Fargo INC! March 2024

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20 26 30 32 34 39 40 130 156 154 // MARCH 2024 154 40 156 FEATURES Partner Content: The Future of Community Banking Partner Content: Mental Health Matters Partner Content: Livewire's Journey of Bringing Events to Life for 25 Years Ask The Expert: Boost Cyber Defenses with Routine Security Tests Partner Content: Celebrating 50 Years of Clean Windows Partner Content: The Cost of Care: Health Trends Impacting the Workforce 35 Under 35: 15 Years of Empowering Leaders 35 Under 35 Alumnae Are Leading the Way Forward Women You Should Know: Dani Gilseth & Dori Walter 10 Questions with John Machacek: Chief Sock Guy, Wright Food
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The Art of Listening

Editor’s note
Brady Drake, Fargo INC! Editor





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18 MARCH 2024


Then to Now



Greenbush State Bank is founded.
20 MARCH 2024
Greenbush State Bank celebrates 50 years in 1985.

"I am grateful to take part in honoring the legacy while shaping the future of Border Bank. We are committed to continuing a rich tradition of community banking and service that endures for generations to come," Shae said.

Shae earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from Moorhead State University Moorhead and his Master of Business Administration from North Dakota State University. He has over twenty years of experience in the financial services industry, primarily in business banking and has served in a variety of leadership positions, most recently as chief banking officer and president.

When Kory Shae Discovered Border Bank

Shae's introduction to Border Bank came about in an unconventional way. He was initially part of Union State Bank, which was acquired by Border Bank. "I was purchased in a merger and acquisition," he said. During this process, he was impressed by Border

Bank's approach. He admired their commitment to staying relevant and investing in their brand, people, processes, and technology.

The merger process allowed Shae to meet a variety of professionals in the financial industry, and he was particularly impressed by the people at Border Bank. "Border has some of the most dedicated people [I've ever been] exposed to," he said. Shae joined the Border Bank team in 2020 as a director of business development and quickly advanced through his roles.

Now, he has the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead Border Bank into its next chapter, backed with several goals, both personal and professional, to guide his journey as the bank's new CEO. With 11 locations in both Minnesota and North Dakota, Shae combines his personal values with his professional approach. "I like to talk to our team about how we will never 'arrive' but that it's the pursuit that drives our success," he said.

Kory Shae on what makes a great team

• An organization enriched with diverse opinions, backgrounds, and experiences.

• A team environment that values respectful disagreement and cohesion, focusing on a common goal.

• The mix of long-tenured employees and newcomers adds significant value.

• Empowering team members to share their honest opinions, which is essential for the team's effectiveness.

Shae also stresses the importance of making difficult but correct decisions, especially those that are client-centric. "Teams that are willing to do the hard thing because of their dedication are very valuable for our organization and our clients," he said.

1993 1998 1995 2000

Greenbush State Bank & Badger State Bank merge to create Border State Bank. BSB Baudette branch opens. BSB Roseau branch opens.
BSB International Falls branch opens.

Kory Shae's Goals for Border Bank's Future

As the new CEO of Border Bank, Shae views his primary responsibility as maintaining and building upon the bank's existing successes. "I have a big responsibility to keep doing what is great," he said. "My goal for the bank is to continue on the successful path we're on."

When it comes to the bank's employees, Shae's vision is to maintain and develop the bank's culture, fostering growth and adaptation in an industry that is constantly changing.

"I think our industry is growing and consolidating at an unprecedented pace, and to maintain that relevancy, what I owe to the employees is to continue to grow the bank in a way that makes sense so that we remain an independent successful bank," he said.

Community Banking

Shae isn't just committed to banking as a profession but also holds a strong belief in the value and future of community banking. "I'm always proud of how dominant of a force community banking is and will be in the future," he said.

To Shae, community banking is a crucial part of local ecosystems. "We take deposits and borrow money from

2002 2015 2002 2016

First National Bank with locations in Thief River Falls and Middle River acquired. First Advantage Bank in Coon Rapids is acquired. BSB Thief River Falls and Middle River branches open.
22 MARCH 2024
BSB Coon Rapids branch opens.

our neighbors, from our churches, from our schools. The fact that it's an ecosystem that we give back to [is what I love about it]. National banking doesn't exist at that level—and that's why community banking is different than national banking. That's why I like it. I like the fact that we all are helping each other... As our clients do better, the bank does better, the people in the communities do better, and it makes me proud to be part of that," he said.

What Sets Border Bank Apart

Shae believes that what sets Border Bank apart in the banking industry is its unique blend of being both big enough to be relevant and small enough to be personable. "I'm big into reducing friction in the banking system," he said. "The winner in the community bank space will be the ones that can reduce that friction and make it easy to do business."

Regarding what makes Border Bank a great organization to work for, Shae

credits the people. He compares his enthusiasm for coming into the office to the energy he feels at a gym—not for the equipment, but for the vibe. "I'm always excited... it's exciting to be with these people," he said. This excitement extends to leveraging technology for better communication, such as web boards and video calling, allowing him to connect with all 160 employees.

The future of technology in banking

Shae anticipates significant changes in the banking industry over the next five years, particularly in the realm of community banking. He foresees a shift towards more specialized, niche services. "The winners and losers will be the people that find a way to provide exceptional service and meet their client's needs," he said.

While he believes that technology will play a crucial role in the future of banking, it should not replace the human element. Instead, technology

What's your Border Bank pitch?

"I would choose Border Bank because we are big enough to help with a plethora of products and services. However, we're still structured to size, so we move very quickly and can meet the demands of the client. Border Bank still cares how everybody feels, but is big enough to compete on a larger scale big enough to offer anything."

Kory Shae on Leadership

"My pursuit was never to say, 'One day, I want to be at the top, I want to be the CEO.' Not at all. I want to work with really good people and do really great things. And that's what we're doing at Border Bank.

2017 2018 2018 2020

First State Bank of Clearbrook is acquired. Union State Bank in Fargo, ND is acquired. BSB Clearbrook branch opens.
Border Bank name and brand launch.

should be used to enhance and support human interactions and services. "We can use technology to support people to do things better, faster, and to remove friction," he said.

Shae's vision for the future of banking involves empowering people and communities to do business in ways that make sense for them, leveraging technology as a tool to enhance, not replace, personal connections and services.

How their team can support and sustain our communities

Shae emphasizes the importance of Border Bank's team in supporting and sustaining their communities, drawing on the concept of the banking ecosystem. He believes that this model, where the bank and the community mutually support each other, will continue to be effective. He wants his team to contribute in ways that are meaningful to them.

"I want you to be involved in what you want to be involved in," he said, stressing the importance of genuine passion in community engagement.

For Shae, the key to successful community support is allowing individuals to pursue what truly resonates with them. This not only benefits the individuals and the bank but also has a profound positive impact on the community.

Shae is proud of the work Border Bank has been doing in supporting communities and hopes this will continue. He sees the bank's commitment to community support as a core driver of its success and an integral part of its identity. "It's a core piece of Border Bank," Shae concluded, highlighting the bank's dedication to contributing positively to the communities it serves.

Get started with Border Bank today







Border Bank Fargo branch opens on 17th Avenue South.

2023 2024 2022

Border Bank opens second Fargo branch on 32nd Avenue South.

Northern Ag Insurance is acquired.

Border Bank welcomes Kory Shae as their new CEO

24 MARCH 2024

ver the course of a pandemic and amid an overconsumption of online everything, our society collectively realized the impact of mental health issues on our personal and professional lives. Sure, we spoke softly of mental health concerns with close friends and family, but in the office, this discussion was intentionally muted. Historically, mental health was considered too personal, even for the watercooler. Today, our professional lives have a more personalized perspective, and businesses are recognizing health and happiness as major factors in productivity. Deep down, we’re all complex humans, so why shouldn’t our environments support both our mental and physical health?

Mental Health Matters

JLG is Re-Designing the Way We Work

It’s Complicated

In the past, we avoided carrying mental health concerns to work due to the stigma that typically tagged along. Today, we look around and see what has been hiding in plain view: a neurodiverse office, including clinical and seasonal depression, anxiety, autism, trauma, PTSD, addiction, chronic disease, and even learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD, and dysgraphia—all forcing employees to quietly adapt to an environment that may not be set up for them to thrive.

To entice employees to come back to an office setting, business leaders have had to get real, facing the fact that a workplace filled with offices, one-sizefits-all cubicles, and an on-site gym may not be meeting the diversity of employee needs.

Within two of JLG Architects’ design studios, Workplace and Healthcare, their once distinct worlds have collided. Often, the teams are working together to solve complex human problems, including how to accommodate a full spectrum of evolving needs with limited space. JLG’s Workplace team has been prompted to take cues from the design of mental and behavioral healthcare systems, adapting lessons learned to improve workplace environments.

The new modern office requires flexibility to be at the very core of the design, creating workplaces that allow people to work in a variety of settings. Ideally, these settings provide a range of acoustical environments, as some people thrive in a quiet, calm setting while others perform their best in an active and energetic environment. Modern offices invite the users to adjust their setting to best suit their physical

comfort level—bright light versus dim light, a warmer area versus a cooler location—and includes amenities that are meaningful to the employees.

As hospitals and clinics are creating quiet spaces for employee respite, today’s offices are giving employees quiet spaces to destress, unwind, or address personal challenges that have the potential to derail the day. When all of these elements are thoughtfully integrated into the office environment, employees feel cared for, valued and seen. Ultimately, creating an office where hypo-sensitive, hyper-sensitive and neuro-typical individuals can all thrive in a harmonious environment.

JLG's Tracy Jordre, the principal architect and workplace expert, is a professional and personal advocate for mental health, determined to make an impact with workplace environments that help

26 MARCH 2024

employees thrive, collaborate, grow, learn, and prosper together.

“Post COVID-19, our focus was solely on the technical and health design protocols that we learned in real time,” Jordre said. “However, my awareness shifted when my own family was navigating a mental health crisis. More recently, I started to experience symptoms that I presumed to be ADHD, a very prominent workplace neurodiversity. These symptoms became a catalyst to my research journey into understanding neurodiversity in the workplace, quickly recognizing that I was not alone.”

“Approximately 20% of the American workforce identifies as neurodiverse, ranging from dyslexia, ADHD, and depression to many other diagnoses not as commonly and openly discussed (Doyle, Nancy, 2020). Today, we have to be more focused on neurodiversefriendly workplaces, creating intentional, thoughtful spaces with human-centric design,” Jordre said. “We’re now designing for a symphony of quiet zones, flexible workstations, sensory rooms, collaboration hubs, training arenas, outdoor retreats, social hubs, personal nooks, and wellness sanctuaries.”

Jordre’s commercial work demonstrates creative design solutions that weave together workplace efficiencies, biophilic elements, sustainable design, storytelling, and the unexpected comforts of home. She leans into uniquely designed workplaces that evolve and respond to employees’ changing needs over time—helping businesses maximize their ability to recruit and retain top talent year after year. Jordre understands that business is no longer strictly business—happier, healthier people are the foundation for a better bottom line.

JLG’s Healthcare Studio Leader Todd Medd is also a professional and personal advocate for mental health awareness, working closely with health professionals to explore how he can

drive solutions for a more accessible built and virtual mental health environment.

Driven by the loss of his son to a mental health crisis in 2021, Medd and his family founded Fargo’s 4-6-3 Foundation, aimed at keeping the conversation going, reducing the stigma, building hope, and ending suicide—starting within our community of schools, workplaces, and healthcare systems.

"As a society, we have been trained to ignore or minimize the effects of mental health disorders, and it’s devastating,” Medd said. “We all have the ability to speak up and acknowledge the signs, solutions, and importance of mental health management at home, within our schools, and in the workplace. We are working to break the silence and continually find ways to show our support for those around us, because sometimes the warning signs are difficult to see.”

“We encourage businesses to go beyond traditional norms and set the stage for the workplace of the future—one that thrives on the brilliance of neurodiverse minds.”
Tracy Jordre Principal Architect & Workplace Expert
Fargo’s 4-6-3 Foundation

JLG’s CEO Michelle Mongeon Allen, a North Dakota native, pushes the firm’s widespread commitment, leading the team in stronger support of mental health initiatives across all nine Midwest offices. Yes, their firm offers plenty of amenities, but instead of an on-site gym, employee-owners are encouraged to go for a walk, get together with colleagues, volunteer for causes important to them, connect with the community, and support each other’s efforts to heal mental and physical challenges.

Employee-owners at JLG have access to paid time-off for volunteerism, 12 free counseling sessions per year, and

Community Matters Podcast

Last year, JLG committed even further, creating a safe space for difficult conversations within their Community Matters podcast on Spotify. Hosted by the firm’s Community studio leaders, the podcast serves as an inclusive platform that invites locals to speak up for

a workplace culture without stigma. Their offices also support a variety of privacy preferences and collaborative environments, recognizing that one size does not fit all. Here, agile scheduling accommodates personal obligations, and vacation time is mandatory— considered part of reducing stress levels and reconnecting with human needs and personal priorities.

“As architects, we have the ability to create environments that empower a positive impact on mental health. It’s not just about providing employees with top-tier amenities. We have to build our emotional culture and

systematic exploration of incarceration, recidivism, rehabilitation, addiction and recovery, behavioral and mental health, and public service.

In 2023, the five-part podcast met with the Restoring Promise Initiative, Recovery Reinvented, the Abused Adult Resource Center, a Warden at Dakota Women’s Correctional Rehab Center, and a Minnesota man who served a sevenand-a-half-year prison sentence.

Discussions based on insider perspectives have opened the door to new ideas that both parties can take home, empowering the subject’s role in society and JLG’s role as architects who impact our community’s built environments. From the design of mental health facilities to the design

tactile environment around enduring acceptance; inclusive and supportive of mental and physical health,” Mongeon Allen said. “Work-life balance does not equate to an even parsing out of minutes, but rather to the satisfaction found in enjoying an abundant life, one that feels supportive at home and at work. Our employee-owners also have a desire to support their community, so it just makes sense to encourage meaningful connection in the ways they choose, including volunteerism, mentorship, networking, and thought leadership.”

of workplaces that work harder for happiness, the bottom line relies on everyday environments that can adapt to the human nature of our needs.

214 Broadway N, Fargo, ND JLGarchitects.com /JLGarchitects @JLGarchitects
Learn more about JLG’s Community Matters Podcast
28 MARCH 2024
First Western Bank, Bismarck, ND

We Do That, Too!

Livewire's Journey of Bringing Events to Life for 25 Years

eaching a 25-year milestone for any company is quite a feat, yet Livewire's Kent Kolstad has made it look easy, continually leading the way in the live production industry. The founder and president attributes the company's standout success to its emphasis on consistency and client relationships. What started with an 11 year-old entrepreneur in Alexandria, MN, with a knack for audio systems and PA setups, quickly gained local recognition. "Word got around quick," Kolstad said, reflecting on his early ventures, ranging from installations to DJing at weddings and schools.

Today, with a team of 45 and growing, Livewire offers a unique approach to client engagement, deeply understanding and aligning with their clients' missions and messages, and taking on a "we do that, too!" approach to nearly every event opportunity that comes their way.

"Our team develops great relationships across our client base," Kolstad said. This personalized touch, he believes, significantly differentiates Livewire in the industry.

Livewire's strength lies not just in its event production capabilities, which cater to various event types, but also in its commitment to building enduring, insightful partnerships with its clients. "We offer consistency that other companies simply can't, whether it be in equipment or staffing," he said.

Tradeshow exhibits, for example, are another key area of expertise for Livewire. "We've built many tradeshow exhibits for different clients over the years, traveling to various parts of the country," Kolstad said.

Further diversifying its portfolio, Livewire has increased its output in custom

A Mission to Keep the World Engaged

"To create dynamic, meaningful, and engaging live event video production that betters our clients, team, and the world."

- Livewire mission statement

3 Things You May Not Know About Livewire

"We're a full-time team of 45 people."

"We're adaptable to almost any event request: if we haven't done it before, we will find a way to bring your vision to life."

"We are affordable! Many assume that our events cost an arm and a leg. Many of our clients find that we regularly come in well under their budget."

Meet Kent Kolstad

"Hi, I'm Kent! I'm the President here at Livewire. Livewire is so much more than just an event company; we're a fullservice audio, video, lighting, and staging scenery company. We provide turnkey event production for corporate events, nonprofit events, and community events, locally, regionally, and throughout the country."

Livewire's beautiful setup
for TEDxFargo 2023
30 MARCH 2024

scenery construction. "This isn't just about branded backdrops; it's about creating depth and connection to a brand," Kolstad said.

"Niche Events are our Niche"

Beyond tradeshows, Livewire's scope extends to corporate, nonprofit, and community events, providing comprehensive support in these sectors. Additionally, Livewire has made a big statement in live music support, running all of the production at The Lights in West Fargo in 2023 as well as their years of experience with mainstage acts at the Red River Valley Fair.

Another niche service Livewire brings to the table is heavy-duty convention power solutions. "Powering all those vendors can be quite tricky, and we have temporary power solutions that we utilize for live events that are a great fit for exactly that purpose," Kolstad said. This capability has been invaluable to events like Folkways' Red River Market.

"Niche" describes a lot about Livewire's client base. We're seeing a lot of events that are fairly niche-related," Kolstad said. From sustainable aviation fuel to bank automation and equipment finance, Livewire is becoming a go-to for those in unique, specialized fields.

We're magicians in the world of events."
- Brittney Hogan, Director of Business Development

This trend marks a departure from more generalized event content, indicating a growing demand for focused, in-depth explorations of specific topics.

By embracing these specialized events, Livewire continues to demonstrate its capacity to adapt and excel in an everchanging event production landscape.

Key Milestones

Some of the milestones and highlights that have shaped Livewire's journey are its notable achievements and strategic partnerships, positioning it as a key player both nationally and internationally. In recent years, Livewire began working with prominent companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google for virtual and hybrid events.

The company's success is deeply rooted in its origins here in Minnesota and North Dakota, which Kolstad credits for its unique position in the market. He also emphasizes the crucial role of networking in Livewire's growth, with significant support from the Fargo Moorhead community.

