“In the pursuit of acceptance, you lose what’s interesting about yourself.”

Puja was born in Bombay, a very traditional society, where parents push their kids into 1 of 3 professions: Science, math or engineering. Puja always knew that she wanted to pursue a creative career, but most of her family thought it wouldn’t amount to much of a career. She comes from a family of doctors, accountants and engineers, but was lucky that her dad wasn’t such a traditional thinker. He encouraged Puja to do something that she was excited about. She gives credit to her dad for supporting her dream, and her mom for building the safety net around it. An avid saver, her mom made sure the rest of us could dream big.

When Puja was in high school, a professor introduced her to advertising. Even though she had her eye on fine arts, his advice was that she was better suited in recognizing different styles, storytelling and composition. A fine artist would master one style and he encouraged Puja follow the path of a creative director so she could use more of her strengths. 

After high school, she attended Sir J.J. School of Applied Arts (part of the University of Mumbai) for her BFA. It’s common in India to bribe schools in the form of donations as a way to get in, but J.J. was one of the few based on entrance exams. She could have paid her way into school, but they didn’t allow it, so she was accepted on merit, which is something to be proud of.

She graduated early at age 19 and started working at Leo Burnett in Mumbai. One day, she found the D&AD book and while flipping the pages, discovered a bigger world with such different work, it inspired a desire to travel and work outside of India. She found a scholarship opportunity for women pursuing higher education in the Arts. The scholarship was offered by TATA, an industrialist in India (his company now owns Jaguar). She applied (and won) that scholarship, took a loan from her parents so she could follow her dream and move the the U.S.

Her first stop was at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) to earn her Master’s in Communication. She thought if she didn’t make it in advertising, should would be a teacher. Moving to the U.S. was quite a culture shock. She went from being the majority, to being the minority. She had to figure out all the nuances that exist within that change. “Do they understand my accent?” “Do they get my jokes?” “Is brown skin also considered beautiful?” Everything that a non-caucasian child learns to deal with as a kid Puja was learning at 19. People expected her to have mastered being a minority. It was difficult at first and created a lot of self-doubt. She was ok with that and worked hard at catching up on everything American. Her goal was to grow, and the only way forward for her was through the discomfort.

After a few years of college and working at different ad agencies in NY, LA and Chicago, she aced the blending in. One day she saw a commercial she helped make air on TV where the father taught his son to pitch a tent. Puja thought to herself: “Why did I not cast a mother in that role?” In her pursuit of acceptance, she was losing what was interesting about herself. She was a woman, a woman of color, the only female creative in the room who had a seat at the table. The world couldn’t afford for her not to not point out things only she saw. When asked, she often says that “the only way to make space for different ideas is to embrace the awkward meetings and discussions. If you want to expand your world keep coming back to the table. It won’t be love at first sight and that’s ok.”

Pujas creative spirit, which gets restless if in one place too long, has not only taken her to multiple cities like LA, NYC, Minneapolis and Chicago but she has also jumped 3 countries including Switzerland, USA and India. This was exciting because she was now working with many people whose work was featured in that D&AD book that originally inspired her to move to the U.S.

When Puja and her husband were in LA they got pregnant and were ready to call someplace home. They had always loved Minneapolis, the lakes, the seasons and the people. So, their final move was to the Twin Cities where they had their daughter and bought a house near a lake.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
It wouldn’t be a celebrity because I don’t follow celebrities so I don’t about many of them. Susan Credle, the Global CCO at FSB Global. I want to know her secrets. The other person I’d invite would be my mom because we don’t get enough 1-on-1 time.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
I don’t want to be famous, but I want to leave a mark. I want my life to mean something, and if it does, that means I’ll be remembered. And, it’s ok if it’s only my family that remembers.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
I don’t, but I should because it would help me think things through more thoroughly. I’m an in-the-moment person and it doesn’t always work out.

When did you last sing to yourself? 
Last night, to my daughter when I put her to bed.

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?
Wait, does it have to be an immature mind of a 30 year old? This is a hard question. I kind of want them both. I’ll go with mind.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I don’t have a hunch, but a preference. I hope it’s a heart attack.
To me, that is better than drowning, burning or crashing in an airplane

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
For people, like my dad, who believed in me. My dad believed in dreams over being rational about life. I also think luck played a huge role. My job was to reach for my stars, which was to be a Creative Director in the U.S. If you did a pros and cons exercise on that dream, the cons would definitely kill it! Being persistent and at the right place at the right time had impact on my life. 

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
Being born a woman, in a third world country and middle class has created an adversity to risk for me. To succeed, you have to believe you are right. Even if I have all the proof that I’m right, society has taught me that as a woman I must question myself. I wish I could be more of who I am versus who I’ve been trained to be. 

I challenged her answer and pointed out that from my perspective, her whole story is about taking risks. From her career choice, moving around the world and settling in MN. Puja replied that risk is subjective. She wanted to rule the world, but she is settling for ruling her world.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
I don’t know if I’ve necessarily had dreams that I’ve not set a timeline to. If a dream doesn’t transition to a goal, it seems like a failure. I don’t give myself space to dream. I dream about a Creative Department having 50/50 gender equity, but that’s not in my control. My life has been about achieving, it’s just how I’m wired.  

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
It’s really simple. It’s that I identified what I wanted in life. There were two doors to choose, with pros and cons behind each. I picked my door without questioning my choice. Of course, I’ve thought: “I’m good at math, I should have been a trader.” Sure, I’d have money, but it wouldn’t make me happy.

