hand-me-downs from friends, her grandmothers and her husband’s grandmother. She LOVES those, especially thinking about the events those women wore the outfits to.

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Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

Do they have to be alive? I would like to have Abraham Lincoln over for dinner. I’m interested in his perspective on current events. Since he was President during contentious times, what would his reaction be to a briefing with the current administration? I’m interested in historical people. I want to understand what we can learn from the past.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?

It depends on how you describe fame. I think it sounds awful. I’d prefer my work or ideas to be famous. I’d like exposure for making things happen so I can inspire others to go outside the box and live the life they dream of.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?

Yes, I do. It’s a recent development. Anyone who knows me, says I’m flexible and comfortable with not knowing everything. This makes me a long-winded storyteller. That doesn’t work so well in the pitching process because you have a limited amount of time with very busy people to get your idea across and close the deal. So, I have to practice what I’m going to say and how I’m going to overcome any objections in a 5-10 minute conversation.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

I don’t know when I last sang to myself, but I sang to my son this morning. It didn’t work because he was still crying. I also don’t sing well.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

Probably from multi-tasking. It will be a scenario where I have too much going on and I’ll accidentally light a stove.

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Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

We’re both entrepreneurial, idea-driven (he’ll riff on ideas with me), shared life goals and what we want our life to look like and we both do what we love.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

Getting to be a working mom.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

I wouldn’t change anything. Flaws and all, I think my parents did a good job of raising me to be a person who has become her own person, and if they’d done anything differently, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Unlimited patience.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

I always wanted to own a business. Both of my parents were small business owners. I haven’t done it until this point because I was afraid to take the risk. Last year, life opened up to me so I could try. I feel responsible for my legacy, my kids and my family’s legacy and building something for that is very important to me.