Creating a Lively Team Culture

A defining aspect of Livewire's success is its commitment to its staff, contrasting the industry norm of relying heavily on freelancers. "Our people make the difference: one could have all the best equipment in the world, but without the right people in the right seats, making connections between our technology, our creative, and our clients, it's worthless." This approach has resonated with clients, especially in the North Dakota market, where Livewire's reputation is well-established, as well as across its national client base.

Even clients notice how well Kolstad empowers his team, often noting how the Livewire team acts like owners of each event, making sure every detail is perfect.

like never before.

Connect with Livewire by visiting livewirenow.com and bring your event to life
320-815-1288 /livewire.fargo @livewire_now
LIVE at Livewire Black Box for Bobcat
On stage at Thrivefest 2023
Creative Mornings event, Jasper Hotel, Fargo

business, so protecting it is crucial. Any vulnerability in it can compromise your sensitive data, operational integrity, and stakeholder trust. That's why you need to understand and address these threats through proactive measures like routine security scans and network testing.

In this article, we'll discuss the role of a robust network and clarify the intricacies of network testing.

Through regular security scans, you can easily identify weaknesses in your system and proactively address potential threats before they can be exploited by cybercriminals.

Assesses security measures

Regular security tests allow you to establish continuous monitoring of security protocols. This helps you gauge the effectiveness of your security measures and make necessary changes when needed.

32 MARCH 2024

Ensures compliance

Security tests help align your security practices with industry standards and reduce the risk of your business running into any compliance issues.

Prevents data breaches

Through routine security scans, you can easily identify and address vulnerabilities and strengthen your organization against unauthorized access and potential data breaches.

Optimizes incident response

Regular testing helps you refine and improve your incident response plan and ensures your security preparedness plan is effective and up to date.

Strengthens resilience

Regular security testing helps you build a solid security posture, enhancing your organization's ability to endure and recover from cyberattacks.

Helps avoid financial losses

By taking proactive measures to identify and address security risks, you can prevent potential financial losses associated with data breaches, legal implications, and operational disruptions.

Fosters continuous improvement

Regular testing fosters a culture of continuous improvement, allowing you to adapt and evolve your security strategies based on emerging threats and industry best practices.

Essential security testing methods

By leveraging security testing methods, you can evaluate the effectiveness of your organization's security measures. Here are two of the most efficient methods that can help you build a robust cybersecurity landscape for your business:

Penetration testing

Also known as pen testing, this involves simulating real-world cyberattacks on an organization’s network. The simulations provide valuable insights that help organizations identify and address security gaps before they can be exploited by cybercriminals.

Vulnerability assessments

This method involves using automated tools to scan networks, systems, and applications for known vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, or weaknesses.

It helps organizations build a robust cybersecurity posture by proactively prioritizing and addressing potential threats before they can do any harm.

Boost security effortlessly

When it comes to the security of your network, you can’t take any chances. That’s why you should let the experts handle the heavy lifting. Consider partnering with an IT service provider like NorthStar Technology Group. We can efficiently manage security testing for you and ensure your digital defenses stay protected.

northstartechnologygroup.com /NorthStarTG Contact us for a cybersecurity strategy session and take the first step towards a more secure future. 866-337-9096 @northstartechno @NorthStarTechno FARGOINC.COM 33

Celebrating 50 Years of Clean Windows

The 'Company with the Little Red Trucks' Ready for the Next Chapter

he Red River Valley is no stranger to wind, dust, and dirt—but neither is Brite-Way. Founded in 1973 by Duane Keller in Fargo, Brite-Way Window Cleaning has established itself as a prominent leader in the local window cleaning industry. When some of his friends started their own window cleaning businesses, Keller was inspired to kickstart his own—and Brite-Way was born.

Submitted by Brite-Way

Duane Keller poses next to one of his Brite-Way cleaning trucks in October of 2000 Josiah Kopp
34 MARCH 2024

With the help of early mentor and fellow industry professional Russ Rigdon, Keller was given the tools and knowledge needed to get started—and the company became an instant success. Under Keller's vision and leadership, Brite-Way quickly built a reputation for quality service, affordability, and efficiency, securing a loyal customer base that includes many of its initial clients to this day. Today, Brite-Way has grown to a team of 22 service vehicles and serves a wide area that includes the Fargo–Moorhead region, Detroit Lakes area, Wahpeton, Fergus Falls, Mayville, and several other communities in the Red River Valley. Every step of the way, Keller's commitment to safety, integrity, and professional standards has remained a cornerstone of Brite-Way's operations.

Keller credits the company's success to its dedicated and highly trained employees. "We believe in safety first, and we provide monthly training for our employees," Keller said, emphasizing the importance of a well-equipped and knowledgeable team. Brite-Way's adherence to stringent employment standards, including thorough background checks, ensures the company maintains a high level of integrity during every service appointment. Being fully insured and bonded, Brite-Way stands as a dependable service provider in the industry.

Why being a member of the IWCA matters

As a member of the International Window Cleaning Association, BriteWay is committed to safety, integrity, and professional standards.

Brite-Way cleaning the windows at Hector Int'l Airport

Second to None in the Industry

When the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA) was founded in 1989 by industry professionals in Texas, it became a significant milestone for Keller and Brite-Way, offering more resources, and educating and assisting its members in developing professionalism, ethics and standards of safety, and to actively represent the concerns and interests of window cleaning companies," according to its website. Keller participates in IWCA's annual conventions, benefiting from the global networking and learning opportunities the association offers.

One of Brite-Way's most impressive recognitions, however, is being one of the top 1% of window cleaning businesses nationwide, according to IWCA data. "We have been very fortunate to be located in a fast-

growing and progressive area like Fargo-Moorhead," Keller said. The company's success can also be attributed to its unique culture, which fosters self-management and teamwork among employees. "My job is to get out of the way and let them do their work," Keller said, highlighting his trust in his team's capabilities.

Brite-Way's emphasis on quality service is rooted in Keller's belief that the most important person is the one immediately in front of you, whether it's an employee, a customer, or a stranger on the street. This philosophy, in conjunction with the dedication of its employees, has propelled BriteWay to its esteemed position in the window cleaning industry, giving Brice Neisen a solid foundation to build upon in the years ahead.


Passing on the Baton: Brice's Story

Brice Neisen's journey with Brite-Way began in 2007; seeking a steady job without the need for travel, Neisen was encouraged by a friend and former coworker to apply to Brite-Way. At the time, the company was relatively small, with a team of less than 10 fulltime window cleaners. His decision to join was influenced by Brite-Way's employee-centric approach, a mutual trust between the company and its employees that promised fair pay, a consistent job, and a flexible schedule.

This approach at Brite-Way has not only fostered a stable and enjoyable working environment for Neisen but also led him to encourage friends to join the team, many of whom remain with the company today. For Neisen, the presence of friends and family at Brite-Way added to the enjoyment and strong internal structure.

However, Neisen's path to his current role was not one he initially anticipated. "I didn't intend to or foresee owning a part of Brite-Way," he admitted.

His experience in various roles, from handyman to semi-driver to concrete pouring, equipped him with diverse skills and a deep understanding of customer expectations and business ownership.

"Ironically, all of those dirty jobs actually helped me in the window cleaning business. Besides learning how to use equipment that I would end up needing to operate within this business, I learned a lot about the expectations of a customer and a business owner," Neisen said. "I'll admit, there was a hiccup early on when I got fired from my first job for accidentally breaking a picture frame at a customer's place. It was a tough lesson in the importance of honesty and trust, both personally and professionally. But it taught me a valuable lesson that I've carried with me since. At Brite-Way, we've built our systems on a foundation of transparency and honesty, which has helped us earn the trust of both our customers and our team."

As Brice Neisen takes the reins of Brite-Way, his aim for the company and its operations is all about BriteWay's mission statement: What’s good for our customers is good for our crew and good for Briteway. "I'm always on the lookout for ways to make our customers' experience better, whether it's making it easier to book appointments or improving the quality of our work," he said. "And it all starts with our crews—if they aren’t happy, our customers won't be either."

With Neisen stepping up to the plate, Keller acknowledges his gratitude toward the relationship the two have formed over the years and knows he is leaving the future of Brite-Way in good hands. "I was fortunate to hire Brice. I am where Brite-Way has been; Brice is where Brite-Way is going," Keller said. "The truth is, I could not have done what Brice has done for BriteWay. It has been a great business and continues to grow."

Josiah Kopp
36 MARCH 2024
Brice Neisen

50 Years of Business: Keys to Success

With over 50 years in business, Keller and Neisen have picked up their fair share of lessons and have been able to pass on some wisdom along the way...

"What has been the cornerstone of our business' success over the past five decades? Consistency. We've built our reputation on being reliable—always there when you need us," Neisen said. "Whether it's a last-minute request or a scheduled service, you can trust us to deliver. Our commitment to accommodating our clients' needs sets us apart. So, when graduation season rolls around next spring and you're looking to have your windows sparkling clean, rest assured, we'll be here for you."

Did you know?

In addition to commercial window cleaning, Brite-Way also offers residential window cleaning and gutter cleaning.

3 Reasons Why You Should Always Hire Window Cleaners who are IWCA members

IWCA members have access to the latest equipment, techniques, and developments in the industry to beautify and maintain the asset value of your property.

IWCA members receive updates and support on the latest changes to federal regulations, assuring compliance, and reducing liability and risk to property owners.

IWCA members have access to the most comprehensive training program in the world.

"Every month during our busiest periods, we like to give back to our residential customers through Facebook and Instagram. It's pretty cool—we offer a free exterior window cleaning or gutter cleaning service to one lucky winner. We've been doing this consistently since we first started on Facebook, and we're committed to keeping it going." - Brice Neisen

Monthly Facebook Giveaways: Engaging

Hear from these happy clients

"We have used Brite-Way for years and have always had excellent results while being treated professionally. Most recently, we had Brite-Way clean our interior windows, and they did such a great job of not disturbing our home while doing an impeccable job on the windows. Trusting a company inside our home is important to us!"

"I have been doing business with Duane at Brite-Way for over 40 years. When Duane started out, he showed up at my house with a bucket, a squeegee, and a ladder. I have watched his business grow over the years from one guy with a bucket to what it is today. Duane also cleans the windows in all of our businesses in the area. We have had a great business relationship over the years, and with the continued growth of Brite-Way, we will continue to have Duane clean our windows in our lakes country homes as well." -

Call us for all your window cleaning needs!
submitted by Brite-Way
kellersbriteway.com 218-233-3646 /kellersbriteway @britewaywindowcleaning SCAN TO Fill OUT OUR Contact Form! 38 MARCH 2024
40 MARCH 2024

United Way's 35 Under 35Women's Leadership Program


It’s estimated that each of us will meet 80,000 people in our lifetimes.

For 525 women in our community, that “sphere of influence” is that much more intentionally impactful, thanks to a unique and purposeful leadership program.

At United Way, we believe that bringing people together to learn, grow, and connect is key to creating a community where everyone can thrive. Each year, United Way cultivates a group of 35 women and ignites their leadership development journey through the United Way

35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program. The purpose of the program is to strengthen leadership skills and confidence, enhance the impact of women across our workplaces, homes, and community, and, above all, inspire collaboration and unity.

Since its inception in 2009, the 35 Under 35 Program has been at the forefront of recognizing and supporting exceptional women 35 and under who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and a commitment to making a difference.

A Kind and Strategic Leader at the Helm

Tiffany McShane, United Way’s Senior Director of Community Engagement, has led the program for nearly half of the years the program has existed, serving as a visionary leader, committed mentor, and outstanding example of positive leadership to not just the 35 women who participate in the program each year, but the nearly 50 alumnae who volunteer annually to help coordinate the leadership development experience. Over the years, the program has grown in influence, expanding its reach and impact, and becoming a catalyst for inspiring the next generation of female leaders.


Get Involved

There are many ways you can take action to help, advocate, learn, and grow with United Way. Visit unitedwaycassclay.org/get-involved to find out about the different opportunities available. Whether it’s the 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program for 2025 or our Lead UNITED network that provides yearround, unique volunteer, and leadership development experiences, United Way has a place for you.

Did you know that the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program began as an idea jotted down on the back of a napkin?

It was 2008. The five women listed on the right side of the page were out to dinner and the conversation led to discussing the untapped potential of young leaders and the lack of female-focused leadership programs. The next morning at the United Way office, the team began the first stages of planning the 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program. As they say, the rest is history!

42 MARCH 2024
Karla Isley, United Way President & CEO

In honor of the 15th anniversary, we’re celebrating and reflecting on nearly two decades of empowering young women leaders and driving positive change in communities across Cass and Clay counties and beyond. This impactful program has witnessed a myriad of success stories—young leaders who have spearheaded initiatives, tackled community issues, started companies, raised children, successfully led teams and workplaces, and elevated their communities. The 35 Under 35 alumnae network stands as a testament to the program's effectiveness in creating a supportive community of like-minded individuals, and promoting collaboration and mentorship.

A Focus on the Future

As the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program enters its next chapter, the focus remains on amplifying the voices of young women leaders and providing them with the resources and support needed to drive lasting change within the workplaces and our community.

The 15-year anniversary is not just a celebration of past achievements, but a call to action for continued commitment to nurturing the potential of young women and creating leaders who are ready to take on whatever challenges the next decades bring—at work, at home, and right here in our community. That’s what United Way is designed to do—bring us all together to improve lives and create a welcoming community where everyone can thrive.

Leadership Program Founders

Judy Green, former United Way of Cass-Clay CEO

Sue Wiger, former United Way of Cass-Clay Resource Development Director

Tonya Stende, United Way Volunteer and former Co-Owner of Dale Carnegie Training

Susan Mathison, United Way Volunteer and Founder of Catalyst Medical Center & Clinical Spa

Judy Pearson, United Way Volunteer and former Associate Dean and Professor at NDSU

44 MARCH 2024
Hard Working, Altruistic

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I grew up in a small town in central Montana and graduated with a class of 2011. I didn't appreciate the sledding hills and mountains as much as I should have until I moved to Fargo-Moorhead for college! At Concordia, I majored in Graphic Design and Marketing and have been fortunate to use my degrees in multiple roles since. Currently, I lead a team of graphic designers on the Marketing team at Enclave. I’m passionate about color, hierarchy and all things visual. It’s been a joy to share my love for design with a team and I’ve enjoyed watching them grow over the last year. I’ve already learned a lot about myself as a leader and look forward to continuing to learn how to lead successful, happy design teams.

Outside work, I spend my time with energetic three and six-year-

old boys, my dog, and husband in Kindred. We keep busy with sports, road trips to the lake and Montana, playing outside, being active and exploring. We’re excited to welcome a baby girl to the chaos in July! In addition to my kids, I have a plant wall and a house full of plants that I’m very dedicated to keeping alive!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Growing up, my parents taught me a great deal about creativity and hard work. My mom always encouraged creativity and pursued creative ventures herself, whether it be helping me get the proportions right on paper dolls, helping us decide how to paint our rooms, or painting our high school’s mascot on the gym wall herself. My dad has always been the hardest worker I know and taught me the

importance of getting the job done, even if you don’t want to. He never lets me give up and still encourages me with a “everything happens for a reason” when I most need to hear it.

In my career, meeting Kelly Krenzel through Hope Blooms majorly shifted my trajectory and brought the importance of giving back into focus for me. She’s been one of my biggest cheerleaders and always inspires me through her service to others and mission to spread joy. She’s also encouraged me to take chances (like designing and painting a 50-foot mural in her shop) that I wouldn’t have otherwise believed in myself to pursue.

What drives you?

I’m always searching for ways to learn something new and improve. Whether it be as a mom, helping others, trying new recipes or pen tool tricks in Adobe Illustrator,

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

Through an Emerging Leaders program offered by my employer, we were assigned "Multipliers" by Liz Wisemen. I took away a new awareness to how even well-meaning leadership styles could be perceived as “accidental diminishers," And a reminder of the importance of asking questions and challenging team members vs. giving the answer.

This year, I’ve been reading "Herding Tigers" by Todd Henry, which centers around leading creative people. This was recommended by a fellow creative leader right when I was struggling with my own identity in the transition from individual contributor to manager. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is the need to step out of the work and focus only on a few passion projects a year to allow the team to solve problems and grow their own skills.


I’m constantly learning. As an introspective, reflective person, I spend a lot of time thinking about the steps in a process and where they could be smoother. I try my best not to dwell on these learnings and rather look for opportunities on how to apply them in the next experience.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Coming from a small community and now living in this community, I think there is a bit of a smalltown mindset that I’d love to see continue to open up. It would be amazing to see more diversity in ideas, culture, and experiences. With more young people making Fargo-Moorhead their home, I have seen a shift and would love to see the community to continue to attract people with a continual support for change.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

There’s no such thing as perfect. As a recovering perfectionist, my

kids have taught me a lot about how to embrace and enjoy living in the messy. Most importantly, they’ve helped me embrace doing my best, being okay with the outcome, and moving on knowing you learned something along the way.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I enjoy all of the opportunities to volunteer and give back to the community. There are so many deserving causes and important missions that it's hard to choose just one, but I have a special place for my time spent volunteering at Hope Blooms. I also enjoy trying new restaurants, grabbing coffee anywhere in town, and exploring new places and events with my family.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I wish I knew the answer to this question. I could have never predicted where I am now 10 years ago, but I do hope that I'm still working in a creative

profession and have positively influenced other creatives along the way.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I'm most excited about making new connections through the program with women in other industries, in similar stages of our careers, that I likely wouldn't cross paths with otherwise. I'm also looking forward to expanded opportunities to support our community through United Way.

What are your passions outside of work?

Showing love and being present for my family.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

It's hard to talk about myself this much, thank you for taking the time to learn more about me!

46 MARCH 2024


Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Howdy! I was born and raised in Bemidji, MN, along with my two younger sisters, and relocated to the Fargo-Moorhead area to attend NDSU in 2016. By the time I was graduating in late 2019, the FM area had charmed me into staying here permanently! Currently, I am working as the Staffing Programs Specialist on the Human Resources team at AgCountry Farm Credit Services. I am lucky to work with amazing, knowledgeable teammates and be a part of the Farm Credit system. I have been in this role for just over one year, and it has given me a much stronger appreciation for our farmers and ranchers in rural America, who help feed the world from right here in our backyard!