“I’ve seen the worst outcomes of risk taking!”

Assumptions are funny, aren’t they? We all do it, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. I admit, I see a pretty woman with all the “right” clothes, the “right” job and the “right” things and it never crosses my mind that maybe this person has had struggles or has had to work hard to get where she is.

Assumptions are funny, aren’t they? We all do it, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. I admit, I see a pretty woman with all the “right” clothes, the “right” job and the “right” things and it never crosses my mind that maybe this person has struggled or has worked hard to get where she is.

That was true for me when I got the opportunity to really talk to Melissa. I didn’t realize my assumptions about her until I learned about how she grew up and what her experiences were. Up until that point, our interactions had mostly been professional. And unlike me, she paces herself with the personal information that she shares with people. I can respect that.

Melissa immediately became an adult at 8 years old when her mom died suddenly of myocarditis. Her dad had just dropped her and her brother off for the holidays, when her mom collapsed in the living room. They had to call their dad so he would return to the house and convince him that it wasn’t a joke.

5 years prior to that, her dad survived being struck by a semi, but the accident left him a quadraplegic. So, after her mom died, Melissa took on the stereotypical gender roles of the household. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and made sure her brother got to school in one piece. Think about being in 2nd grade and not having the same parental resources as most kids you are friends with. Life gets real, real fast.

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Melissa shared that her childhood was difficult, but it also developed her ambition. She was an academic overachiever, skipping her senior year in high school and graduating from Grinnell a semester early. She has 2 Master’s Degrees. One is in Journalism and the other in Business.

Her Master’s thesis explored the “Otherness of the body.” She believed that if people with disabilities were represented more in pop culture and film with or without stereotypes, that it would positively affect the overall populations’ view of them. She proved it by testing 2 sample groups. She showed one group film clips from pop culture movies that contained disabled people as protagonists, then had them answer a series of questions relating to their perception of the disabled as parents, in the workplace, etc. The other group wasn’t shown any clips but still answered the questions. The outcome was able to provide statistically significant evidence that even though the film clips may have shown stereotypical portrayals of the disabled, it still positively affected how others perceive the disabled. Most importantly, this proved that representation and inclusivity within media is essential in making people more comfortable with “otherness”.

Melissa’s career and style is impressive. It’s uncommon to meet someone in advertising who has achieved so much academically. I’m always fascinated by people who can do well in academia. She admits during our conversation that she believes her ambition is a direct result of not having more support from adults as a kid. She just wanted someone to provide direction and say: “Hey kid, you’re really good at this. You should go for it.” Instead, she’s had to embark on that journey alone.

Melissa could have a career in any industry. She chose advertising because she fell in love with it. She started at a publishing company, working as a writer and beauty editor for several local magazines. While there, she was recruited by Target and they brought her on board to work on various creative projects.

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While at Target, she transitioned full time into writing and eventually was promoted to Associate Creative Director. Her portfolio of work spans the enterprise including Target Style, Bullseye Beauty, Target Race and Ava & Viv. She takes great pleasure being the person in the room that fights for inclusivity and representation in our storytelling. When her team was developing the Ava & Viv brand (plus size apparel), she was the one tirelessly advocating for us to focus on style first, size second. That commitment has had incredible business results on the projects she leads.

Melissa embodies all the characteristics women get in trouble for. She’s smart, opinionated and determined to get her ideas implemented, no matter who she makes uncomfortable. Those are all the characteristics we need to inspire change and acceptance in our media landscape.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
It changes by day. Michelle Obama. I think she’s amazing. Or Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Time is running out. Make her number one!

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
No, it seems glamorous. I think those people are miserable. I’d like to be known. Someone who fights for something like RBG.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Working out, massage, getting on a plane to a new city and ending with delicious wine.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I just sang this morning! I make up songs about my dogs and sing to them. After my husband left this morning I was scream-singing to my dogs.

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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?
Obviously my mind. I’ve always struggled with being physically fit and I’m trying to give myself a little more credit. I mean, I just deadlifted 220 pounds last month! I’ve also been recovering from a concussion the last 4 months and it’s made me realize even more how important it is for me to be able to think and articulate my ideas.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
No, and I don’t want to think about it. Having watched my mom die, I only want to focus on living. I do have a goal to become more comfortable with death. I want to be at ease and not fight it, but currently, I’m terrified.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Travel, opportunities I’ve had and education. When you travel, you see the world and different perspectives. It changed who I was. I was 15 when I went to Mexico to build houses and I saw what real poverty was. I spent 2 summers doing that.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish I wouldn’t have had so much self doubt. I wonder what life would have been like if someone had recognized what I was good at and pushed me.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Being less risk-averse. Having visibility to the community of people with disabilities, I’ve seen the worst outcomes of risk taking! I’d also follow my own advice.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Move and work abroad. It would be hard to convince my husband. When we met, he hadn’t left the country. I have a good job and I’ve created a beautiful home. I’m settled in.

I’ve designed my life with intention.

It was 3:00 a.m. and Kristin’s brother’s friend was ringing her apartment to get access to her building. She was scared because she thought he was there to rob her. Then the phone rang, and it was her dad. “Andy shot himself.”

It was 3:00 a.m. and Kristin’s brother’s friend was ringing her apartment to get access to her building. She was scared because she thought he was there to rob her. Then the phone rang, and it was her dad. “Andy shot himself.”