Outside of work, the past year has been one of many big milestones— last June, I got married to my husband (Nick) surrounded by friends and family in Detroit Lakes, and in August, we bought our first home in Glyndon, MN! Being that we were both raised in small towns

(although Nick would argue that Bemidji is a city compared to his little hometown of Hawley), we've agreed that we love being able to live in a smaller community like Glyndon. However, we also love being able to still have access to a metro area full of opportunities and entertainment right down the road. We already have big plans to start our vegetable garden this summer in our new yard!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Both of my parents have been hugely influential in who I am, and I find myself referencing how they did things more and more as I age. My mom, Genny, truly has a heart for others. She has worked as a middle school lunch lady for nearly 20 years and goes out of her way to find small ways to connect with the children she interacts with and brighten their days and let them know that they are seen and cared for.

My dad, Rob, has been a sounding board for years (especially after

moving away from home) when I needed advice, wisdom, or a different perspective than my own. I have always admired my dad's "get 'er done" attitude in life. Sometimes things will be challenging, stressful, or confusing, but there really is no option besides pressing forward, even if it's into the unknown.

What drives you?

I am driven by an internal desire to be an even better me—I want to push myself to keep improving and seize new opportunities so I don't have to look back and ever wonder "What if I had tried harder?" I would rather know that I gave my best effort, even if I didn't get as far as I wanted, rather than look back and wish that I had truly challenged myself. My faith also drives me. Particularly in harder times, when I don't feel the internal push, spiritual faith is what continues to refuel my energy. For myself, personally, it is comforting to know that when I feel that life has tired me out, I can lean on my faith and know that I am not pushing forward alone.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

Every time I pick up "Thriving On Chaos" by Tom Peters, I feel that I learn something new. This book was originally published in the 80s, but I feel that's only a testament to its quality. While a few of the lessons and practices are now outdated, most have stood the test of time and are still just as applicable now as the day the book was written.


What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I remember the stress I felt as college graduation drew near and I didn't have employment lined up yet, which I think is a shared experience for many students about to enter the workforce. I would love to see more students connected with mentors or job shadows at local businesses so their talent could stay and grow within the FM area after graduation!

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

You will find more success and fulfillment from getting up and making life happen, rather than waiting for life to happen to you.

I have a passive personality, I do not like conflict, and I used to think that if I sat quietly and did my best work, opportunities would just present themselves when others noticed I was ready for them. Sometimes that might work, but often it does not. Don't sit and wait in the hopes that you will be noticed or "picked"—actively vocalize your goals and ambitions, seek out and seize opportunities as they present themselves, don't wait for someone else to confirm that you are enough—make it known that you are enough right now.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I look forward to attending annual and seasonal events like the

Unglued Fall Retreat and the Red River Market every year! I also appreciate that there are more mixed-use venues popping up, like Brewhalla, that can offer a variety of activities (many for all ages) under one roof. One of my favorite aspects of the FargoMoorhead area is that it has the friendly, familiar attitude of a small town while offering the resources and opportunities of a larger city.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope to remain in Farm Credit, ideally in a managerial or leadership role. I also hope to maintain a healthy work-life balance and foster current and new friendships in those years. In 10 years, I hope I can look back and confidently say I used my time well, gained knowledge and experience, and feel fulfilled with the trajectory I am on for the next 10 years. I also hope to have visited at least five states and/or countries I have not yet seen!

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

Honest, authentic fellowship time with like-minded women in my community. Growing up with only sisters, there is a certain comradery and connection from spending time surrounded by other women that is so valuable and energizing for me—we can understand each other's challenges and celebrate each

other's successes in a powerful way, because even coming from different backgrounds and industries, we face many of the same obstacles.

What are your passions outside of work?

Spending time outdoors has become a major focus for me in recent years. After starting my first full-time office job, I couldn't figure out why I constantly felt fatigued, and why my social battery never felt fully charged. I initially thought my body just needed time to adjust, but eventually realized it was actually my body telling me that I needed time outside with natural light and fresh air—something I had always taken for granted growing up in Lake Country. I now make a conscious effort to spend time outdoors as much as possible, even if just for a few minutes, to keep myself balanced and refreshed. In the summers, you will find Nick and I at Buffalo River State Park, Itasca, or hiking along the North Shore!

50 MARCH 2024


Ambitious, Creative, Energetic 52 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I was born and raised in Langford, SD, a small town where community values shaped me profoundly. Moving to the FM area in 2012 for my degree at MSUM, I found another community I loved and never left! Now, as the Engagement Manager at High Point Networks, I focus on driving demand and engagement around targeted solutions, working closely with our sales team, and partners.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My parents instilled in me the fearlessness to pursue my passions. Jerry Daily, who hired me for my first coaching position, ignited a passion I didn't know I had. His belief in me started a journey of impacting athletes, for which I'm forever grateful.

What drives you?

My faith acts as my compass, pushing me to live a life of meaning and purpose, impacting those around me for the better.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

I attended the Global Leadership Summit last year, where Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, emphasized the importance of loving people in leadership. This shifted my perspective from focusing solely on business decisions to prioritizing knowing and loving my team.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Be resilient, embrace discomfort, strengthen your faith, practice gratitude, and be the change you want to see.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

Exploring FM area parks with my dogs, coaching volleyball, and volunteering.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Leading a team, doing what I love, surrounded by loved ones, and growing even stronger in my faith.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

New connections, inspiration, and opportunities to make a difference in the community.

What are your passions outside of work?

Coaching volleyball, hiking with my rescue dogs, and spending time with family.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

I love playing sports like volleyball, basketball, and softball. If you need an extra player, find me on LinkedIn!



Fun, Determined 54 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

My name is Jenna, and I am 34 years old. I grew up in Cavalier, ND, and attended NDSU, where I met my husband, Mark Wallace. I worked as an ER nurse for five years before graduating with my doctorate from NDSU and becoming a nurse practitioner. I work primarily in the family medicine department. Mark and I have two children, Hattie (5) and Rory (3). I love spending time with family and friends. My favorite hobbies are ones that are active: running, water sports, biking, golfing, and playing with my kids!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

The United Way 35 Under 35 Program is dedicated to developing women leaders, and I am all about female empowerment! However, I want to acknowledge two very important men in my life, my dad and my husband. My dad has always taught me to work hard and do what is right. My husband continues to influence and inspire me every day. He is the reason I applied for the United Way 35 Under 35 Program. I would also like to add that I have been and continue to be so inspired by all the nurses I work with now and have worked with in the past. Nurses continue to work tirelessly to care for others while not getting the recognition they deserve.

What drives you?

My drive and motivation come from my desire to help others. Healthcare is always changing and advancing, so I continue to seek out educational opportunities to provide the best patient-focused, evidence-based care possible.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I am somewhat unique among this cohort as I work in healthcare and not in a traditional business setting. However, I think any workplace has room for improvement regarding communication and efficiency.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

We should strive to be our authentic selves and practice empathy towards others. Treat everyone with kindness and respect; you are no more important than anyone else.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I love checking out new restaurants, bars, and coffee shops around the area; bonus points if it is downtown! I enjoy different events that come to town: concerts, comedians, markets, sporting events, etc.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to be in a balanced state between life and work. I want to still be a nurse practitioner, caring for patients. In addition, I may be in a leadership or educational role to supplement my practice. I also hope I am a busy mom attending my kids' various extracurricular/sporting events. Along with work/kids, I hope I’m still “dating” my spouse with nights out or fun getaways!

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope I learn more about myself and ways to not only be an effective leader but also a great co-worker and team player. I also look forward to networking with all types of professionals and building lasting friendships.

What are your passions outside of work?

I’m passionate about being the best mom to my kids and finding new activities for them to learn, explore, and move their bodies. I also enjoy staying physically active and prioritizing exercise in my busy schedule—even if that means waking up crazy early. Our church has an amazing kids program that I enjoy volunteering for. I hope to continue to grow in my faith and be a faithful example for my kids.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

I really enjoy reading books by Brené Brown. Books of hers that I have enjoyed thus far are "Daring Greatly," "Gifts of Imperfection," and "I Thought It Was Just Me." Not only do these books have a way of being very applicable, but her content is also based on several years of research. I think if everyone could embrace vulnerability and imperfections, it would allow everyone to work together in a way that is productive, safe, and rewarding.




Motivated, Caring, Passionate

56 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Hello there! I'm a former military brat who has experienced the unique and adventurous lifestyle that comes with being part of a military family. Growing up, I had the incredible opportunity to live in Italy, where I absorbed the rich culture and developed a love for exploration. My life took a beautiful turn when I married my best friend, Brandon, who also served in the Air Force. Together, we embarked on a journey that led us to the breathtaking landscapes of Hawaii. Living in different parts of the world as part of the military community emphasized the significance of forming strong connections and being part of a supportive community.

Recently, our path led us to West Fargo after my husband's medical retirement from the Air Force. We have a 13-year-old son, Jordan, who is passionate about soccer and basketball. Watching him play brings us immense joy and a sense of pride. Our family bonds over the love for sports and the shared excitement of cheering on our young athlete. We also have two feisty French bulldogs named Franky and Phoebe—their passions include snoring and invading your personal space.

Professionally, I have been in the healthcare field for over a decade. It has been a fulfilling journey where I've had the privilege of helping people and advocating for my patients. The

healthcare industry has become more than a career for me—it's a genuine passion to make a positive impact on the lives of others. As we embrace this new chapter in West Fargo, we look forward to building connections within the community and creating lasting memories. Life has taught us the importance of resilience, community, and the beauty of diverse experiences, and we're excited for the adventures that lie ahead.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I am blessed and fortunate beyond belief to have been surrounded by strong, talented, and resilient women my entire life. My mother has been influential and has been inspiring to me for as long as I can remember. She worked her butt off as a young mom and military wife to give my brothers and me the best life possible. She has taught me that you are never too old to advance in your education and career.

My aunt, Kathryn, was my guiding light for the majority of my childhood that led me to go into the healthcare field. She taught me that leading with kindness and empathy will take you far in life.

Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers—being a kid in a military family, moving every few years, the concept of 'home' can get blurred. My grandmothers gave me a safe place to land, a place to call

home. To this day, I call Red Lake Falls, MN my hometown; though I never attended school there—that was 'home' for me.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

You're not going to be everyone's cup of tea and not everyone is going to love and appreciate you. The best thing that you can do is be your true, authentic self. Dulling your sparkle to meet others' expectations of how you 'should be' versus who you truly are will exhaust you in the end. Saying "no" is okay-balance and boundaries are so, so important to create for yourself.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I am fairly new to the community so I am still learning all of the amazing opportunities this area has to offer. I have very much enjoyed exploring downtown and supporting local small businesses and eateries.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

Building relationships with these amazingly strong-minded and talented women. Through this program, I hope to have the opportunity to make connections and gain perspective from other likeminded and motivated women who come from all different walks of life.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"Crucial Conversations" by Joseph Grenny taught me the value of addressing the hard or awkward topics, the things that no one wants to discuss at the meeting but the topic is just lingering in the air. This book taught me how to go about having difficult conversations in the most objective and respectful way. It has helped me grow in both professional and personal relationships.


Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I am a Fargo native and graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2017. I work as a human resources manager at PKG Contracting, where I stay busy making sure The Office drama stays on the TV show instead of the workplace. Before starting this position in 2021, I was working as an HR professional in Portland, OR while my husband Seth finished school. We both loved the Pacific Northwest, but we couldn't resist moving back to Fargo and rejoining the community that we grew up in. We now enjoy traveling and going to the lake with our dog, Crackers.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I consider my older sisters to be my biggest role models. They taught me to be true to myself and to never shy away from what I believe in. I firmly believe that growing up with them has made me a better and stronger woman. To this day, I am still constantly looking up to them,

and that's not just because they are both 5'10" and I'm 5'3".

What drives you?

The future is extremely inspirational to me. It drives me to make my dreams a reality. I love constantly envisioning something in my mind and working towards it.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Don't regret! You can't change the past so there is no point in regretting decisions or paths you decided to take. Everything you do adds to your life experience, whether good or bad.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I enjoy visiting the Red River Market in the summer and fall. I also enjoy visiting local breweries.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I'm not exactly sure where I will be in 10 years! I just hope that my family is

healthy, and we still spend countless hours together. I hope my husband and I continue traveling all over the globe, and I hope Crackers (who would be 12 and a half) is still with us.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way

35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

The skills and the knowledge gained through the 35 Under 35 Program are carried on and applied through work and personal lives, creating a domino effect throughout the community. I see this as an opportunity to be surrounded by powerful and accomplished women who can inspire and encourage me to be the absolute best I can be and who I can encourage back. This is an opportunity to create lifelong friends and professional connections. Personal and professional growth starts beyond one’s comfort zone and welcomes the challenge to become the best possible version of myself.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown taught me that leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and share their own struggles are more likely to build trust with their teams.

60 MARCH 2024



Helpful, Enthusiastic, Kind 62 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I am Kari Stenger, a girl who loves numbers and helping people! I work at Light Consulting as a senior accountant, helping lead a team of 12 as we make business and life light for our clients through CFO services. I am an Enneagram 2, ESFJ, and my top three strengths are positivity, communication, and discipline. Outside of work, I am a fiancé to Matt and a dog mom to Harley girl. My favorite title is Auntie Kari. I grew up a lake girl in Detroit Lakes and found my way back home. With a commute to West Fargo for work, it is a guarantee that my gas light is always on E or I am way past due for an oil change. My favorite word is ope!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I am grateful for the invaluable lessons my parents, Tony and Nancy Stenger, have instilled in me, particularly their demonstration of dedication, perseverance, and a strong work ethic. I feel extremely blessed to work with Sarah West. Sarah has been not only a dear friend but a profound mentor. Her unwavering desire to be more and make a positive impact has been a guiding light for me. Witnessing her create a company with strong core values has inspired me to strive for excellence and purpose. What sets Sarah apart is her integration of Jesus and faith into the workplace, aligning personal values with professional pursuits. My team at Light Consulting

inspires me daily to show up and work hard making life and business light. There are so many women in the Fargo-Moorhead community that inspire me and I feel very grateful for my opportunity to walk alongside 34 of them in this program. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without my fiancé Matt who takes such great care of me and shows me so much support and love and, most importantly, keeps me laughing.

What drives you?

As an Enneagram 2, The Helper, I truly just want to help people whether it is my team, clients, the community, friends, or family.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Business doesn't have to be difficult or heavy. Let's continue to create a strong business community with resources, mentors, connections, and a mindset of 'What if it were easy?'

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

I have lost many people in my life which has solidified the lesson that 'Life is short.' It taught me to be intentional about how I live my life, how I spend my time, and who and what is most important at the end of the day.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

There is a reason I commute two

hours a day to be a part of the Fargo-Moorhead community. I love to work, play, and give back to our community. I enjoy all the learning and networking opportunities that are created by United Way of Cass-Clay and The FMWF Chamber to name a few organizations. Giving Hearts Day is one of my absolute favorite days that sets this community apart. We are blessed with many strong and passionate non-profits that make our community better and provide endless volunteer opportunities! Fargo-Moorhead is a hub for entertainment. From concerts to sporting events to shopping to golf courses to outdoor plays to the numerous bars and restaurants, there is so much to do for all ages and interests. I remember as a kid getting to go to Fargo was a big deal and now I am fortunate that I get be a part of this community.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope to gain 34 friends and a community of women I can turn to for anything. I hope to gain long-lasting drive and passion that helps me show up as the best version of myself every day for years to come.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

I am proud to work and play in the Fargo-Moorhead community. I am very grateful for this opportunity to be a part of United Way's 35 Under 35 Leadership Program.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"How to Stop Worrying and Start Living" by Dale Carnegie is a book that has tremendously helped me and my mindset to remove the extra worry that may come with leadership. Self-development and awareness through MBTI, Enneagram, and Strengths Finder are very insightful tools that help me understand more about myself and my team.




Analytical, Organized, Adventurous

64 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I grew up in Minot with two sisters that I am close with to this day. One of the most impactful parts of my adolescence was attending and working as a camp counselor at Triangle Y Camp. I attended Minot State University where I participated in a study abroad program in Peru, which drove me to major in Spanish education and inspired a serious sense of wanderlust. While working as a Spanish teacher, I completed my master's degree in Teaching English as a second language. I worked as an instructor teaching TESL at MSUM and ESL at NDSU, and I found that I really enjoyed working with adult learners. In 2023, I shifted careers into the Learning and Development field. I am currently the Learning and Development Coordinator at TrueNorth Steel where I build a culture of learning and help meet company goals. One part of my job I am especially passionate about is creating training in Spanish for our Spanish-speaking employees, and an exciting new goal our team has is to create training in Ukrainian for our Ukrainian employees. I met my husband, Kody, in 2014 and we moved together to Fargo shortly after. We live in north Fargo with our one-year-old daughter, Amelie, and our cat, Bean.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Both of my parents have been very influential in my life. My father has a strong work ethic that he instilled in me. He taught me how to be independent and find creative solutions to problems. My mother has always emphasized the importance of education for women, and this greatly affected my own education and career choices.

What drives you?

I am driven by creating a better future.

Professionally, this involves helping employees train for their roles and advance in their careers, as well as focusing on my own career outcomes. Personally, this involves finding a balance between enjoying the present and planning for the future. I'm also driven by a desire to learn and experience new things. This is most apparent in my love of traveling to see new things, reading to learn new ideas, and learning languages to speak with new people.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I would like to see businesses hire people who speak different languages into customer-facing roles, and highlight this so that community members who speak different languages are aware!

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

Last year, I attended the Game Changer Leadership Program, which was a catalyst for my application to the 35 Under 35 Program. The Game Changer Program focuses on viewing your experiences through a positive lens and focusing on the outcomes you want. The most impactful steps I learned were to manifest my outcomes and to believe that positive thinking will lead to positive results.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

An important life lesson I have learned is that you can do things even if you are afraid of them. I spent years holding myself back because I believed that if I was nervous about something, I shouldn't do that thing. Now when I want to do something, I accept that I will be nervous and I do it anyhow.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I love playing trivia at all the different trivia spots around Fargo. I also love the different art classes that are offered at the Plains Art Museum and Unglued! During the summer, one of my favorite activities is attending the Red River Market. I especially love the Momos n More food booth—I have been known to go back for a second order of vegan momos after eating my first order.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

For the past few years, I have focused on changing career paths to the job I am in now. I am still learning about where I see myself going in this organization. I know I would like to move into a position where I can use my organizational, leadership, and strategic thinking skills to manage processes and people to make a bigger impact.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I am hoping to become more involved in our community and to develop confidence in my leadership abilities. In the short amount of time our group has been together, we have supported one another in both our professional and personal lives, and I look forward to forming lasting relationships with the women in this program.

What are your passions outside of work?

Outside of work, I spend my time reading and adding to the pile of books I want to read. I love doing hot yoga—Indigo Bloom is my favorite yoga studio in Fargo! I'm always researching possible vacation destinations and planning my next trip.




Empathetic 66 MARCH 2024
Ambitious, Vibrant,

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Hello! My name is Danielle Smith, and I am 35 years old. I reside in Fargo with my Husband Brian, our two sons Cohen (9), Henrik (6), our two dogs Letta and Baxter, and Butter the Bearded Dragon... yup I said Bearded Dragon! I have the pleasure of working at Western State Bank as the Learning & Development Systems Administrator. I have worked for Western for over seven years in a few different roles. But I am proud to say that I am in MY role, the one that fits my passions, strengths, and needs within the company. I truly love what I do.

There are two areas of volunteering I am passionate about. I serve on the board for the ND Chapter of the Association for Talent Development (ND ATD) as VP of Programming Administration. I have also been volunteering for many years for Junior Achievement.

Outside of work, you will find me with family, friends, or traveling. Summers are for lake time and neighborhood fun, and winters are for hockey! Could I sound any more Midwestern?

Another thing I take seriously is self-care and recognizing what fills my cup in other ways. One of those is traveling with my very best friends! Every year we choose a new city to celebrate us and refill that cup! I have also been known to do some pretty big adventurous things like picking up our family and moving across the country to Arizona to try out a new city! Even though we made our way back to the frozen tundra, it was an experience that would never trade!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I feel I have had so many influential people in my life and journey to who I am today. From my grandparents to my parents to immediate family and friends, teachers, and coworkers along the way. I have been able to soak in pieces from every one of them and they have all had an effect on who I am today. I most recently had the opportunity to learn and grow from an incredible leader. Someone who was able to pick 'Danielle' back up, show me who I truly was, and the effect and impact I can have on those around me. She gave me transparency, vision, and support to let me be confident and grow!

What drives you?

The opportunity to create and improve things. I find myself to be naturally curious to learn how things work and the why behind it. Futuristic is one of my top talents with Strengths Finder, which means I often lean towards asking 'What if.'

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Our focus has been on revitalizing our downtown area and it truly has become a community spot. I would love to see more of that come into the South Fargo area. We have a very business and restaurantcentric focus in this area of town, and I think there is so much opportunity to be had with community events, farmers markets, and gathering/play spaces.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I want to feel harmony in the stage I'm in and confidence in what's next. This stage of life has been about building. Building my relationships, my family, and my career. In 10 years, I hope to be able to say I have achieved harmony between my career and life. My role in my institution is brand-spankin' new! This means there is so much opportunity that I know will be met with many challenges and I am so here for it! I also have two young boys with whom I strive to be present and engaged. In 10 years, we will be close to being empty nesters... I hope to be confident in what comes in that next stage of life.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope to gain knowledge, perspective, and a new community of women who strive to grow themselves and lift oneanother up. I love the way this program has structured these sessions and the variety of skills we have the opportunity to learn alongside a diverse group of women with a common goal. It just amplifies what you can learn by surrounding yourself with so many different perspectives.




Resilient, Courageous, Compassionate

68 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Hi there! I’m Lindsay Reede, an espresso enthusiast who will never turn down an iced latte regardless of the temperature outside! Bismarck is where I called home all throughout my childhood. I found a passion for golf at an early age and shortly after graduating high school, I moved to Palm Springs, CA, and became a Golf Professional at PGA West Private. I also relocated to Scottsdale, AZ, and worked at the Westin Kierland Golf Club enjoying life as a 'Snowbird' in my early twenties. I spent my summers back in Bismarck coaching a high school girls' golf team for six seasons, where I experienced some of my most rewarding memories! After many years of working in the golf industry, I decided to switch gears and dive into the charitable gaming world. I relocated to Cincinnati, OH, working directly with fraternal organizations providing them with electronic pull-tab devices to help them make more money and achieve their fundraising goals. Once COVID-19 hit, I made the decision to move back closer to my roots, to the woodchipper city of Fargo. I have now been in the gaming industry for 5+ years and recently joined the incredible team at Next Generation Gaming as a Sales Representative. Recently, I’ve added 'Cat Mom' to my name after rescuing two fur babies, Olive and Fynn, from Turtle Mountain Animal Rescue, which is an incredible organization! I enjoy trying new bars and restaurants, traveling, and spending as much time on the water as possible in the summer.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

During high school, I worked at Riverwood Golf Course in Bismarck. I had the privilege of working with both Dan Waldoch and Tim Doppler. They instilled the beauty of the game in me and the life values we acquire while playing. Doppler gave me the chance to work in-depth with the USGA, NDGA, and DJGA, learning endless life lessons and experiences. Dan encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and try new things, reminding me that I'll never know unless I try. Fast forward a couple of years and I started my golf career in Palm Springs, CA. Without Dan, Doppler, and my parents supporting and encouraging me every step of the way, life would be much different!

What drives you?

My driving force is the desire for personal and professional growth. I want to provide a great life for my family and give back to our community. I always want to be learning, and the pursuit of knowledge keeps me motivated to explore fun facts and new concepts. I find myself taking deep dives down the black hole of the internet more than I like to admit!

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I believe that our business community would benefit by having more networking events. Naturally, this

would embrace diversity that would help organizations learn, grow, and foster a creative and innovative environment that would improve our business community.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Always be kind because you never know what someone is going through. Cultivate meaningful connections with others, as relationships contribute to opportunities.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

When 2034 rolls around in 10 short years, I hope to be surrounded by mini-me's in an animal-filled, controlled chaotic household!

Enjoying all the traditions our families were raised on, including Christmas decorations going up after Halloween. I hope to have achieved professional success where I can look back and see how all my hard work has paid off.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

Throughout this incredible program, I hope to grow both personally and professionally. I’m optimistic the skills I learn will help me overcome my professional obstacles while creating lifetime friendships with other women.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch contains some of the most inspirational and motivational material that emphasizes the importance of perseverance, positivity, and pursuing passions and goals. The Last Lecture sheds light on what truly matters and encourages us to lead by example because our life journey might have a significant impact on others. Grab a glass of wine and have the tissues nearby!



70 MARCH 2024
Creative, Resilient, Independent

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

"I grew up in Sequim, WA out on the Olympic Peninsula. I graduated from Gonzaga University with a writingfocused bachelor’s degree in English. I moved to Williston in 2015 and began my career in higher education. I worked at Williston State College for several years before I transitioned to municipal government and accepted a communications role with the City of Williston in 2020.

I moved to Fargo in the summer of 2022 and a little over seven months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. With no family history or genetic markers, my “why” is unclear. A silver lining though—I was in a place with excellent access to quality care. I am now a breast cancer survivor who continues to love her cat, Scout and has even more houseplants. I’ve been curling since 2016 and enjoy traveling, writing, and spending time with friends.

I am a media relations specialist for Essentia Health and am responsible for our west market, from Bismarck to Walker. I coordinate with the media to organize interviews with our providers and staff, and I write about various health topics and patient stories for our online newsroom and area magazines. I hope to make a healthy difference in people’s lives through my words.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Most recently, I’ve had an extensive support system throughout my cancer journey. This includes my family, friends, coworkers, and other cancer survivors. This support helped me get through every day. My parents in particular have continued to show up for me in so many different ways and helped me become the woman I am.

I am inspired by anyone else who has been impacted by breast cancer. It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to move through each day, and to those who continue to raise families and show up for themselves and their communities despite this disease you are inspiring.

What drives you?

As an achiever and learner, I have an internal drive to keep pursuing new ideas, achievements, and challenges. Despite being more of an introvert, I tend to seek opportunities every year that get me out of my comfort zone. This is where personal and professional growth happens.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I think it’s important that our business community is always looking for opportunities to practice environmental stewardship in their practices and services, and when gathering and hosting events. I would like to see continued support of our small businesses, especially those owned and operated by younger

people and New Americans, and more women in leadership roles.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Life can change in an instant. No job is worth your mental health. Trust your gut. Let go of the little things and try not to take things personally. No feeling is final. It’s okay to say no.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’m not looking that far into the future right now. I’m living day-to-day and being as present and intentional as I can be. I can only hope that I am happy and healthy in 10 years.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

In no particular order, I hope to:

• Improve my skills in conflict management, communication, and public speaking.

• Further develop my personal brand of leadership.

• Connect with other motivated women personally and professionally.

• Be challenged, learn from others, and gain a better understanding of our community. And hopefully inspire other women to apply to this program.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"More than a Body" by Dr. Lindsey Kite and Dr. Lexie Kite is about how as women, our relationship with our bodies is often complicated. In a beauty-obsessed world, we believe our worth is tied up in how we look. This book focuses on a framework of body image resilience and reconnecting with your whole self. Good leaders respect and value others and should do the same for themselves. As the saying goes, lead by example.




Innovative, Ambitious, Compassionate CONTINUED 72 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

My name is Kassidy Olsen and I grew up in both Fargo and Valley City. I have two younger brothers, Damien and Tyler who keep the whole family busy with hockey and 4-H. I am the Market Retail Leader at Dacotah Bank for the Fargo Market. I joined the banking field after working as a barista for about a year. I knew that I wanted to make a difference and help people, I just didn't know what that meant for me. The door to banking opened up as I was talking with a customer one morning over coffee and I decided to make the leap. I quickly found my passion in leading a team and leading my customers to financial success. When I'm not in the office, I am likely reading, either outside or in the garage as my fiancé tinkers on his motorcycles.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Every leader in my career has been influential throughout my journey in one way or another. Each person has taught me something about myself that has helped me grow, helped my leadership style to develop, and has molded me into the person that I am today. I have a grocery list of people that inspire me but most all have the same qualities. Strong leaders, who lead with compassion. People who stand next to you and say, 'Let's do this.' People who use their voice to build others up and people who say, 'Have we thought of doing it this way instead?'

What drives you?

That 'A-ha!' moment. Whether it be coming from my team or a customer,

that moment shows me that what I am doing is making a real difference.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Giving back to the community. There are several fields of business and several companies that are very prevalent in the community either giving their time or money to help support the community. Companies dedicate hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars, but if we all just gave tens of hours and tens of dollars, that would make a huge impact.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Failure is not fatal. Not so long ago, the prospect of failure would raise my heart rate and nearly give me hives. It was when I stepped outside of my comfort zone and allowed myself to fail, that I truly started to grow personally and professionally. I learned things about myself, that I never would have if I had stuck to 'what I have always done.' I learned that I am creative when thinking of solutions, that I am able to see five steps ahead and anticipate roadblocks, and that if I ultimately fail, I am not starting over from scratch—I am starting over from experience.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

Professionally, I enjoy volunteering with my team. It's great to get out of the office, laugh, move around, and make an impact all at once. We frequently volunteer with United Way and The Great Plains Food Bank, two amazing organizations that impact not only the Fargo community but as with the Great

Plains Food Bank, impacts the entire state. In my personal time, both my fiancé and I are active in the motorcycle community so we attend many motorcycle events with Harley Davidson of Fargo, bike nights, and many benefit rides.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

This is a tough question for me because my only destination is better. I don't have grand plans to be the CEO of a huge multimilliondollar corporation or a plan to rule the world. I just want to be better than I was 10 years ago whether that be in the same professional position as now, or up the 'ladder' 10 steps. I just want to be the best version of me that I can be, wherever I may be. Somewhere warmer wouldn't hurt.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope to gain new insight into myself and my current leadership model and insight into other leadership models. I hope to gain new friends, connections, and a support system from the 34 other women in this program and some more opportunities to be able to give back to the community.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

My favorite app right now is Good Reads! It's an app where you can follow friends to see what they have/ are reading and see their reviews. Give me a follow, I always need more book recommendations!

74 MARCH 2024
Loyal, Protective, Lighthearted 76 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I'm originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. While it is beautiful, it was a little too small for the life plans I had. I attended college in Duluth, MN where I worked briefly before coming out to Fargo to work for the police department. I currently live in Glyndon, MN, with my husband and our rescue pup named Mala. I worked patrol for about five years before joining the Community Engagement Team where I focus specifically on mental health-related calls for service. I work closely with our mental health resources in the area to try and reduce the need for repeat responses to the same individuals while also connecting individuals with the appropriate resources. I am currently working on building the state's first co-responder program within our department. Outside of my job, I love going to the gym, reading, and anything true crime related.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My parents are the core of who I am and why I do what I do. Neither are in law enforcement, but they instilled a strong sense of community and hard work in me from a young age. My father is the hardest working person I know and continues to give back to the community even in retirement. My mother showed me what it is to be a reliable and trusting friend and partner. They never set limits on what I could do and always allowed me to pursue whatever dream I had. Heather Glogolich also recently had a large impact on my career life after I met her and heard her speak at a women's law enforcement conference. She went through many lows throughout her law enforcement career but overcame them all bravely and proudly to come out on top. She is a role model for women within our profession and she reignited my passion for law enforcement while inspiring me to want more for myself as a police officer.

What drives you?

Being a person my family and friends can be proud of is a huge motivation for me.

I am honored to put on my uniform every day knowing it can be a symbol of a role model to some people. It is a responsibility I take very seriously and it drives me to be the best I can be each and every shift.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

If you want something badly enough and work hard enough for it, you can achieve it. Everything happens for a reason, even though that reason may not be obvious at first.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I really enjoy trying new restaurants and bars around town, horseback riding in the county with friends, and attending concerts at different venues.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope to gain a newfound confidence in myself as a female leader within my agency while creating lasting friendships with the other women in this program. I believe each one has something valuable I could learn and I look forward to exploring what that is throughout the rest of the program.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself continuing to grow within the Fargo Police Department. Our coresponder program in the department should be up and running long before then, and I hope I am furthering and improving upon the program and educating other departments and officers on how to have a successful program such as ours.

What are your passions outside of work?

Outside of work, I really am a homebody. I enjoy spending time at home with my husband and our pup. I have renewed my love of reading and often finish a book a day when I have the time.



Energetic, Adventurous, Spunky

78 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Hi friends! I grew up in a small town (shoutout to New Rockford!) in North Dakota and have been lucky to call the FM area my home since coming to college! I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in English with a Minor in Business Administration from NDSU in 2020, and went on to complete my Master’s in Leadership from the University of Jamestown in 2021! If you were to describe my personality as a color, I am a HOT pink girl (it also so happens that my wardrobe is 85% this color).

For my 8-5, I am extremely fortunate to work for a great company, Gate City Bank. I have been here for nearly three years and hold the title of Senior Talent Acquisition and Inclusion Specialist. Long story short, I get to work with people every day—whether it is recruiting, inclusion, or more—what could be better?

Outside of work, I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Matt, and we have the two cutest rescue dogs (I’m biased) named Kodiak and Reno. We are passionate about adventure, experiencing life, bucket lists, and travel. My favorite fun fact is that we JUST finished traveling to all 50 states together in 2023 and can’t wait to revisit our favorites! In my off time, you’ll probably catch me either playing (or coaching) volleyball, listening to Harry Styles, or making a super lastminute decision to do a weekend road trip somewhere fun!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be the product of two exceptional people I get to call my parents. My dad has taught me the value of a strong work ethic in both the personal and professional spheres. My mom is an incredibly strong woman who has been my biggest supporter from day one and has always encouraged me

to embrace who I am and celebrate it. I am so thankful for their influence on my journey.

On the professional front, I have been extremely lucky to have been mentored by some phenomenal female leaders— Bre, Betsy, and Heather—who have played pivotal roles in shaping my career. These women have been instrumental in my growth—allowing me opportunities, challenges, support, and so much more.

What drives you?

I am definitely driven by my passion to make a positive impact on the lives of others—which I am so grateful to get to do every day in the recruiting field! I find so much fulfillment in guiding individuals throughout their career search, helping them navigate the job search and interview process, and, hopefully, making it seamless and exciting! In my role, I’m focused on fostering an inclusive and supportive environment where individuals not only potentially secure meaningful employment but also have an individualized experience along the way. Being able to contribute to someone’s success story, and then being able to watch them grow their career with a great company and develop along the way is what fills my cup.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I would love for our business community to offer more educational opportunities in relation to hiring college students with temporary work visas, like OPT/CPT, and team members who may speak English as a second language. There is a talent that is barely tapped into—and providing education on not only the benefits but also the procedures associated with hiring can contribute to a more culturally rich workplace. I think many employers feel these topics may sound intimidating or like

a hard process, but it doesn’t have to be with the right education! Also, being able to acknowledge the skillsets and perspectives that bilingual team members can bring to the table is essential. I would love to see these educational initiatives happen to foster a more inclusive workplace, disrupt biases, and empower employers to make more informed decisions!

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

I have definitely learned the importance of finding comfort in discomfort and embracing the lessons that come with it. Entering into the workforce during a pandemic was extremely stressful— and I was absolutely someone who was terrified of the unknown, especially what that looked like for a career! As I’ve progressed, I’ve come to recognize how valuable it is to face challenges and learn how to thrive in unfamiliar spaces. I would also say—it is perfectly fine to break into dance at any moment to the music playing in your own head— even if no one else can hear it! Life is too short not to have fun!

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I am so excited to have an element of both personal and professional growth during my participation in this program! This opportunity is incredible to not only establish meaningful connections but also learn from the different perspectives of some rockstar women in our community! I know this group is full of encouragers and supporters—and I’m so excited to have that community going forward.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

Love yourself! It isn't always easy, but you are a unique individual with so much to bring to the table. Go you!

Supportive, Dedicated, Adaptable CONTINUED 80 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I’m Sarah! I grew up in Argyle, MN, and currently reside on a hobby farm outside of Kindred with my husband and our one-year-old son. We love living in the country with our horses, cats, and dog while updating our onehundred-year-old farmstead.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota Crookston with a degree in EarlyChildhood Education. I have worked with SENDCAA for the past 13 years in the Head Start program, where I have built my career on serving the children and families in our community. Currently, I am the Head Start Project Director where I oversee the program, which works with 346 children in Fargo, West Fargo, Lisbon, and Wahpeton. Our program focuses on providing comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

Outside of work, I am a cowgirl at heart. I love to ride and show my horses, and I volunteer with the Marshall County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse, a search and rescue group in Northwestern Minnesota.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Over the years, I have found the most influential people in my life have been the children and families that I have worked with at SENDCAA. I have

seen families overcome so much to provide a better life for their children. Seeing the success stories that have happened within the Head Start program motivates me to help the program succeed.