Her first thought was: “Is he ok?”

He wasn’t ok. He was dead and Kristin was in total shock. She just saw Andy 2 nights ago when they celebrated New Year’s Eve together. What she did the next few hours, days, weeks and months isn’t very clear because she was in survival mode, constantly asking herself all of the “what if” questions.

Kristin sees herself as an entirely different person since her brother died of suicide. It has forever changed her in ways that she is still uncovering and navigating. She had already begun designing the life she wanted, but this event increased her commitment. She’s a woman that makes things happen. She’s active not passive. “I’m not going to wait for my life to start, so I make things happen.” Kristin has changed careers, moved to a different city and bought a horse.

“I always wanted a horse, so I bought I horse.”

Even though Kristin was a creative woman, when she was deciding where to go to college, she chose to go to business school. She wanted to be financially independent and was unsure about the financial stability of a creative career.

After graduating with a business degree from Marquette University, she worked at Baird as a Financial Analyst covering the retail sector. She spent her days working in Excel spreadsheets and writing reports. It was a repetitive job that worked on a quarterly cadence.

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Well into her career at Baird, that creative calling returned, and she realized that she’d rather be a designer. So she enrolled at a technical college to learn the skills she needed to bring her ideas to life. She worked full-time while she went to school. Once she finished the design program, she got a job at an agency, where she took a significant pay cut to start anew in her design career.

Her next big move was to Jockey where she started as a Senior Designer, became the Creative Director and led a team of 15 creatives. At Jockey, she did a variety of work like: Art direction, e-commerce, visual merchandise, direct mail and packaging just to name a few. Jockey was a cool experience because she got to be a hands-on Creative Director. She felt like the company was “fashion adjacent” and got to work on projects with Rachel Zoe and Tim Tebow.

While working full time at Jockey, she was also working at a beauty start-up called Wantable. It was a subscription based make-up company, where she led marketing and design. It was fun because she got to be scrappy and make decisions quickly, which allowed her to get a lot done.

After working at Jockey for 6 1/2 years, she was ready for a new challenge. She had just lost her brother and her father shortly thereafter. It was a year of extreme personal loss and she needed to find the space to heal.

Lucky for us, she found her way to Minneapolis through a business relationship with a recruiter who found her a spot on our team at Target.

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Kristin bought a condo in the North Loop in Minneapolis so she walks to work everyday and that influences her personal style. She wears mostly basics and dresses in layers. Her color palette is black and white and she likes to mix feminine details with edgier things, which is the perfect expression of her personality.

She wishes there were more opportunities to dress cool because she loves fashion. Sometimes, she’ll drive to work just so she can dress up for the day.

The style of her home is where she invests most of her time. Her space is very important to her because it’s her escape and where she goes to decompress. She just finished a bathroom remodel that took 3 months, so she’s looking forward to getting back to a construction-free zone.

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
I don’t know if I want to know. I feel like that’s cheating. Things happen when and why they’re supposed to. If I see the future, then I’ll screw it up by trying to control things.

What do you value most in a friendship?
Honesty and being emotionally consistent. Show up the same.

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Tell me about an embarrassing moment in your life.
I was at this bachelorette party where I didn’t know most of the women. I got really drunk and ran to our party bus because it was so cold out. I tripped and fell, face-first and skidded down the sidewalk. All this happened in front of another bachelor party bus. I sprained my ankle, was bleeding and didn’t realize I was injured. The following weekend was the wedding and I had to go with a scabbed face. I’m sure everyone was looking at me thinking: “Oh, there’s that drunk girl…”

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Maya Angelou. She was a bad-ass woman. She grew up in extreme poverty and abuse, overcame all of it to become incredibly powerful and inspirational.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
No. I value my private life. I recharge by being alone. It would be so stressful to be constantly scrutinized. I judge myself enough. I don’t need help with that.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, usually. My mouth moves faster than my brain and I want to make sure I make all of my points, especially if it’s a difficult conversation.

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What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Not waking up to an alarm clock. I’m not a fan of breakfast so I’d like to go straight to the meal where I can eat pizza or lasagna. Spend the day outdoors in the sun. Have time to read. Eat sushi. Drink wine. Get a massage and go to sleep.

When did you last sing to yourself?
Oh, like all the time. I sing in the car, on the sidewalk, in the shower. When I sing to my boyfriend, I make up my own lyrics. They’re dirty, funny or all “meows”.

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 for sure.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
In some kind of stupid accident because I leap first. I’m klutzy, fall and am always in a hurry.

The Minimalist

Laura is the first woman I’ve worked with that truly adheres to a curated, minimal wardrobe. She’s dedicated to classic pieces and a neutral color palette. Seasonally, she adds a pop of color to her neutral palette. In the spring, it’s pink. In the winter it’s red.

Laura is the first woman I’ve worked with that truly adheres to a curated, minimal wardrobe. She’s dedicated to classic pieces and a neutral color palette. Seasonally, she adds a pop of color to her neutral palette. In the spring, it’s pink. In the winter it’s red.

Her wardrobe is the true definition of a capsule. She has under 70 pieces, including jackets and shoes, but this number does not include pajamas or undergarments. She’s intentional about the way she shops for clothes. If she buys something, she gets rid of something.

Prior to setting this intention around her wardrobe, she had so many pieces and often found herself feeling like she never had anything to wear. “Too much dilutes the beauty,” she says. This way, she frees up her money, time and mindshare.

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Laura possesses that unique gift of the modern creative director: Part business person, part creative. It started as a child when she would play. It was either setting up photoshoots with her barbies and disposable cameras, or playing “office” by answering phones and taking notes. She actually filled out details, in the inserts from WIRED magazines, about her make-believe clients.

Always fluctuating between right and left brain activities, she knew she was creative, but she also knew she didn’t want to struggle.

As a young girl, she started playing music. It was piano at 10 years old and then violin. She played in the orchestra through college. Actually, when she started at the University of Minnesota, she thought she would study music and become a piano performer. However, she never saw a clear career path.

While at the university, she discovered the College of Design, where she majored in Graphic Design and earned a minor in Photography. She saw a much clearer professional path in this type of work.

If you spend any time admiring Laura’s Instagram account, you’ll discover that she is also a jet-setter. Her love of travel started early and by happenstance because neither of her parents are big travelers.

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She studied French in school and ended up traveling to France with a group in high school. That was just the beginning. In college, she traveled even more, staying at youth hostels and buying cheap international flights with 3 layovers. Today, she prioritizes convenience and comfort while traveling. No more long layovers and sleeping in airports.

She’s traveled to Asia, South America, Europe, The Middle East and is looking forward to a trip to Africa. Turkey was the first trip that her parents argued with her about. They didn’t want her traveling there because they worried about her safety. Ultimately, she went and it was a beautiful trip.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
My Grandma. She died when I was little. I’ve gone through a fair amount of her things and heard stories about her. So, I’ve pieced together her life, and it’s weird to see all those pieces without remembering who she was. She’s the only grandparent that I don’t have strong adult memories of.

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Would you like to be famous?
Yes. More people need to be famous for better things. I’d like to be famous for something creative. OR building a real estate empire. Owning an island with a vacation village in the shape of an “L”.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
No, unless I need to remember numbers. Even when I make a speech, I use bullet points. People sound better when they are candid.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Waking up in a new city that I’ve never been to. Spending the day exploring and eating a ton of amazing food. I like the feeling of being unsettled. The controlled chaos when I’m traveling. The only thing I’ll plan is the place we’ll stay and book a ticket. I like the pressure to figure things out on the fly.

When did you last sing to yourself?
I think everyday. Outside of work, to my fiancé (Thierry), to the cat, to myself. Any conversation can become a song.

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?
Body. I can still travel and eat better than if I have a 90 year old stomach. Plus, I wouldn’t care so much. Being able-bodied and senile sounds nice.

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Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
I think it will be super traumatic like brain cancer or an airplane crash. I’ve been fortunate to not have experienced true hardship in life. I don’t have an “overcome” story, so I feel like I’ll suffer for it in death.

What do you and your partner have in common?
The desire to constantly be experiencing new things, our love for an urban lifestyle, the amount that we support and push each other. We’re constantly challenging each other to be better.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Growing up comfortable, safe and in a loving family. I had a lot of security so I just got to be a kid.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish I would have been more exposed to the world. I didn’t know enough about other cultures, religions or food.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
I’d like to be able to pick up languages easily.

I never want to be done learning.

Samie was supposed to be an engineer because from 4th to 9th grade, she enrolled exclusively in STEM classes. She always loved art, but knew she was a good problem solver, so math and science seemed like the practical direction.

Samie was supposed to be an engineer because from 4th to 9th grade, she enrolled exclusively in STEM classes. She always loved art, but knew she was a good problem solver, so math and science seemed like the practical direction.

When she was in 10th grade, she decided that she didn’t want to do math anymore, so she pivoted toward design classes.

She may have been inspired to make this change because of the stress she was dealing with at home, a way to take control of something. Samie has a younger sister that was born with cerebral palsy and at 10 years old witnessed her sister experience seizures. That was difficult for Samie and left her feeling helpless.

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She loved her design classes in high school and went on to study Creative Advertising at Michigan State. At MSU, she discovered copy writing, a discipline she would excel at because it requires that magical mix of right and left brain thinking. She could leverage her logical roots in math and science, mix it with design and writing, and be the strategic problem solver she always wanted to be.

Samie became very active in the American Advertising Federation organization on campus, an interview-only program that her high school portfolio got her into. Taking those design classes gave her a leg up because she was the only freshman with a portfolio.

The The AAF team participated in a campaign design for Glidden paint. AdFed provided the brief, as part of a national competition, and the strategy was to acquire millennial customers. Based on that acquisition strategy, the team focused on smaller DIY projects and renters. The concept they came up with was: “Look what one can do.” How one gallon of paint can change your room.

The campaign won at the district level, then placed 7th at the national level. Working with this team and getting to see work from students all over the country would be one of the most valuable experiences of her college career.

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Prior to her senior year in college, Samie got an internship at Target. After completing the 10 week program, she accepted a full time offer writing for the weekly ad.

Samie finished college in 3 years. She knew what she wanted to do, be a Creative Director, and she wanted to get out and do it.

She worked for 1 year on the weekly ad and then took her talents to Target Creative. Projects she has written for include, Cat & Jack, Target Style and some naming of the company’s new brands. Naming is a new muscle that she’s excited to flex.

To continue on her quest of continued learning, Samie plans to start her MBA in the spring so that she can continue to grow as a marketer

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Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Emma Watson. I’ve idolized her since I was little and she hasn’t steered my wrong. She’s an ivy leaguer, an ambassador, intelligent, kind and thoughtful.