What drives you?

My family drives me. I know that the work that I do impacts the dynamics of my family, and I strive to be the best version of myself for them! I hope that the work I do will make our community a better place for my family to grow.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I really feel that as a community, we need to focus on providing quality childcare and early childhood education to the children in our community. This is something that is affecting businesses, families, and childcare workers. We need to be able to invest in our childcare workers so that they can provide the best care for our children.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Everyone has their own personal battles that they are fighting; we need to have more compassion for whatever situation they might be in.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I love to hike the North Country Trail,

which is located south of my home. Fargo-Moorhead is constantly changing with new restaurants, breweries, and shops, and it is always fun to explore and try what is new. A “must do” each year is attending the Pride of Dakota to stock up on my favorite North Dakota-made items.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to see myself still working for SENDCAA, meeting the goals I have set with my grant, and continuing to provide services for our children and families. I hope that my family has grown and is enjoying our personal interests and hobbies!

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope to take this opportunity to become a better leader to guide others in my program. There are 65 women that work in my program at SENDCAA, and I want to help empower them in their careers. We also work closely with our mothers, and I hope that we can help motivate them to meet their goals for themselves and their families. The opportunity to be a part of the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program excites me to be able to connect with other women in our community, to be able to give back to the Cass/Clay communities, and to help promote SENDCAA and all the services we provide.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"The Beauty Underneath the Struggle" by Niki Spears is a book that focuses on energizing the education field and helping to prevent teacher burnout. This book was a pep talk to myself about being responsible for my own story, reframing life challenges, and turning them into something positive.

82 MARCH 2024



Adventurous, Motivated, Analytical

84 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota. I moved to Fargo after high school to attend NDSU and have been here ever since! At NDSU, I earned a bachelor's degree in Industrial Engineering and Management. I have worked at Marvin for nine years. My current role is "Process Project Manager" where my job is to coordinate and accomplish all operational activities on projects, ensuring successful execution in the most efficient and safest way possible.

Outside of work, my husband Joe and I love traveling to new places, house projects (especially when we can learn a new DIY skill), playing co-ed sand volleyball, and spending time with family and friends.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Two people who have been influential in my journey are my parents. They have always pushed me to be the best version of myself and go for what I want. My parents always believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself.

People who inspire me are those who have paved their own path to success, who have worked hard, shown confidence, and proven themselves to get where they are.

What drives you?

I am driven to be successful and to be able to provide for my family and make them proud of my accomplishments.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Expect the unexpected! You cannot always prepare for what may come next, but you can prepare for it to be unexpected.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

Some of my favorite things to do in the community are enjoying the walking and biking trails around town, attending different events such as the Red River Market and concerts at many of the local venues, and trying new restaurants.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself further developing in my career, with a happy, healthy family to come home to at the end of the

day. I hope to continue to develop relationships with those around me and have a community of people that I am supported by.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I am hoping to develop relationships with other female leaders in the community as well as grow and develop my leadership skills and become a leader within my organization. In a male-dominated sector of the workforce, it is important to me to be an example to other women that engineering is a viable path to a successful and fulfilling career.

What are your passions outside of work?

Outside of work, I am passionate about helping others who are in phases of life that I have been through. I am a mentor with BIO Girls as well as with the Industry Connections program through the NDSU College of Engineering.

Energetic, Outgoing, Positive 86 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

My name is Bella Lien, and I grew up in Rogers, MN with my parents and two siblings as a middle child. I love being outside, being with family/ friends, and anything food-related. I am a proud Bison alumna, and I love the Fargo-Moorhead community. I work for United Way of Cass-Clay and am an Orangetheory Fitness instructor on the side.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why?

Who inspires you?

My mom and my grandmothers have been very influential in my life. They have inspired me to be myself, work hard, and spread kindness. They have led by example of how to be a great wife, mother, and sister.

What drives you?

Being around people and helping others drives me! I find fulfillment in seeing growth in people and being a part of their journey.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

More resources for recent college graduates to be connected to the business community.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

People care more about how you make them feel than what you say.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

Going to SCHEELS, playing pickleball, and I love going to any local coffee shop or brewery.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Having a family and enjoying every minute of life wherever I am!

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I'm hoping to gain leadership skills, increase my self-awareness, and build lifelong connections.

What are your passions outside of work?

I am passionate about meeting new people, my church family, working out, and plants! I am also passionate about spending time with family and friends and being at the lake!

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"Leaders Eat Last" By Simon Sinek taught me that leaders have the capability to create trust in the work environment and get people to their full potential. If a leader puts the needs of employees first, it can foster a successful environment.



Enthusiastic, Empathetic, Ambitious 88 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I am 29 years old. I work full-time at Northland Truss and I bartend a few nights a week at Davenport Supper Club. I am the president of the FM Youth Rugby Association where I also coach our middle school program. I grew up in Big Lake, MN, and I am the eldest of four children. In high school, I was a gymnast and a diver and frequently volunteered in the community. I moved to Fargo after graduation to attend North Dakota State University and have been in Fargo ever since. In college, I joined the Fighting Snappers Rugby Club, and once done with school, I ended up coaching that program as well. It helped pave the way for what I am doing now with FM Youth Rugby. I love to laugh and have a good time whether playing "What are the Odds" with my family or hanging out with friends. I can also tell a really good dad joke! I am always staying busy and rarely sit still, but when I do, I enjoy watching movies and hanging out at home with my dog Tucker, and my cat Oliver.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

First would be my parents, they have worked really hard to get where

they are by overcoming a lot of obstacles. They had me younger than planned, and they have been through so much. They made their life what they wanted it to be and it is inspiring. Growing up, I watched them sacrifice, grow, and be understanding in situations that are difficult. It is because of this that I am as motivated as I am. I want to see growth, and if that is something I want, then I have to make it happen. If I set my mind to something, I go forth and do it. I also got my empathy and patience from them. Who better to learn that from than two people who have four kids who push you to your limits? Another person who has been influential to me is a gentleman on our rugby board, Billy. He is the one who nominated me to be president of FM Youth and encouraged me to make the program better than what it was previously. He continues to support and encourage me to do that to this day. Also, I would have to say the middle school players that I coach have impacted me on a journey to be the best coach possible for them. It isn't just about playing well and winning games. Every time they step off the field from a game, I ask them if they made themselves proud, and it makes me self-reflect on whether I thought I did well in coaching them. They help me adjust and change by looking

at things through a different lens. Having those kids look up to me is one of the best feelings, and it makes me strive to grow our program every day. Seeing them change and grow into their potential makes me want others to experience that as well.

What drives you?

Seeing potential in something that I think will make a difference. I love making others feel valued or helping them grow. There is nothing better than seeing someone feel powerful or important after you help guide/ drive/better themselves. This goes for programs and businesses too. When I can see the growth and potential something could achieve, it motivates me to try all possibilities to make that happen.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I love attending BINGOs around town, going bowling, axe throwing, visiting markets, and rollerblading on many of the beautiful paths that Fargo has to offer. Anything that gets me out and about with friends.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

The "Armchair Expert" podcast. Learning from experts in their field or hearing from a new celebrity makes you take a different look at things. I enjoy learning about things I never knew before in hopes of gaining more knowledge and facts that might help me day to day. Armchair has also helped me with the way I lead by being able to ask more questions and not be afraid of saying I don't know something, but knowing I can learn or find out. I cannot tell you how many times in a conversation I have said, "Oh, I just heard about this on a podcast" and that was from Armchair Expert.

"The Mel Robbins Podcast." She has such a way to convey improving your life in ways you haven't even thought of but make complete sense. What she says and how she says it makes an incredible difference in how I have changed my attitude to the most minute details of everyday life. If you want to improve yourself on a personal or professional level, this is one way to do it. Mel Robbins has helped me in so many ways.




90 MARCH 2024
Mother, Passionate, Leader

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I am originally from Cottage Grove, MN, where I was raised by my parents with my younger sister. In the summer of 2010, I moved to Fargo, ND, and attended Concordia College. After receiving a double major in Communications and Sociology in 2013, I began working at Wells Fargo where my leadership skills flourished and I learned many life lessons. It was there I was fortunate enough to meet my husband, Giovanny. We got married five years later and have a baby girl, Layla who is our world at three-and-a-half years old. My family is my everything, they were my biggest supporters as I began at Elevate Financial in July of 2023. I started as an Executive Assistant and quickly moved into the Director of Operations role where I support all things operational and client-based. The work this firm does truly benefits our clients and our community. We cater to farmers, ranchers, and small business owners who are vital to our community. We understand that to our clients, it is more than finances, it is their life's work and their family's legacy. Our goal is to help their legacy grow in their way.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My inspiration comes from my mother. She was never given a handout and worked multiple jobs to provide for our family. She

overcame every obstacle she was faced with. Through her strength and perseverance, she started her own business, worked with my sister and me to conquer higher education, and now helps homeschool two of her grandchildren between working full time. Her passion, dedication, and hard work inspired me to put family first and make my family proud.

What drives you?

My family is my eternal driver, my world revolves around my daughter, Layla, and my loving and supportive husband, Giovanny. Without them, I would not be who I am.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

Adding more family-friendly events and attractions would be beneficial for our community. Fargo Moms has done a great job sharing resources and ideas, along with EPIC construction investing in familyfriendly builds that have been huge assets to our community that we could all work to build off of.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Life’s struggles are there so you know how truly lucky you are. This rang true when I was two months pregnant with my first child and looking to purchase my first home. I was laid off from a company that I worked for at that time for six years. Devastated and scared, I wasn't sure what was

to come. My colleagues and I worked hard to prove ourselves and we were asked to stay another four years. Which then landed me at Elevate Financial a dream job. Everything happens for a reason.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I would love to say I'm thriving as a mom of a 13-year-old girl and celebrating 16 years of marriage with my husband in our home in South Fargo. Working with Elevate Financial, I am truly so blessed with our client base and the work we do. I genuinely hope to continue my work with Alex on leading the team and helping our clients succeed.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

Through the United Way 35 Under 35 Program, I am looking forward to gaining more confidence in who I am, being proud of myself, and gaining a new support system and network of wonderful, talented, and powerhouse women.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

Put yourself first. You cannot pour from an empty cup and finding happiness for yourself, helps you bring so much more to your relationships and commitments.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"How I Built

This" by Guy Raz is an enlightening NPR podcast that tells the story of how entrepreneurs started and built what they have. Through this podcast, I have learned how to change the way in which people view you and your leadership goals. It must come from your desire to want to help others, not from superiority—from the ground up, you figure it out together. And that is a life lesson that has had numerous impacts on my life, both personally and professionally.

Witty, Loyal, Outgoing CONTINUED 92 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I grew up in small communities throughout North Dakota, but call Carrington, ND, my hometown when asked. I came to Fargo in 2010 and am a proud NDSU graduate. From 9 to 5, I am the Vice President of Strategy for RoleCall, a national talent attraction agency. I spend my days working with cities and states across the country on their strategy and execution of talent attraction programming to get people to relocate to our client's communities. I have a special focus and passion for working with our clients on their community onboarding practices. From 5 to 9 (and beyond), I spend most of my time with my husband, our two-year-old son, and our mini goldendoodle. In the moments not spent with my family, I can be found reading a book, doing a puzzle, and trying to crochet. I have found a passion for golf in the last few years, and while you won't find me on the PGA, you will find me doing my best to hit it straight and find my ball.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I am fortunate because one of the more influential people in my life is my sister, Katie. I can count on her for unfiltered guidance, support, and, most importantly, friendship.

What drives you?

I am passionate about people. I am driven by the opportunity to make meaningful connections and work with others on their professional and personal growth.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

With the rising remote workforce, I think our community could provide more spaces and opportunities for collaboration and communication outside a home office during the work day. I think there are so many great opportunities to engage with others through networking, but we could have more physical spaces for people to “clock in."

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

You are your own best advocate. Whether it is personal or professional, you are the most well-equipped person to advocate for the things you need and want.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I love supporting local food and beverage establishments with friends and family and taking in as many community events as I can. My family

loves the Red River Market and we try to go as many weekends in the summer and fall as we can.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself being active with my family, serving the community, and continuing to build and develop others around me.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope to gain a new community filled with women in similar life stages, both personally and professionally. I also hope to walk away with a better understanding of myself as a leader.

What are your passions outside of work?

I am passionate about creating and developing a fulfilling and rewarding life for my family, spending quality time with friends, traveling, getting outside, and Fargo!

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie is a book that stands the test of time when it comes to development. The basic principle of showing genuine interest in others can take you so far in leadership. I had the opportunity to participate in the Leadership North Dakota program a few years ago. This was a great opportunity both to explore the great state of North Dakota, and to connect with and learn from leaders across the state.

94 MARCH 2024


Ambitious, Empathetic, Strategic 96 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I grew up in Brainerd, MN, and moved to the Fargo area in 2012. My husband, Dustin, and I love the community here and we have two daughters and two dogs together. I find joy in playing and coaching volleyball, spending time with friends and family, reading, and playing card or board games. In 2023, I started Profit Potential Consulting LLC as a way to help small businesses in the area with their accounting and finance needs. It has been a wild ride and I am enjoying the entrepreneur lifestyle.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My business mentor, Sarah West, was a big influencer in my journey. She is the kind of person one could only hope to aspire to be. She helped me learn so much about myself and my values and gave me the courage to venture out on my own. I will be forever grateful for her.

What drives you?

There are two driving factors in my life: one is being able to provide financial stability for my family. I want to give my husband and kids the best life and it all starts with financial literacy. The second is being able to help people who are insanely good in their profession, but lack the financial knowledge to get them to the next

level. I want to be able to help others get to their full potential.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I think in the business world, we really need to be focused on enhancing employee's lives. Prioritizing worklife balance, mental health, and professional development are a few things that come to mind. Putting employees first, so they can put your customers first could be completely life-changing to all of us as a community.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Throughout my life, I've learned several life lessons that have shaped me into who I am today. I've come to appreciate the significance of meaningful connections. Cultivating relationships with a wide variety of individuals has enriched many parts of my life. Change is inevitable and embracing it is necessary to grow. Failing makes you better each time it happens and learning to navigate setbacks is an invaluable skill.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I enjoy bringing my kids to all of the parks and kid-friendly activities in our community. My kids love it and it's so fun to see them discover new things. My husband and I also enjoy finding

new restaurants to try and yummy dessert places to splurge at.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I want to be happy and feel fulfilled in life. Whether it is doing exactly what I'm doing today or something completely different. I want to work to live and not live to work. I want to be spending as much time with friends and family as possible, giving back to the community, and laughing way too much.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I am hoping to learn and grow my leadership skills in order to better my business and life. I am also excited about learning more about other amazing women in our community and how we can work together to make our community a better place as a whole. Finding some life-long friends and confidants would be a bonus.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

I am so grateful to be part of the United Way of Cass-Clay's 35 Under 35 Leadership Program. I am proud to be a member of a community that places such a huge emphasis on lifting people up and giving them their best shot.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"Extreme Ownership" by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin. This book emphasizes the idea that leaders should take ownership of both their successes and failures. This type of mindset has helped me stay accountable to my teams and helps me learn from my mistakes instead of trying to place blame.




98 MARCH 2024
Energetic, Fun-Loving, Adventurous

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Hi, I’m Bri! In my personal life, I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a cat mom, and a friend. I love traveling, and a full calendar of events of the time with friends and family— weeknight dinners, "The Bachelor" watch parties, concerts, my book club, my bowling league, and rugby shenanigans are my favorites! In my professional life, I am a 10year Health and P.E. teacher within West Fargo Public Schools! I teach students how to lead healthy, happy lives through physical activity and positive actions toward their minds and bodies. With the variety of classes that I teach, there's something new every day! I love to show students they CAN!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why?

Who inspires you?

I have four parents who impacted my childhood and really made me who I am; they showed me loyalty, grace, and unconditional love. I also have three younger siblings who helped shape who I am; they taught me the importance of creating our own fun, forgiveness, and the importance of having each other’s backs. I have a husband who daily inspires me to be the best Bri I can be. He is patient when I am not, he is strong when I am scared, and he makes every day fun.

What drives you?

In my personal life, I’m driven

by learning about and exploring what the world has to offer; I love traveling, trying new foods, and experiencing new cultures! As a teacher, I crave the “aha” moments when the lightbulb switches on! These moments drive me because when students see that they can, it builds their confidence!

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I think our business community could improve itself by networking and being more involved in our schools (specifically at the high school level). High school students are given the tough task of figuring out what they want to be when they grow up at the age of 18. This is a daunting task for many because there are MILLIONS of options. If businesses got into the school and showcased their job options (along with tasks, income, pros/cons, etc.), it could help students see what they like and are interested in! They enjoy that in-person interaction!

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

Our first session with the 35 Under 35 Program was the most impactful professional development experience I’ve had. In this session, we dove deeper into our leadership strengths, identified barriers, and pointed out blind spots for our strengths. I appreciated this professional development

experience because it was 1000% tailored to me and my leadership abilities.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

The most important lesson that I’ve learned and work to live out every day is to be in the moment and not wish away time.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I’m excited about what the 35 Under 35 has in store for me! I’m hoping to become a more confident leader by learning and owning my leadership strengths. I’m on this adventure with 34 other stellar women, and I’m also excited to make new friends, network, and make positive impacts in Fargo together!

What are your passions outside of work?

I’m passionate about a lot of things outside of work! I am passionate about a full calendar booked with traveling and quality time with friends and family. Road trips, weeknight dinners with friends, Bachelor watch nights, game nights, bowling league, and book club are my favorites! In addition to a full calendar, I am passionate about crafting.




100 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

In my personal life, I am a wife and mom. In my professional life, I work for Richland County Health Department, and am located in Wahpeton, as the Administrator. I have been with the department since January 2021. Prior to working for the health department, I worked for NDSU Extension and Fargo Public Schools. I also spent several years coaching gymnastics for American Gold Gymnastics. I am a graduate of NDSU with undergraduate degrees in health education and physical education and a master's in public health. I am passionate about healthy, vibrant communities where individuals and families can live and grow. I enjoy spending time with my husband and kids. In the summer, we enjoy the lakes, and during the school year, we bounce around between kids' activities and other happenings in the area.

What drives you?

I want to live a life of purpose. I believe we all have a duty to make the world a better place. This has proven especially true for me since having children. I want to be someone who they can look up to and who inspires them. I believe in continuous professional and personal growth. There is always something to learn.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I would like to see the push for shopping locally continue to grow. It's been fun to see our local farmers' markets gaining popularity over the past several years. Grants, loans, or local support is crucial for developing and improving our business community.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

I enjoy anything by Bob Goff. His books are easy reads, but really make you think about your life and how you want to live it. Some of his main messages are loving everybody always and living a life of purpose. I also enjoy Brené Brown's TED talk and books. She brings a practical approach to leadership by stressing the power of vulnerability. I also found her style of "paint done" to be helpful in my own life and profession.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

The most important life lesson I have learned is to live in the moment. We can spend a lot of

time living in the past or the future, but we have the most joy to gain when being present.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I am excited for the opportunity to learn from others in the community and expand my network. We have a great group of women, and I am looking forward to getting to know them better.

What are your passions outside of work?

My greatest passion is my relationship with God, my family, and raising our children.




Considerate, Charismatic, Insightful

102 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Hi there, I'm Nicolette. I grew up on a farm just outside of Valley City, ND. Even though I am a smalltown gal at heart, I also thoroughly enjoy being within a stone's throw of an iced americano and a poke bowl. I moved to the FM area to finish school, which I did through the University of Mary's Fargo campus, and earned a degree in Business Communications. My life is made better by the company of my husband, Patrick, our two lovely daughters Banks and Indy, and our cats, Helen and Arthur. When I have a free moment, I love spending time with my friends doing just about anything. I also enjoy being outside, shopping with my mom, trying to keep plants alive, and the occasional craft project.

In the professional realm, I oversee all events and programs at the FMWF Chamber, a role that keeps me engaged and excited. Some of these include Voices of Vision, ChamberChoice Awards, Women Connect, Leadership FMWF, and many more. There is never a dull moment at The Chamber!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My hardworking and supportive parents have been the most influential figures in my journey.

Their dedication, resilience, and unwavering support have shaped my values and inspired me to strive for excellence in all aspects of life.

What drives you?

What drives me is the desire to make a positive impact in the community. I am motivated by the opportunity to contribute to meaningful change and enhance the well-being of those around me.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Improving access to affordable childcare services would greatly benefit our business community by supporting working parents and promoting a more inclusive and balanced workforce.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

I've learned that embracing differences is crucial. Being different isn't bad; it's an opportunity to appreciate diverse perspectives, cultivate empathy, and foster a richer understanding of the world.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I had an intern once who said there was nothing to do in Fargo. So I, very quickly, wrote her a five-page

bucket list of unique things she must do/try in the FMWF area. Maddi, if you are reading this, can I get a copy of that?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I envision myself actively pursuing opportunities for personal and professional growth while contributing meaningfully to endeavors that align with my passions and values.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I am hoping to leave a better leader, learn something new about myself, and make some friendships!

What are your passions outside of work?

Hygge—creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"Radical Candor" by Kim Scott—this book speaks on the principle of communication in the workplace, emphasizing the importance of both caring personally and challenging directly. This concept encourages leaders to find the right balance between showing genuine care for their team members and providing direct and honest feedback. I think this is essential for building trust and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.



Kind, Approachable, Passionate 104 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I am originally from Hawley, MN. My husband and I are both deputies for the Clay County Sheriff's Office. We live on my family's farm where we raise horses, cows, chickens, goats, and pigs along with our barn cats and our two dogs, a yellow lab and a German shepherd. In my free time, I love to travel, especially to warm destinations to snorkel, spend time with family and friends, ride horses, take our dogs for walks, spend time outdoors, and hunt.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My mother would have to be the most influential person in my life. She taught me how to be a strong person and stand up for what I believe in. She set me up for success from a young age and I wouldn't be where I am today without her. I honestly am not sure if I would be in this career if it wasn't for Bill Bergquist being a positive influence in my life from a young age when he was Sheriff of Clay County. Another influential person in my career life is Travis Stefonowicz—he helped me believe in myself and start my career in law enforcement.

What drives you?

Helping others, I have a strong passion for helping others. Each day I strive to help at least one person. I strive to be a strong role model and make a positive impact on each person I come in contact with.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I think we all can be better at checking in on one another.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Live, learn, and grow. No one is perfect and mistakes happen. Just learn and grow from them. Treat others as you want to be treated. Hug your loved ones. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I enjoy going to sporting events, rodeos, riding horses—really anything outdoors. I love trying new restaurants and checking out small businesses.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself continuing to serve the residents and visitors of Clay County. I pray that within the next 10 years, my husband and I have a couple of little ones and are busy with youth rodeos, sporting events, and family time!

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I am excited to network with 34 other amazing women from our community. I look forward to learning more about myself, becoming a stronger leader, and learning more ways I can help others within our communities along with growing stronger relationships within my personal life. I hope to gain more confidence in myself.

What are your passions outside of work?

My faith, family, and friends. I have a strong passion for animals, especially my own.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"WHOA That's Good Sadie Robertson Huff Podcast"

"Made For This with Jennie Allen S15 Ep24: You are not a Victim to your thoughts."




Resilient, Dedicated, Funny 106 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I grew up in Park River, ND, and moved to Fargo after graduating from UND with a degree in Managerial Finance and Accounting. This is where I found my passion for financial accounting while working at Sterling Management, an advisor to two REITs operating in the Midwest. I have recently taken on the role of Director of Finance for Pentex Restaurant Group where I am in charge of long-term financial health and growth. My family and friends are my whole world, especially Asher, my mini schnauzer! In my spare time, I like to read as many books as I can, explore the world, and watch sports (Go Vikings!).

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had wonderful mentors along the way! I would like to mention a few of them here: My mother, who has always supported me no matter what, and taught me the value of hard work. I owe Jill Cederberg and Ingrid Scantlebury for teaching me the value of self-advocacy, having the guts to venture outside of your comfort zone, and having empathy for others. They have also been an amazing source of support because they are constantly willing to listen and encourage my personal and professional goals.

What drives you?

I am motivated by my passion for learning. I find inspiration in the process of delving into new subjects, gaining insights, and leveraging that knowledge to enhance my life. My love of learning influences how I handle obstacles and fosters a strong sense of curiosity and resilience in me.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I would like to see the continued push of supporting small businesses. Spotlighting these businesses through events such as the Red River Market connects the community and enables these businesses to thrive.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

I've discovered that errors are opportunities for growth and learning. It's a fantastic chance to think things through and emerge from a circumstance as a more well-rounded person. My second life lesson is how crucial it is to lead with empathy in order to make others feel appreciated, heard, and understood.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

Going to local concerts, enjoying the various coffee shops, shopping at all the boutiques, and walking my dog

around the trails are all things I enjoy about our community.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I want to be living a purposeful life doing the things I love! I want to be traveling, giving back to the community, and spending as much time as possible with friends and family.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I am hoping to learn from other local women about their various industries and perspectives, and ways to be more involved in the community. I hope to gain new friendships, foundational leadership skills, and confidence in my leadership abilities.

What are your passions outside of work?

Whether it's reading, working out, or taking naps with my dog, I usually manage to make time for one of my passions each day. When time allows, one of my favorite passions is traveling where I love experiencing new cultures and food.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek. This book emphasizes the importance of prioritizing the well-being and success of each team member, practicing empathy, and having integrity.

MERCHANT LEAD, SCHEELS E-COMMERCE Caring, Reliable, Optimistic 108 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I am originally from the Reno/Sparks area and loved growing up in Nevada surrounded by the mountains. I went to college in San Diego and while it was beautiful, it was not a place I wanted to live long-term, so I moved back home and met my husband while working at SCHEELS.

We still both work at SCHEELS and feel so fortunate to have found careers at the Corporate Campus in Fargo. I work in our e-commerce office and help drive sales in all of our soft goods shops. We have been in North Dakota for five years now and are adjusting to the winters like true natives.

We have a one-year-old baby girl named Emilia and she is the light of our lives! She and her two puppies keep us busy, but we wouldn't have it any other way!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

In my personal life, my mom, Jeannie Hudson, has no doubt been most influential. She has always set such a good example as a strong role model and is the most loving, generous, and giving person. I was able to take a lot of scary leaps in my life knowing she always had my back should I need her unwavering support!

I have had a lot of amazing leaders in my professional life as well! My first mentor early in my career, Aubrey

Matteson, truly taught me how to believe in myself and instilled the confidence in me that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, which has continued to propel me today.

My current leader, Nikki Fjerstad, has had the same belief in me as Aubrey and has truly been the best example as far as teaching me how to empower others and passing that along to our team to create strong future leaders.

What drives you?

Our daughter is my "number-one why" for everything I do. I want to show up and be a better version of me for her every day! I am driven to work hard, show kindness, and be that steady constant in her life that she can look up to. I also truly have a passion for helping others and love being able to pour all I can into my team and celebrate their successes. I am jokingly everyone's biggest cheerleader, but jokes aside, I genuinely love seeing our team face challenges, grow and learn. Being a part of helping others get where they want to go is 100% my favorite part of my job!

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

The Fargo-Moorhead business community is blessed with a variety of industries. If there were more programs like United Way's 35 Under 35, people from all those different industries would have more opportunities to network, collaborate, and build stronger business relationships. I would like to see the expansion of such collaboration among

members of our business community. I have been immersed in what we lovingly call "SCHEELS culture" for my entire working career, and since I believe that culture is what makes SCHEELS so successful, I personally would like to share that culture with others in hopes of spreading that success.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

To say it simply—stay true to who you are. It can be hard to ignore the desire to please people and not cave into the pressure of others, but in the end, being true to who you are and showing up as your authentic self without compromising your core values is so important.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

What I am most excited about is both the opportunity to form relationships with other strong women in our community and the opportunity to grow personally outside of my career. The friendships and the connections I have the chance to develop with strong female leaders from all over the community that I normally would have never crossed paths with are almost surreal. I also know this program will challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone and because of that, I am excited to see the personal development strides I will make and am looking forward to how that will propel my leadership journey.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

John C Maxwell is a go-to at SCHEELS and for good reason! I am currently reading "The Maxwell Daily Reader," but the top two I'd recommend are "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" and "The 5 Levels Of Leadership."

Both of these have been utilized by many SCHEELS Leadership Teams both in-store and in our offices as they are dependable guides that outline how everything truly rises and falls on leadership.




Authentic, Loyal, Intuitive CONTINUED 110 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I grew up in North Fargo and moved to Palm Desert, CA, when I was 17. I spent the last 15 years exploring different places I called home but ultimately found myself back in Fargo after the birth of my daughter. I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. I am a full-time remote employee with Meta and a part-time student at Minnesota State. I like to stay busy and try every day I wake up and live with intention. I prioritize being a present mother in addition to being a supportive daughter, and a dedicated and loyal employee.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I come from a big loving family and have always been fortunate enough to be surrounded by strong women my whole life. The strongest of whom is my big sister, Katie Fugle. My sister is the definition of strength and resilience. The way she perseveres inspires me to keep reaching within myself to embrace and share my strength. Nobody has ever believed in me more authentically or loved me so selflessly. I wouldn't be the woman or mother I am today without her love and support. As a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC), she opens her heart daily to children who are a little lost. Some of these children don't have a lot of adults they can trust and she provides them a safe space. She

continues to do what she did for me for children in the community. Because of her, so many lives will be changed for the better.

What drives you?

I am driven to break generational trauma. I believe if I live my most authentic life with a pure heart, I can make a positive impact on the world. There is nothing more motivating to me than being better than I was yesterday. You could call this drive a little healthy competition with myself.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Promoting more hybrid/remote work options for employees. Having the ability to be a mom first and an employee second has been the biggest blessing for my family. I never have to miss drop off or pick up and am always available when my daughter is sick or if my dad needs help. Because I am granted the autonomy to do so through my employer, I am more loyal and driven to show up my best at work.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

The biggest lesson I have learned thus far is to have the courage to be disliked. It's truly not about where you are, it's about who you're with. It's about quality over quantity in every sense whether it's friends, furniture, clothes, trips, groceries, take-out, etc. People are

investments and a reflection of you. If you're going to work on anything, work on self-confidence, it gets you further than you think. If you don't believe in you—why would anyone else? And lastly, the power of being kind. Just be a good person, acquire some emotional intelligence, be aware of the impact you have on others, and try to be a positive energy. It's okay to give up or quit something that is breaking you, but never give up on yourself.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I love trying local establishments and am specifically a sucker for clothing boutiques, coffee shops, and local gyms.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

The confidence to be the leader I am capable of being, build relationships and make connections, and find the courage and strength to be my most authentic self.

What are your passions outside of work?

Outside of work my passions are my family, self-care, reformer pilates, reading, learning, eating, my dogs, and self-improvement. I spend a lot of time learning about mental health and trying to understand people better through the lens of psychology.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"The Mel Robbins Podcast" but also her Instagram, Threads, TikTok, etc. anything you can find! This woman is the absolute boss and is a woman's woman, reminding me daily to GET. AFTER. IT! Everything you want is right there inside you. Mel will talk about a spectrum of things from self-improvement, professional development, mental health, relationships, habits, wealth, etc. When I listen to Mel, I immediately want to take action whether it's my to-do list for the day or taking initiative on that next project.

112 MARCH 2024
DAYMAKER NUTRITION Steadfast/Devoted, Servant Hearted, Kind 114 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I’m Amanda! I grew up in a small farming community two hours northwest of Fargo. In 2011, I moved to Fargo to attend NDSU and graduated with a degree in interior design in 2016. Aside from a short six months home after college, I have been in Fargo since and absolutely love the community! In my free time, I usually spend it at CrossFit Fargo, participating in church activities, and spending time with family and friends.

I currently own a nutrition club in West Fargo—I just hit year four this January! I’ve learned so much about being self-employed throughout the last six years of my life, the biggest being that comfort kills growth and relationships are everything. While the last six years of being self-employed have been anything but easy, I wouldn’t trade any of them for not having experienced it.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

The most influential people in my life have been those who have taken the time to pour into me whether it’s been at one of my previous jobs or church. They have led their own lives with such grace and vulnerability. In mentoring me, they taught me so much of their wisdom and knowledge. And lastly my family. I come from a family of hard-working entrepreneurs— they’ve modeled what hard work and determination look like.

What drives you?

Building community and relationships and the positive impact I can have on those communities and relationships. In being a part of these relationships and communities, my hope is that I have strengthened them by being a light to them. My goal is to bring a heart willing to serve and a sense of reliability, peace, love, patience, and joy to any community I am a part of.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Overall, I feel our community does a pretty good job of supporting local businesses. But as a small business owner myself, I have seen firsthand the challenges that have come since 2020. In a world where it can be easier to click a button online and order what you need from a large retail store, small businesses need the support more than ever.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Hard work and grit are a necessity in life, but they only come when we learn that rest is equally as important to be our best self.

And as Proverbs 16:9 reminds us, “In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

A person can make as many plans as they would like, but it is the Lord who ultimately decides what will happen. It requires humility and trust in a plan that is higher than ourselves. We are often

reminded to be open to unforeseen circumstances and trust that the Lord is guiding us rather than solely relying on our own understanding. When we embrace that the Lord is ultimately in control, we can step into a mindset that allows us to be adaptable and resilient to face life’s uncertainties and to be open to redirection on our journey in this life.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

When I think about where I’ll be in 10 years, I see myself being filled with so much joy because I know I’ll be surrounded by people I love and people who love me. It won’t matter so much what “job” I am doing, but knowing that wherever I am, I am making an impact on those that are around me.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope to build and gain lifelong connections and utilize the skills I learn throughout this program to impact those who surround me.

What are your passions outside of work?

Faith, fitness, family, and friends. If it involves any of these, I’ll be happy!

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

Do the thing that scares you. It might just be the best experience of your life!

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

“Not Safe” by Mark Batterson has challenged me to realize that there is something so thrilling about Jesus and the calling He has for your life. Often times that calling is going to bring you out of areas of comfort and challenge you to embrace His dangerous plan for your life.

I’ve listened to the "Ed Mylett Podcast" podcast for a few years now and have loved the diversity of guests he has on this podcast. They bring so many different areas of knowledge and Ed leads the conversations with those he interviews in such an interesting way.



Creative, Loyal, Cultivator CONTINUED 116 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I am proud to call Fargo my hometown, having been born and raised here. My academic journey began at Concordia College with a degree in business marketing, where I graduated in 2019. Recently, I accomplished a significant milestone by earning my Master's in Business Administration from Southern New Hampshire University this February. Over the past five years, I have immersed myself in the world of marketing with a current focus on content creation, brand management, strategy development, and compelling storytelling for Western State Bank.

When I am not at work, I find joy in life's little things. Whether it's crocheting with my grandma, watching the latest films with my movie-obsessed partner Ross, or snuggling my dog, Remi, exploring new destinations, and spending time with family and friends over a homecooked meal.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I am fortunate to have many remarkable and strong women in my life who have played pivotal roles in shaping my journey. Among them are my two older sisters, Audrey and Abbey. Since my early years, they have been instrumental in guiding me, opening doors to opportunities I might have overlooked, paving the way for

my growth, and shaping me into the person I am today. Whether celebrating successes or navigating challenges, my sisters are the first people I turn to because I can always count on their honesty.

What drives you?

I find motivation in the art of relationship building. This is reflected in the fact that four out of my top five Clifton Strengths revolve around fostering connections, I believe there's immense wisdom to be gained by taking the time to listen. From as far back as I can recall, I've been curious to meet new individuals, understand their uniqueness, and immerse myself in their stories. Each person offers a wealth of experiences, and by actively engaging in these connections, I not only learn about them but broaden my worldview in the process.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Practicing gratitude! Learning to appreciate what you have often leads to more happiness and contentment.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

One of my favorite ways to engage in our community is to support our local small businesses. As the daughter of a small business owner (check out Paramount Sports!), I find that exploring boutiques, admiring art

galleries, eating my way through local restaurants, and enjoying the cozy atmosphere of a coffee shop truly contributes to our community's unique charm and landscape.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

This question is always tough for me because my dream list is long and something new is added almost every day! Ideally, I see myself being highly involved in the community and helping non-profits share their mission. My first job out of college was at HERO (shout out to my mom for encouraging me to apply) and it instilled a passion for nonprofit work and the community.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I hope to gain more confidence in my abilities, professional tools to help both myself and the community succeed, and 34 new friendships!