Would you like to be famous?
I want to be known by those who share my passions, not famous like the Kardashians.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
I don’t think so. I don’t practice.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Getting out of bed without it being hard, going for a run around Lake Calhoun, then Ashtanga, breakfast with a friend, hangout at Updown, grab dinner with different friends, catch a sunset, movie and sleep.

When did you last sing to yourself?
“You make my dreams come true” to her friend in his car the other day.

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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?
I feel like I have to go with body. I’m an active person, plus I have a unique perspective from having a sister that has neither. I’ve seen the emotional turmoil of not being able-bodied.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
Probably just tripping over something. I have bad spatial awareness.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I’m surprised by how many people are cheering me on. I’m grateful for a good support system in my personal life, my career and everything in-between.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish my sister and I were more supported earlier on, when Katie came into our lives.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To freeze time. I just need more time.

Love people. Cook them food.

Like most stylish women, Amanda likes to curate experiences in every aspect of her life. You’ll see that extra special touch in her wardrobe, her home and especially in her cooking.

Like most stylish women, Amanda likes to curate experiences in every aspect of her life. You’ll see that extra special touch in her wardrobe, her photography and especially in her cooking.

She was inspired by her dad from a young age and in college decided to learn to cook for herself. When she began, she didn’t even know how to make an omelette.

Not only did she learn to cook, she photographed, art directed and wrote, turning her new found interest into a beautifully designed blog, nourishedbyseason. She challenged herself to 1 recipe a week from June to September, and even had to take a week off from work to get it started. Lately, she’s been feeling the pull to get back to it. I hope she does, I need food inspiration!

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Just like her beautifully curated food blog, she has the same keen eye for detail and beauty in her wardrobe. She likes versatility with a combination of classic and unique pieces. She typically buys more classic pieces, but likes to make them special by adding vibrant shoes or playful hair. With a good eye for trends and color, she likes to mix feminine and masculine pieces, colors, textures and patterns to create something that feels a little bit special and unique every day. It’s about feeling good in her own skin so she has the confidence to bring her best self to work, especially on the hard days.

Amanda works as a Product Designer for Target’s Registry business. Her design career transitioned from marketing design to product design when she realized that she wasn’t totally satisfied as a Digital Art Director.

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In her current role as a Product Designer, she builds tools instead of communications to influence people. This type of design is more like solving a puzzle, getting into a user’s mind and empathizing with their needs to develop solutions that can help them accomplish their tasks better.

Amanda was well-positioned for this transition because her interest in technology started at 13 when her parents bought the family’s first computer. She was having fun with AOL chat rooms where her screen name was “Taydream13”. She had a chat room friend who had a Hanson fan webpage, and I said “Oh hey, I can do that!”

She always had a natural design aesthetic, so she pursued more tech classes in both high school and college. Amanda continued to hone her design perspective in her career by surrounding herself with talented peers and mentors.

Our paths crossed because I saw her stylish ways at work, but also because many of her colleagues told me that she should be featured on this blog. I couldn’t agree more!

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
My dad. He’s the best cook I know personally. We have a special bond and share a deep appreciation for the work that goes into making a meal. He inspired me to learn to cook and he’s also my favorite person to cook for. Every year for my birthday, he gifts me an elaborate multi-course meal.

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Would you like to be famous?
When I was younger, yes. I wanted to be a famous singer, but realized that I was terrified of singing in front of people. I don’t like to be the center of attention, even at work.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, I’m neurotic about being prepared, especially when it comes to presentations, I get really nervous. Even though I’m at my best when I’m winging it, preparation helps my nerves.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Sleeping in. Cooking myself and another person an amazing brunch. Being out in nature on a hike in a beautiful place. The afternoon spent being creative, maybe taking pictures or playing guitar. I’d like the day to be part alone and part with people.

When did you last sing to yourself?
I sing to myself quite frequently. I’ll sing with my boyfriend, Zach, after a few glasses of wine. I’ll sing “Don’t cry for me Argentina” and he sings to me “Love Street” by the Doors. His taste in music is way cooler than mine, but I definitely have the better voice. I was in choir, so I know a fair amount of show tunes.

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Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
*Big sigh* I have no idea. I can probably fantasize a million ways. It depends on the day and my symptoms and what Google diagnosis me with.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My parents because they are amazing. They had high expectations for me and supported me in whatever I wanted to do.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I played 5 or 6 instruments growing up. I wish my parents would have made me stick with one.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To truly experience life though someone else, especially if it’s someone that I’m struggling with. In the context of food, I want to know what it would be like to actually like the taste of bleu cheese and gorgonzola.

Empathy trek

I was sitting on the idea for this blog for quite a few months. It just kept popping up in my mind as something that I needed to do. It was persistent and finally I was like “Fine…I’ll do it…Gaaaawwwwwdd.”

I was sitting on the idea for this blog for quite a few months. It just kept popping up in my mind as something that I needed to do. It was persistent and finally I was like “Fine…I’ll do it…Gaaaawwwwwdd.” Usually, when I do something, there’s a whole plan around it. What’s the strategy? What’s the intent? What will it look like? How will I execute? How will I sustain this? Is it scalable? Oh god, “Is it scalable?” is the biggest idea killer. The “planning” is exhausting and paralyzing and it’s really just an excuse to not start. In fact, when I published the first few articles, people I’d run into would ask those same questions. My honest reply: “I don’t know, I just want to do it.”