What are your passions outside of work?

My top love language is quality time. I love spending my time outside of work engaging with the people I love. Whether that be traveling, conversing over a glass of wine, game night, or just getting out of Fargo and enjoying time at the lake.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

My favorite recent read is "The Art of Gathering" by Priya Parker. Parker shares the essence of why we come together, provides insights behind meaningful gatherings, and encourages us all to question the intentions of our gatherings to foster a deeper understanding of their true purpose. "The Art of Gathering" has allowed me to think and to challenge myself to have more meaningful connections.

118 MARCH 2024



120 MARCH 2024
Kind, Welcoming, Dependable

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I was born and raised in Fargo. My husband, Terrell, and I have two kids, Tyana and Tereek. I am a social butterfly who enjoys meeting new people and striking up conversations with strangers. Let's be honest, I met my husband by walking up to him, introducing myself, and talking his ear off for an hour! I went to NDSU and was a cheerleader for the football and basketball teams. GO BISON! After one year there, I transferred to NDSCS to study dental hygiene. When preparing to graduate from NDSCS, I couldn't shake the desire I had to work with hair so a few months after obtaining my degree, I began studying Cosmetology at TSPA in Fargo. In July 2012, I started working for Pediatric Dentistry, Ltd. We are a specialty office and can provide wonderful dental care for up to 200 patients a week. It is rewarding to see so many smiling faces and help as many people as possible. Shortly after starting my career as a Dental Hygienist I still had a passion for hair but didn’t want to leave my dream job. From 2014-2020 I worked parttime for an amazing company, Great Clips, and provided services for eight different salon locations in Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Moorhead, and Detroit Lakes. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with and meet so many people over the years!

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My parents have been so influential in my journey. They taught me how to be kind to others, how to stand up for myself, and how to build a life by making smart financial and economical choices. They have always been the most reliable, through the good and bad. They have never stopped supporting me and encouraging me to follow my dreams.

They inspire me to continue to work hard, be dependable, make good decisions, and continue to be the best person they know I can be.

What drives you?

Helping others. I enjoy being the one you can call on to get something done. If a coworker or friend needs something, I am driven to use my resources to be sure their task gets accomplished as best as it can. Helping others in the community is also a motivator for me! I'm honored to have the opportunity through this program to learn more about what our community has to offer and help those in need.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

I think our business community could offer more family-friendly opportunities and events. I think this would bring in crowds and help promote their services! Anytime we see an event offered to families, especially ones that bring in kidfriendly activities, we usually reach out to a few friends with kids and see if they want to join. It's a win-win for everyone!

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Life is too short. Enjoy every day as it could be your last. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Live, laugh, and love those around you. Hug and kiss your loved ones when you say goodbye. Treat others with respect and dignity, you don't know what they're truly going through.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

Family-friendly outings! Visiting businesses that are putting on events

with bouncy houses, food trucks, and kids' games are the best! We enjoy seeing new places and trying new things.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself going to lots and lots of sports activities. My husband and I were both athletes growing up and through college so we hope our kids enjoy many sports as well. Fargo will still be our home and we will still complain about the cold!

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I'm very excited to learn more about my strengths that I can apply in my professional life but I am really hoping to make great friends and gain a sense of sisterhood! I hope by the end of this program, I will have the ability to call on each one of these amazing women if and when I need them. Whether it be a personal situation, a friendly get-together, a professional question, or a connection to execute a task I've been assigned. I'm hoping they will feel they are able to reach out to me as well for any needs I may be able to assist them with.

What are your passions outside of work?

I love spending time with family and friends! Myself, my husband, and our kids enjoy going to the Zoo in the summer. We love trying new parks in the Fargo-West Fargo area. The dog park is a fun spot to visit as we do not have any pets. The kids enjoy watching the dogs run around without having to get too close if they don't want to.




Loyal, Resilient 122 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I was born and raised in Fargo, and am a proud graduate of NDSU! I earned my degree in Political Science, worked in the 2018 mid-term election cycle, and then went on to get my MBA from the University of Mary. For my 8-5, I am the incoming Executive Director of Burgum Foundation, and 24/7 I am a wife and mom to our two kids (and two dogs, and four fish). Our family spends as much time as we can at the lake in the summer, with family and friends, and exploring all of our amazing Fargo Parks.

I have been at Burgum Foundation for the last four years as a Grants Manager, and am now stepping into the role of Executive Director which I could not be more excited about. Burgum Foundation's mission is to support the education of rural North Dakota students, families, and community members. I have always been interested in philanthropy, community outreach, youth, and education, so I feel very fortunate to be in a role where I have the ability to impact all of those spaces not only in Fargo but across North Dakota.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

Many people have been so helpful and influential throughout my journey. I am so fortunate to have a mentor at Burgum Foundation I have learned from the last four years. She has shared her philanthropic and programming

knowledge with me and also has modeled authenticity, grace, and compassion in a way that inspires me to be the type of leader she is.

Additionally, I work with many teachers and school leaders through my role at Burgum Foundation, my husband is an Assistant Principal, and I'm always inspired by the lengths some of these educators go to meet the needs of kids. They do so much with so little, and every time I'm in a school on a site visit, at a parent-teacher conference, or ask my husband how his day was, I'm reminded that there are thousands of educators in our state that go far and beyond their job description every single day.

What drives you?

Modeling what being a healthy, happy, hard-working person looks like for my kids drives me. There is no better way to instill important values and habits in my kids than embodying them myself.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Something that can be improved in our business community, or any business community, is the way employers work with their employees' personal lives and existing commitments. Many people have significant responsibilities in their lives, whether it be as a single parent, behavioral health diagnoses, children with special needs, an ill family member, and so on. If businesses can have greater awareness and supportive practices of employee's real-life commitments and challenges,

I personally believe that type of loyalty pays dividends.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

We have a busy family and one of our favorite things is getting outside with the kids and walking or exploring new (to us) parks in town.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to see myself with a happy, healthy family and embrace the opportunities my life and career present me. In 10 years, my hope is I'll be part of driving philanthropic engagement in our community.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I'm hoping to gain relationships with other members of our class and learn how to best develop my specific leadership style. Leadership isn't one size fits all, and I want to see how I can maximize my leadership strengths and improve upon challenging aspects also.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

I really like the "Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast." It's faith-based, but also touches on different leadership principles and circumstances and how to navigate them. For me, it's been a way to explore leadership a bit more before fully diving into my professional role.




Resilient, Reliable, Determined 124 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

Mabuhay! I grew up in the Philippines, a tropical country with over 7,000 islands. I moved to the US when I was 21 to go on to graduate school where I met my husband Tom. We have been happily married for eight years and have our adorable daughter Lyra who is now four. We moved from Idaho to North Dakota during the pandemic and have been living here for over three years.

My academic journey is by no means linear or over. I experienced being a traditional and nontraditional graduate student and still am one. I earned my MS in Plant Pathology from the University of Georgia and ALM in Sustainability from Harvard Extension School. I plan to finish my Ph.D. in Plant Science from the University of Idaho by the end of this year, while my husband and I are working full time at NDSU and raising our family.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

I am fortunate to have crossed paths with many influential individuals on my journey, but nothing beats family. My parents instilled in me and my three siblings the value of hard work and perseverance. Despite facing financial challenges during our formative years. They made sure that we always had food on the table and access to quality education. I also owe a significant part of my success to my husband who has been instrumental in my personal and professional growth.

What drives you?

My driving force is fueled by my passion for science, helping others, and creating a positive impact. Science is everywhere and essential to our future. While change may appear daunting, I am actively making conscious choices to contribute to a better world for future generations, especially for my daughter and nieces.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

As a working mom, it is my goal to support our family and help my child find her own success. With the FM area's growing population, it is essential to invest in early care and education through public-private partnerships. Moreover, organizations will benefit from implementing family-friendly policies, including paid parental leave and flexible work arrangements, to improve employee retention and productivity.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Stay focused on your own journey, knowing that every individual progresses at his or her own pace. It is never too early or too late to pursue your dreams. Most importantly, cherish your time with family by being present for them while you still have the chance.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

Our family enjoys outdoor activities at the parks, and we have attended

numerous events at the fairgrounds. My husband and I enjoy both trying out new restaurants and revisiting our favorite dining spots and breweries.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I envision myself taking on a prominent leadership role within the field of agriculture. My focus will be on addressing complex, interdisciplinary challenges and driving forward sciencebased policies to promote sustainable agriculture and rural development. However, balancing a rewarding career with a fulfilling family life remains a top priority for me as I pursue my ambitious goals.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I aim to improve my unique leadership skills and confidence as a woman leader. I hope to build stronger connections with our community and form lasting friendships with other women who I might not have crossed paths with otherwise.

What are your passions outside of work?

My family is my utmost priority, and I ensure that I spend as much quality time with them as I can. I like seeking new experiences, visiting natural wonders, exploring new cuisines, immersing myself in different cultures, and the list goes on.

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus is very relatable, especially for women in science. While significant progress has been made in the last half-century, there is still a lot of room for improvement in the workplace for women.

"Resetting the Table: Straight Talk About the Food We Grow" by Robert Paalberg is a must-read for anyone interested in agricultural and food systems. There are many misconceptions surrounding food production, including the pros and cons of both modern and traditional farming.




Driven, Passionate, Energetic

126 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I consider Fargo my hometown after moving here at a young age. I graduated from Fargo South and pursued elementary education at the University of North Dakota. My experiences include working in Minneapolis and serving in the Peace Corps in Rwanda for two years. After returning to Fargo, I completed my master's program through Boston University while advancing my career and community involvement here. Currently, I am the Community Initiatives Manager at Great Plains Food Bank, focusing on addressing the root causes of food insecurity.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My family and partner have been my steadfast supporters, encouraging me through challenges and cheering on my new ventures. They've taught me the values of independence, caring for others, and embracing life fully.

What drives you?

Our community drives me. Working alongside passionate individuals daily makes this work rewarding. I aim to contribute to making our community a place where everyone has what they need to succeed and be healthy.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

Our local businesses, which support our work through volunteering and donations, could benefit from educating their staff about community needs and considering their impact on the community.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

Take risks, step out of your comfort zone, and approach life with curiosity and a readiness to listen and learn.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I enjoy cross-country skiing on city trails, exploring downtown, connecting with our community, and enjoying live music at local venues.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to be deeply involved in addressing systemic issues, creating more equitable and inclusive systems for all, and having a larger garden.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

I aim to discover my strengths as a leader and use them to make a greater impact. I'm excited to connect with and learn from other inspiring women in the program.


Ambitious, Genuine, Optimistic

128 MARCH 2024

Tell us about yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.

I was born and raised in Fargo, and I am a proud NDSU graduate, where I earned my doctor of pharmacy degree in 2021. I have been a pharmacist at the Medicine Shoppe for the past two years. I am passionate about providing patientcentered care and expanding clinical services in the community pharmacy setting. Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, working out, and spending quality time with my friends and family.

Who are some people who have been influential in your journey and why? Who inspires you?

My parents, Randy and Pam Aberle, taught me to prioritize family, faith, and hard work. They remain humble and grounded amidst success and don’t forget to have fun along the way. LaNell Hagen, pharmacist and co-owner at the Medicine Shoppe, facilitates a positive work environment where all voices are heard, respected, and valued. This has inspired me to lead with quiet confidence; creating a space for team members to contribute, make decisions, and take ownership of their work.

What drives you?

I am driven by the desire to a positive impact. Knowing my efforts are meaningful to others keeps me motivated to give my all in whatever I do.

What do you think can be improved in our business community?

It is important to ensure women continue to be in leadership positions. I have been fortunate to work with women who are good communicators, great mentors, and effective leaders. Women bring new talents and fresh perspectives to the table, resulting in increased growth and success.

What are some important life lessons you have learned?

I have learned to practice an attitude of gratitude. There is so much to be grateful for if we just learn to look for it. When we are consistently grateful, obstacles turn into opportunities, and we can see life through a positive lens.

What are some of your favorite things to do in our community?

I enjoy supporting locally owned boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, and breweries. I also have fun attending fitness classes at Mojo Fit Studios and Ride Fargo.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I hope to continue learning, growing, and embracing opportunities in my role at The Medicine Shoppe. Outside of work, I see myself traveling, exploring new hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.

What are you hoping to gain from the United Way 35 Under 35 Women's Leadership Program?

Through the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program, I hope to gain confidence as a leader, connect with women from different backgrounds, and feel inspired to be an active community member. I hope to carry these skills into both my professional and personal life to better support those around me.

What are your passions outside of work?

Outside of work, I enjoy traveling, working out, and spending quality time with my friends and family.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers of Fargo INC?

I am so grateful to be a part of the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership program. There is so much energy and power in a room full of driven women. If you are thinking about applying, do it!

Tell us about 1-2 books, podcasts, or professional development experiences that have changed the way you view leadership.

"Atomic Habits" by James Clear simplifies success by focusing on tiny changes that yield remarkable results. His strategies provide a framework for getting 1% better every day and focusing on progress rather than perfection.



he United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program is a powerful force in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. Since 2009, this program has been empowering young women to take the lead in our community and places of work.

Starting from a simple idea among friends, the program was founded by

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Join us in celebrating the past, present, and future successes of these remarkable women and the program that helped shape them.

Judy Green, Sue Wiger, Tonya Stende, Susan Mathison, and Judy Pearson. Their vision has since grown into a community of 525 alumnae who have made significant strides in their fields and communities. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the 35 Under 35 program. To celebrate, we're taking a closer look at the achievements of some of its former participants.



Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Fargo, graduated from North Dakota State, and I am a strong believer that the world is better when you get to experience four seasons. After pursuing a degree in education, I have spent my career pursuing all things people. My career has been primarily focused on talent development, talent acquisition, and culture development. I believe that true fulfillment comes from aligning with your purpose and for me that means fostering growth and development in others

I enjoy coaching others on aligning with their purpose as well. I live in Fargo with my husband Christian, stepson Ashton, and six-month-old daughter Lila. I serve on the board for the North Dakota Autism Center, am a member of the Women United Leadership Team, and am one of the organizers for DisruptHR Fargo Moorhead.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

35 Under 35 served as a catalyst for growth for me. I spent the early part of my career at U.S. Bank and had been tremendously fortunate with great opportunities, but I only had a view of that organization. The 35 Under 35 Program allowed me to elevate further as a leader as I was exposed to so many community leaders and learned from them.

On a personal level, the connections I have made are nothing short of amazing. It is like this amazing spider web of powerhouse women. Not

only the lifelong friendships and connections from my class but those who I have met and connected with through them and future classes as well.

What were some of the most important things you learned?

Never underestimate the power of like-minded individuals. The program exposed me to people who were also looking to grow themselves both personally and professionally. That energy is contagious.

I learned a lot about my personal drivers and dreams. It sounds odd but I had almost stopped dreaming and while going through the program I started to dream about what my life could look like personally and professionally. It was those dreams that have led me to where I am today (and many more dreams have unfolded since).

What advice would you have for young professionals out there?

During the program, I was introduced to Morning Pages, the act of starting your day with 15 min of stream of stream-ofconsciousness writing. I believe stream-of-consciousness writing is the single best tool you can have. By just grabbing a notebook and writing your thoughts on paper, you can see patterns, identify dreams, and work through emotions you didn’t know were there. I have shared this tool with so many over the last 10 years and when I am stressed or uncertain, it is still the first thing I do.

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Tell us about yourself.

I was born in Fort Walton Beach, FL, and my family moved to Minot, ND, when I was five. At the time, my grandfather was in the Air Force and pursued a job at Minot Air Force Base. I attended the University of North Dakota where I received my undergraduate degree in sociology and continued my education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to complete my master’s degree in educational administration. My first jobs after college were at UND and later Minot State University working in the enrollment services department where I helped students explore their college options. I moved to Fargo in 2014 where I landed a job at North Dakota State University in the admission department. I’ve held a few different roles at NDSU and now serve as senior director of strategic enrollment management. I celebrate my ten-year work anniversary at NDSU this spring and have an immense amount of appreciation for the opportunity to support college-bound students and work with incredible faculty and staff who share a deep passion for NDSU. Go Bison!

I am a member of Alpha Chi Omega national sorority and serve as an alumni volunteer at the local, regional, and national levels.

My husband, Lance, works as a lead engineer at Cargill in Wahpeton. We have two children, a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. We enjoy going on outdoor adventures as often as possible to fish, hunt, camp, or hike.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

It's quite difficult to clearly convey the impact this program has, but I'll try. In a nutshell, it boils down to deepening my self-awareness. This program unapologetically (but politely) shouted to me, “Enough is enough, you are enough!”

What I mean by that is this program allowed me to intentionally press pause and reflect one day a month for six months. Those six days granted me the chance to think deeply and analyze my daily routine inside and out, which helped me flip my perspective. Before the program, I found myself constantly racing against time and feeling defeated for the things I didn't or couldn't do, or lacked confidence in doing. I felt like I wasn't accomplishing enough, present enough, smart enough, or giving enough love and attention to those I love most. I played the constant game of comparison—it was exhausting, and I wasn't winning. It helped me reframe my priorities and stop worrying about the distractions.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

With sincerest gratitude, thank you United Way of Cass-Clay for providing me the opportunity to better myself through this program. I wish everyone could experience it. I am fortunate for the relationships I’ve made and the knowledge I’ve gained through my time both as a participant and alumni of the program. What a life-changing experience!




Tell us about yourself.

I’m a wife, mother, Jesus lover, and entrepreneur. My life’s purpose is to make life and business Light for those around me, and I am currently doing that by providing consulting services that help organizations with their finances, people, and overall leadership.