I started by sending an email to 12 women that I thought were cool. I estimated that I’d get half to participate. To my surprise, all 12 not only said “yes,” they were excited, supportive and generous. “Wow, that’s cool,” I thought. I was surprised, but totally pumped that all 12 wanted to play.

I started planning the photoshoots, scheduling interviews, developing the editorial calendar, designing the website and I was in full project management mode. Which really means that I was checking boxes and getting shit done, MY FAVORITE!!! It’s also a very disconnected mode. It’s all about moving the needle toward the deadline and not stopping to consider people. When I started having the interviews with the women I work with, I realized more was happening than just a blog about style and that I needed to take a pause and pay closer attention to the stories.

Originally, I thought style meant fashion. Let’s talk about where you shop and how you put your look together. SQUEEEEEEEAAAAAAL!!! But what was happening was an expression of true style, which as defined by Webster is: A particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character.

The weight of what was really happening hit me. Women were confiding in me. They were telling me their stories about how they grew up, failures in their careers, nerves about motherhood, insecurities about how they looked. The list goes on and on. “Oh, maybe don’t include THAT in the article.” Holy shit, they have a lot of courage and I have a bigger responsibility than I had anticipated.

And then they turned the tables on me. It started with Hannah. She was one of the first women featured. “When are you going to do it? I’ll write your article.” My knee-jerk reaction, in my head, was: “Never.” My outward reaction was probably an eyeroll, a face and some excuse why not. But it kept coming up. “When is it your turn?” “When are we going to see the face behind the blog?” “I want to read your profile.”

When I started this process, I didn’t really think through what I was asking of my friends. I see them through my lens and what I see is beauty, creativity, strength and tons of style. It NEVER dawned on me that what I was asking put the women I work with in a very vulnerable position. I had zero empathy and made a lot of assumptions about how easy this would be for them. Look at them, they are so cool, of course they want their photo taken!

As long as I was writing about and photographing other women, nobody was looking at me. I don’t want anyone looking at me or reading about my personal life and how I feel about my appearance. I’m boring, ugly and have no style. If I go in front of the camera and get interviewed, this will all be revealed. Everyone will see that I’m boring, ugly and have no style. And then what?

That’s the truth. As I write it, it makes me sad that I had those thoughts. I suspect a lot of women had similar thoughts and I suspect that when I ask them to participate in this project, they first go to that dark place and talk themselves out of it, take a deep breath, see the big picture and then send the email that says: “Yes Mary, I’ll participate.”

It takes a lot of guts to send that email and I didn’t realize that before. I’m grateful to the first 12 women. They exhibited a lot of courage and put themselves out there for a project that had no definition or clarity. I’m also thankful that they encouraged me to walk in their shoes through this experience because I’ve learned so much.

There’s still no plan or strategy, just a desire to tell more stories and a commitment to make things with the women I work with.

Dress (like a boss).

From the very beginning, dressing well was important to Mary. She remembers saving up for a pair of Guess jeans – splitting the cost with her parents. Their family didn’t have much money, and she was frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t simply dress exactly the way she wanted. But she had to have the jeans – and she made it happen.

From the very beginning, dressing well was important to Mary. She remembers saving up for a pair of Guess jeans and splitting the cost with her parents. Their family didn’t have much money, and she was frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t simply dress exactly the way she wanted. But she had to have the jeans, and she made it happen.

This is very much in line with the Mary that I know. She knows what she wants and she is willing to put in the work to get-it-done.

Mary and I first connected over style. Having just moved back to Minneapolis from New York, I was pleasantly surprised to see her walking around the Target Creative floor. I remember actually thinking to myself  “Thank God! There are people here with real style.” I noticed immediately her artful ability to dress professionally but in a really beautiful and unique way. In an industry where casual is cool and cool is king, Mary expresses her respect for herself and others by showing up looking like she cares. And she really does.

Caring about how I dress is an act of civility. I care about how I dress because I care about the people I encounter. 

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As any truly good designer, Mary pays attention to the details. She knows how to pull off pieces that some would shy away from – like a sack dress or high-waist wide-leg trousers – balancing cropped or oversized pieces with great tailoring and the perfect shoes. I’m pretty sure the first thing I said to her was: “I love your shoes”. She cares about quality and respects the cost. She embraces trends while staying true to the classic principles of style.

She looks like a boss – and she wants to be one

Mary was a creative kid. Her mother’s side of the family was artistic and she got early insight into the world of design from her uncle who worked as a designer. But when it came time for school, she made what she felt was the “responsible” decision and went to Business School. She earned a Marketing degree from the University of St. Thomas and jumped into the retail world as an intern at Dayton’s. From there, she went on to work at Best Buy as a Merch Analyst.

During this time, she met and fell in love with her future husband, Craig, over long distance love letters. He was living in Chicago at the time. While their relationship developed, she became highly aware of the fact that there was no one at work that she aspired to be, and so she started to consider a bigger career shift.

It was during this time, that her dad, who she is very close with, got sick. She made the tough decision to quit her job, leave Minneapolis (where Craig had just moved to be with her) and move back home to Cold Spring and run the family business. As a young, educated woman from outside the construction industry she faced resistance from the men she managed in her father’s place. Despite the challenges, she implemented new hiring and training techniques and dramatically improved turnover rates, which had been a long standing problem. It was a trying time, but she knew she had made a positive impact. When her dad’s health improved, she decided to finally follow her creative calling and go back to school to study design, this time on her own dime.

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After school, she jumped into interviews, but had difficulty landing a full time design job. She jokes that this could have been credited to her boldness in interviews and not knowing how to say what you’re supposed to say in those situations. She started freelancing and was happy to work solo and guide her own work and business.

Her design business was successful. She won awards, designed products that landed on the shelves at Target and made some really cool brands that are thriving today. But she became tired of doing all the things you have to do when you run a business like: Accounting, bill collecting, invoicing, estimating and sales. She just wanted to focus on the work. It was during this time that she was working on the logo design for MPLS Madwomen. When she presented the work to the founder, Alison Beattie, Alison’s feedback on how she presented was: “You’re totally a UX designer!”

Through their discussions, she came to understand what that really meant and that UX design was where she was supposed to be. It was this discovery that made her comfortable, for the first time, taking a full time position and committing to a company for the long-term.

To Mary, good design is thoughtful, empathetic and solves problems for real people. As a designer, you have to be willing to put in the hard work, and think beyond yourself and what you want to be true. You have to do the research and be willing and ready to try and fail…and try again. As someone who works with her, I know that she practices what she preaches, and it’s refreshing and motivating to be around.

As her career develops and she thinks about what’s next Mary says: “I want to give back to creative people!” She stands by the concept of “leadership as service” and the principle that “It’s not about me! It’s about what I can do for you.” Her advice to creatives: “Get to know everybody! Build your team.” I see this as the key to Mary getting-shit-done. She’s truly interested in everyone’s perspective, and puts in the time to hear it and learn more. I see this as the ultimate practice of respect. In her words, it’s all about “coming together and letting people do what they’re really good at.”

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Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Prince. We would totally get it on. I’m sure of it. Could you imagine?!?! It would smell like lavender and we’d have this perfect vegan meal. The whole time I would be thinking…what’s going to happen next?! I have a ton of respect for artists who can cut out the middle man. He was so innovative so early when it came to digital and his control of content. I love that he was always telling YouTube to take his videos down. I mean, he was right.

Would you like to be famous?
No. I like to be in the background makings things happen. I don’t need to be the face. I’m too naive about people’s intentions. I want to be known, like – “you should call Mary for that” – but not famous. No.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
It depends on the call. I’ve had some tough calls. When I had my own business, I had a client hire me for some art direction work. They happened to be a creative staffing company, but who’s counting? I did the work, provided them options and ideas. They never got back in touch and then they totally stole my work! My lawyer confirmed my suspicions. So, I called the CEO and told them: “I will shut down your website!” I rehearsed for that one! When it’s a business thing, you need to site the right rules, and know what you’re doing. So in a business situation, yes, I’ll rehearse. When I feel like I’ve been wronged, yes! I have to balance my emotions with my logic and need to get my point across.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I don’t know the answer to this one. I don’t think there is a perfect day. I really like going on vacation with Craig. We found this place in Mexico that is perfect. We sleep in, have breakfast, go to the pool, drink cocktails, etc. It’s so simple. I guess it’s perfect. To me this is perfect right now, sitting at a beautiful place with you, drinking rosé, and having a great conversation.

When did you last sing yourself? To someone else?
Every day. I sing to my dog. “Are you going to eat today?” Anything you would state as a question, I’ll sing. I sing in my car all the time. I hum a lot in the kitchen. I find myself at the gym singing out loud with headphones on. I love music. Sometimes I sing and dance in front of Craig just to make him smile.

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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?
I honestly want to keep my body. I think it would be amazing to lose my mind because I don’t want to give a shit! It sounds cathartic! I think it would be so hard not being able to move. It’s my meditation. It’s how I get my head straight.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
Totally a stroke. It runs in my family and sometimes, I have these moments where something will fall asleep and I’m like “Oh god this is it”.

Name 3 things you and your husband have in common.
Absolutely nothing. Seriously, on the surface we are opposites. What we do have in common is our lifestyle philosophy. Our support for each other in our ambitions. His art is computer programming and he fully supports me and my art. “Be the boss! Draw the pictures!” Mutual respect for what we want to do. At the end of the day, we value the same things.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Craig.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish we weren’t poor when I was growing up. Man, you carry that shame with you forever. We didn’t start out poor, we just lost everything. I returned home from a slumber party one morning and people were moving our stuff into another house across the street. It got worse after that and we had to live in a really shitty place. Being embarrassed about where you live and having the whole town know because it was a fall from grace, was torture. You know that scene in Pretty in Pink when Blane asks where Andie lives so he can bring her home, and she says that she doesn’t want him to see where she lives? I lived that. It’s still painful to think about.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Hip hop dancing. I was in color guard and shit. You learn choreography. I miss learning a routine. I love synchronized dancing!

Stylishly unstylish

“Stylishy unstylish” is how Bethany describes her look. She’s all about finding her comfort zone, which starts with a great pair of sneakers and a great pair of jeans. She has about 30 pairs of jeans, but finds that she only wears the same 3 pair. It’s AG denim in blue, black & white.

“Stylishy unstylish” is how Bethany describes her look. She’s all about finding her comfort zone, which starts with a great pair of sneakers and a great pair of jeans. She has about 30 pairs of jeans, but finds that she only wears the same 3 pair. It’s AG denim in blue, black & white.

Bethany stays true to her comfort zone, even in the harsh Minnesota winters. You’ll see her wearing all white and open toe shoes when it’s 20 below! That’s partially because she can take the skyway to work and partially because she loves wearing white in the winter.

When she’s shopping for clothes, she invests in key pieces and then mixes in Zara & Target for basics. She prefers shopping an edited collection like Bergdorff 5th floor or D.Nolo, over digging for clothes (like my sister) at TJ MAXX or Off 5th. She wants to express optimism and open mindedness in her style. When she’s presenting work, she wants to appear cool and confident. “Clothing should never distract from the work. You should look like you know what you’re doing.”

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One of her first memories as a kid was knowing that she wanted to do what her dad did, but better. Her dad had a graphic design studio and she remembers holding down silk screens when she was only 2 years old.

Her roots are in the midwest, she’s from St. Louis, but has spent a majority of her time in New York City. She went to art school at Cooper Union and studied under some of the greats: Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Massimo Vignelli, Jessica Helfand and Lou Dorfsman.

Paul Rand was 81 years old when she was in his class, but she still carries some of the best advice that he shared. He would always tell the class to get off of the computer and get back to sketching because something gets lost between the hand and the computer. This advice was specific to Typography class where his philosophy was that type should just fall together like salt and pepper. When you start designing on the computer, you lose the opportunity to make mistakes and some of the best work comes from making mistakes.

Lou Dorfsman talked about being aware of culture. He would tell her to think about what’s happening in the world and infuse it in her work. It’s difficult to be that overt in your work when you’re creating for a mass retailer, but the spirit of that sentiment resides in brainstorming sessions.

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Bethany spent the first part of her career working in the luxury market. One of her first jobs was at a design firm with clients like: Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Cole Haan and Coach. Then she shifted to mass retail with a position at Global Brands Group, where they built brands for companies like Kohls. Have you heard of JLo for Kohls?

Then in 2015, out of the blue, she got the call for a dream job at Target, which is where she is today. Bethany is a Creative Director on the style business. Specifically, she directs the TV advertising. Ads that make you pause your DVR like this one and this one.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest
Ina Garten. She seems so fun! I would cook for her and maybe get some tips!

Would you like to be famous?
Not really. I like my life and don’t yearn for popularity and recognition. If I was famous, I’d like it to be for doing what I do best – good, fun, optimistic creative direction.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, especially if it’s something I don’t want to do. I want to be as prepared as possible. I don’t, however, rehearse to order a pizza.

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What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Waking up at a beautiful place like a vineyard or on safari. My boyfriend, friends and family are with me. We have a long lunch under a tree and drink rosé. I don’t even like rosé, but it sounds romantic. I’m wearing something casual and incredibly chic. Maybe we wind down by a stream. Just having time to reflect on the day would be perfect.

When did you last sing yourself? To someone else?
This past weekend. We went to the Hollywood Bowl. My boyfriend and I sing in the car.

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?
I want both. I want the mind to figure out how I can have both.

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Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
I hope it’s sudden and I hope people celebrate and have a party.

Name 3 things you and your boyfriend have in common.
We’re both Cardinals fans, food (I cook, he eats) and we both love outdoor adventures.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish my family would have been more open. I grew up Catholic and so they were really reserved.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To be more relaxed without medication! I’d also like to be more organized. I’m not good with paperwork. I need help!

Acting natural

There I found myself in front of the camera, wondering if I should be bending my knee a little…

There I found myself in front of the camera, wondering if I should be bending my knee a little…

When Mary asked if we’d join her in sharing women’s style and stories, I jumped at the idea. Of course! I love hearing people’s stories. Key word, right there. Hearing. It didn’t occur to me that my story would be a subject matter and it just might involve having a picture (and a few wardrobe changes) taken. But hey, what do they say about the infamous comfort zone? We set the photoshoot date and while there was a little pit in my stomach, I knew it was good. That is, until the night before. I was picking out outfits, which should have been easy because it’s what I wear every day, right? Holding up combos in front of the mirror, I for some reason found myself asking, ‘I wear this, right?’

And that’s where it began.

The questions seeped into the following day’s shoot. Is that how I stand? Does this look good? Where should my hands go? That’s really how I smile? Should I hold my sunglasses? Am I walking weird? Thoughts on bending my knee? Oh, maybe straight is better…

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Before I knew it, things I’d never even given a second thought to, were making me second guess myself. Act natural, I told my racing thoughts. But that’s when it hit me. Could those words be any more of an oxymoron?

Being in front of a camera can so easily pressure us to put on a show. Act a certain way. Dress a certain way. Look a certain way. Do a certain thing. Not do another. Be a somebody, when in reality, all we really want captured is ourselves.

After what felt like some rough moments, I found myself saying to our photographer, just get candid stuff. Instead of trying to pose, it felt more normal to have a conversation and what ended up happening was so welcomed. I got to hear stories again. Anna talking about her latest adventure with the cats. Michelle talking about her journey with photography and the last wedding she shot. Liana with her sense of humor all over everything. It was natural and I began to feel it.

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In bringing all of us women together, Mary’s removed the word “act” from our stories. We have the opportunity to open up and just be ourselves, trusting we’ll be loved for it. I respect the women who’ve gotten in front of a camera, shared their story and owned their style. Because hey, when it comes down to it, we should be proud! Proud of each other, of ourselves and whatever we decide to put on. (and yep, proud of however that knee bends)

Article written by: Kiera Jacobson