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

After graduating from 35 Under 35, I found myself wanting more and I enrolled in an MBA program while continuing to work full-time. A year later I found myself reaching out to my 35 Under 35 network to make the next move in my career. Danielle Paulus (who was in our 2010 group) and the Roers crew took me on with big hopes for my future. I learned so much in my time at Roers before deciding to take the knowledge and leadership I had accumulated over 15 years and go on my own. I started Light Consulting to help small- and medium-sized businesses with their leadership and finances. Light Consulting was my first business, and I now also co-own two others: Dale Carnegie of ND and NW Minnesota and Light Workforce Solutions. Stay tuned this year as we hold the inaugural Faith Forward Conference, which is a set up as a not-for-profit.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

I finally started to realize how capable I am and that I am the one

who determines my destiny, all through my choices. Tammy Miller shared at Session 6 that “It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny." Every day I wake up and I CHOOSE to be the best person I can be that day. That may look different every day and that’s okay!

What advice would you have for young professionals out there?

1. You are the company you keep, so make sure you are surrounding yourself with people you want to become.

2. Make decisions out of love, not fear.

3. You are more than capable and more than enough—whatever you want to come true, you can make it happen.

Tell us about what you do and the value it provides to our community/your clients/those you serve etc.

My day job is all about leading clients to accomplish their unique goals. A mantra of ours at Light Consulting is that your goals are our goals. For our clients and our team, we utilize our skills to guide and remove barriers so everyone can live their best lives. Money is emotional and can be even more so when you don’t know all the rules and regulations. That’s where the Light Consulting team comes in to carry that burden so the business owner can do what they were meant to do.

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Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Fargo, graduated from NDSU, and live with my family in West Fargo. I have three kids: Reese, a sophomore at NDSU studying HR; Bella, a junior at Sheyenne High School; and Bridger, 7th grade at Liberty Middle School. My husband and I met at NDSU and have been married for almost 22 years. We have two adorable French bulldogs, Dash and Brutus. We love spending time with family, watching our kids, nieces, and nephews play sports, spending time at the lake in the summer and IF we can get to the mountains, we love to snowboard. I was fortunate enough to participate in the very first 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program in 2009!

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

When I was accepted into the program, I was a part of the HR team at Bell Bank where I had worked for 15 years. Since that time, I led HR teams in the trucking, farm, and construction equipment industries before joining the SCHEELS team in 2013. When I joined the SCHEELS team, I was the first official HR team member. Since that time, we’ve developed HR teams across all 34 SCHEELS locations in 16 states across the US. I started as the HR Leader, later becoming the VP of HR, and most recently joined the Executive Committee/Board of Directors. I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of this team!.

What were some of the most important things you learned?

I used to be terrified of public speaking! We had many opportunities to speak in front of groups and that continues to be a staple in the program. I learned even more about our community, different businesses, and non-profit organizations that need strong partnerships to build a strong community. Overall, I was able to further develop my leadership abilities by continuing to volunteer with the program by leading planning committees and also using my HR skills and experience to develop and formalize the application and interview process and experience of the program.

Tell us about what you do and the value it provides to our community/your clients/those you serve etc.

I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime to develop HR processes and teams for SCHEELS. As a result of that, I’ve had the ability to create HR jobs for hundreds of HR professionals across our company. The work we do in HR directly impacts the culture and work environment of our associates and ultimately their families. We accomplish this through hiring great people and providing them with training and development opportunities to grow their careers as well as benefits that will support their families and ultimately help them to become great community partners. After all, our greatest asset is our people and HR is at the heart of finding great people for SCHEELS. When a business is good to its employees, good to its customers, and is a leader in giving back to the community, everyone wins!




Tell us about yourself.

I’m a Moorhead native, and attended the University of North Dakota where I graduated with a business degree in marketing. I headed straight to Seattle for a career with Microsoft for seven years. During those seven years, I eventually packed up and headed back home. I’m a proud dog owner to London, daughter, sister, and auntie. My favorite down time is cuddling with London, cooking, and hosting, throwing a party for any occasion, and traveling whenever I have the chance. I love wearing my ‘Christen Joy’ hat during the day and am thrilled to share a bit more about us!

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

In 2016 I had the blessing to be a part of the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program. Prior to that time, I had left Microsoft, heading to a startup company and then an events-based company focusing on marketing and branding, strategy, and execution. During the program, I had the white space in my life and the tools I was starting to gather from the program to take the leap of starting my own Interior Design business. I had built my first home, with friends and family members asking me to help them with their own home, and a magazine requested to feature my home. With the flurry of all these opportunities, I took the business

reins and signed up with the state of MN as Christen Joy (Previously Christen Joy Homes) and that was the start of it all. Since 2016, I’ve taken the steps of going full-time with my design business and have had the pleasure to work with both commercial and residential projects—locally to Washington D.C. to Seattle. We are now a full-scale interior design company offering services ranging from furnishings and remodels to new construction.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

The program came at a perfect time for me—I needed an opportunity to have white space in my life to slow down and analyze what I wanted in my life. The program’s monthly sessions were the perfect fit to help me with the building blocks of elements that were gaps in my life or were areas that had been ‘broken down’ with past career paths. The speakers were highly sought-after local leaders who seemed to always leave me thinking about what more I wanted out of my career life but also personally—as we all know they are so connected. On top of the session material, the program surrounded me with a tribe of strong women who I was able to connect with about each session, and thoughts I had about career changes, and life goals. The quick bonds and friendships have led to some of my best friends today!

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Tell us about yourself.

I’m a Nebraska native who loves Fargo, though if it ever snows in June, I’m outta here! I’m a mom of three (9, 6, 3) and supervisor of 10, so I don’t have a lot of hobbies or extra time. I’ve found some of the best ways of describing what makes me who I am through a variety of great self-discovery tools.

In terms of Clifton Strengths, I lead with my talents in Execution. I love to see things come together in an effective and efficient way, both at work and at home. In terms of Insights Discovery, I’m a red block who likes things clear and concise, with an underlying blue block that wants to make sure the details are right. In terms of Enneagram, I’m a classic type 1 and approach the world with a rational, continuous improvement mindset. In terms of Myers Briggs, I’m ESTJ which is a great summary of the highlights above as I see situations realistically and move decisively to create solutions to take care of issues.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

This program is all about selfdiscovery and with every strength or valuable attribute I listed about myself, there is a challenge on the flip side of it. Thanks in large part to my participation in the program, I’m learning to navigate these challenges to live my best life.

This program is also about community and I certainly feel I have connections with 34

others in a variety of fields, life circumstances, etc. that I can reach out to for anything. In addition to the diverse connections, I’ve found some strong connections to some really amazing moms and working professionals who connect for lunch regularly. Being a relatively new graduate, I’m not completely sure what the actual impact on my trajectory in life will be, but I know for certain it has changed it.

What were some of the most important things you learned?

The value of vulnerability and community are at the top of my list of things I learned. This was learned through some fantastic presenters during the class and with experience as we, as a group of 35, became a small unique community.

What advice would you have for young professionals out there?

As you start out and have the time and energy, work as hard as you can and build a great network.

A part of that working hard should be discovering who you are, what you are good at, and what you value. This type of focus and understanding what fuels you and keeps you motivated will serve you extremely well.

Your network should be inside and outside of your workplace. Don’t be afraid to ask people what they do, what they like, etc. You never know when a true connection will be found.




Tell us about yourself.

I have the privilege of serving as the superintendent of Richland #44 School District in Colfax and Abercrombie, about 25 miles south of Fargo. Richland #44 is a wonderful, tight-knit community that offers the best of Class B North Dakota education with close proximity to Fargo.

I am originally from Sequim, WA, though my maternal grandfather grew up in Fosston, MN. It has been special living in this part of the country where my greatgrandparents settled after immigrating from Norway.

I attended Pepperdine University in California, and after college, joined the inner-city teaching organization Teach for America that sent me to Houston (I didn’t know a soul in the state of Texas). I taught English as a Second Language to high school students in Houston, and quickly learned how passionate I was about providing the best education to students regardless of their zip code. I became a high school assistant principal and later an elementary school principal in Houston. Before moving to North Dakota in 2018 for my husband’s job, we lived in Colorado Springs for two years where I served as a K-8 principal.

I am married to my best friend Rupak, who I met when we worked at the same school in Houston. Rupak is also an educator and the superintendent for Fargo Public Schools. We have two fabulous kids: Jagger (6) and Emersen (4) and live in south Fargo.

What were some of the most important things you learned?

The most important professional takeaway I had from 35 Under 35 was to not hide my vulnerability. I first became a school administrator at age 25, so as a young female leader, I was accustomed to wearing the proverbial armor at work. I thought I had to steel myself to appear tough, non-emotional, and able to handle anything thrown my way. Through the 35 Under 35 program, I learned that the best leaders are not robots and that honest vulnerability has a major positive impact on the teams they lead. When our school district returned to in-person learning in the fall of 2020, I showed my vulnerability for the first time with our high school staff. I rolled out our plan for coming back to school and told them that I needed their help, that I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, and that the only way we would be able to do it would be together. Their response was incredible: I had never felt so supported, and I know they appreciated me opening up. It made me more real and made us a true team. I am grateful to United Way's 35 Under 35 Program for helping me learn that displaying vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but rather a show of strength and transparency.

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Tell us about yourself.

My husband JJ and I have two kids, James (9) and Mara (8). I am the family CEO, chauffer, house manager, and calendar keeper. Helping grow and guide business operations for Saving Smiles Dentistry is my professional gig. I love to travel (I’m visiting my 45th and 46th states this month in the hope of making it to all 50), catch up with friends, and spend weekends with family at the lake.

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

Little did I know when I applied for the program that soon after, I would end up coming to a fork in the road, where my decision would drastically change my path both professionally and personally. Shortly after completing United Way's 35 Under 35 Program, I made the jump from being a forensic accountant in the corporate world to working with my husband to help grow his dental office. Working full-time and being on the road, doing the “books” for the office on nights and weekends, and raising a three and four-year-old was too much. The 35 Under 35 Program helped give me the confidence and connections to make the move so I could focus on both my professional career/the family business while being able to spend quality time with my family and be involved in the community.

What were some of the most important things you learned?

Hearing from the many community leaders and gaining a better understanding of the NEED right in our community were two of the most important things I learned through the program.

It was so impactful to hear about the journey of other leaders in our community (some who were even 35 Under alums) and how they are now involved and give back to the community. It provided our class with avenues where we could get involved and educated us on many other opportunities. I will never forget many of the speakers and the authentic messages they shared—it was truly inspiring.

One of our sessions even included a day spent at the YWCA Emergency Shelter. Not only were we able to learn about the nonprofit and what they do for our community, but we were able to spend time jumping in and helping around the shelter!

What advice would you have for young professionals out there?

Get involved in your community— whether it’s making your first donation to a local nonprofit, helping with your company’s yearly United Way campaign, volunteering at a fun event like the United Way School Supply Drive, or attending a local networking happy hour. And then keep showing up. Month after month and year after year.

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Tell us about yourself.

Like many women in our community, I wear multiple hats. I’m a wife to my rockstar husband Josh, a mama to Henry, Roy, Reese, and Fredrik, a want to be comedian, a retired Division I college hockey player, devoted women’s league golf participant, a dedicated pontoon rider on Pelican Lake, an avid hunter, a supportive friend, a caring daughter, fun aunt, a top-notch sister, and a dedicated community member.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

Professionally, I think the confidence that grew within me over the course of six months really benefits my team and the company. Challenging conversations were very hard for me to have and with the skills I learned within the program, I can confidently sit down with someone and productively talk with individuals.

Personally, accepting and owning my success. So often, women downplay their successes as we don’t want to come off as pompous or arrogant. Saying thank you when someone gives you kudos is okay and does not mean you are pompous or arrogant. It is acknowledging confidently the hard work that was put in and graciously accepting that it was recognized.

What were some of the most important things you learned?

To take an extra moment to process information instead of immediately responding. It only takes 7-10 seconds to make a first impression and 20-30 separate interactions to fix that first impression. Understanding that a customer, team member, or others' initial views of me occur in less than 10 seconds is important. Implementing the extra moment into my life allows me the best opportunity to generate a positive first impression and is worth the time as you may not get another 30 interactions to change it.

What advice would you have for young professionals out there?

Take a picture of yourself not smiling. Review it and ask yourself, do I look approachable. Mentally remind yourself of that photo you took and if you were approachable as you are listening or involved in groups. A reset of your facial expression is quick and will create more benefit to the conversation. Your own body language and facial expressions play a huge role in making people feel comfortable, which in turn gets the most out of your teammates.

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Tell us about yourself.

I’m pretty local to the Fargo area as I grew up here, graduated from Fargo South, was then off to UND for seven years of undergrad/law school, and back to Fargo. I’ve been married to my husband, Matt, for 18 years and we have 3 teenagers now: Hunter and Connor are both at Davies and Anna is at Discovery. We spend a lot of time at our kids' activities and sports at this time of our lives, which is both fun and busy. I started out in private practice for a short stint after law school before joining my parent’s clinical research company in 2006, Lillestol Research, and have been here ever since. I love spending time with family, vacations and travel, time at the lake, sunshine, the color pink, any type of theme or theme party, watching my kids in their activities, organizing, baking, and even some DIY home projects.

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

My career path hasn’t necessarily changed since participation in the program, but there were absolutely aspects of the program that impacted and developed my role within the business. I started the program in 2016 as a leader of a clinical research company, Lillestol Research, which is where I still am today. I’ve been in the same position for almost 18 years, but feel I have grown as a person and a professional in how I manage situations, conflicts, and day-to-

day tasks. 35 Under 35 was a part of that growth in developing professional skills like good communication, public speaking and goal setting, personal insight into things like your personality type and drivers, and promoting awareness of tools and programs in our community that I was not otherwise knowledgeable about at that time.

What advice would you have for young professionals out there?

I think as a young professional, you are generally very driven and ready to embrace all that career development has to offer. It’s important to try out some new or different things and see what works for you. Be open to joining a group or having a meeting or a coffee with someone who invites you. It may be awkward, but you’ll usually take something from that time. On the flip side, if you try something and it becomes something that is a burden or something you dread, be okay with the fact that just because something works for someone else, doesn’t mean it works for you. Be a good conversationalist— ask the person you are with questions about themselves and their profession/business, their background, and things that make them feel happy or successful. These types of conversations can be eye-opening or might push you to look into something new that you’d never thought of before. It may or may not be for you, but at least you learned about it.

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Tell us about yourself.

I’ve lived in this area most of my life. I’m a proud mom to our four-yearold daughter and stepmom to my two stepsons. My husband Jon and I are both business owners, so when we aren’t focused on those or chasing the boys to sports, we love to hang out at our lake cabin with family and friends, visit local restaurants, cook at home, and travel.

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

In 2009, when I was a program participant, I served as the marketing and operations director at a private medical practice. I was a one-person marketing department while helping lead our team. In 2011, I transitioned to a role as a Brand Manager at a large medical system. However, after just seven months, I realized that bigger wasn't necessarily better, so I made the decision to leave, initiating the breakup conversation with the classic line, "It's not you, it's me." Quite unconventional, I know, but that’s how I roll. Following this, I shifted towards leadership training and business development, eventually founding my own branding and marketing business in 2012. For eight-and-a-half years, I operated solo, managing all aspects of client projects, convinced that I preferred working independently. Yet, upon introspection, I recognized that I had always operated in a leadership capacity under someone else's ownership. Now, the business was truly mine. Consequently, in 2021, amidst the challenges of COVID-19, I left my home office, secured a space, and started building my team. I now have five

employees in addition to myself, who are located in Fargo or working remotely from the Minneapolis market, serving clients across the United States. I’m creating a culture that I’m proud of, yes, but more so, one that others want to be part of.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

The relationships had the biggest impact hands down, both personally and professionally. There are women I met in 2009 that I am still connected to in a variety of ways. Even those I am not, we still have that unspoken bond, being the first group ever to go through the program. We all held various roles at that time and worked in different industries, but had one common goal, elevation of self. It’s been incredible to watch everyone’s journeys unfold.

Tell us about what you do and the value it provides to our community/your clients/those you serve etc.

We build successful brands from the inside out by digging deeper to uncover the purpose and people behind the brands so they can make the greatest impact. Additionally, one of our core values is to be givers. We do this through time, talent, and treasure. For 2024, Styled With Strength is our chosen non-profit of the year. Our team will be helping to build on the incredible foundation that Jodi has built through brand clarity, increased visibility and community connections, all in an effort to support those navigating domestic violence.




Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Fargo but lived away for about ten years—mainly in Boston and Minneapolis. I am so grateful to be living back in Fargo amongst my family and friends. Prior to 2021, my professional background was mainly in corporate finance roles and mergers and acquisition work. Beginning in 2021, I entered the non-profit world by joining Great Plains Food Bank as COO, where I manage our programmatic, operations, food sourcing, and root cause work.I live in West Fargo with my husband, six-year-old daughter, and dog. In my free time, I love to spend time with my family and friends, be outside, go to yoga classes, and read.

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

In the last year since I completed the program, I haven’t made any changes in my career path. I did however make a large shift from corporate finance to non-profit work about three years ago. My experience in the program confirmed for me that the shift was a good choice; I was in the right role at the right organization for my current personal and professional goals.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

Personally, my participation in the program opened me up to 35 women that I would not have likely encountered through the normal course of life. I was often in awe of these women and their strength, vulnerability, and the impact each of them had made on the world around them.

Professionally, I valued the time to focus on making myself a better leader. I learned several concrete skills to assist me in better managing my work and team. I also built a strong network of others in my program and volunteers or speakers at the sessions that I could go to for advice.

What were some of the most important things you learned?

I have people-pleasing tendencies, like so many midwestern women, which in the past has caused me to struggle with facilitating effective conversations on difficult topics. There were a few sessions that gave me tools to have more effective conversations around issues with performance or culture. I felt confident in how to manage those situations after completing the program.

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Tell us about yourself.

I am a wife, and mother to a toddler named Mowgli, as well as the caregiver of a diverse menagerie consisting of 10 beloved pets. My journey began 15 years ago when I made the decision to leave my hometown of New Delhi, India, and embark on a path of academic pursuit in Fargo. At North Dakota State University, I earned my Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology, immersing myself in the rigors of academia while simultaneously involving myself in the community through volunteer initiatives.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

Since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program, my career path has been marked by significant growth and advancement. Initially joining the program as a program manager focused on grower and education initiatives, I seized the opportunity to further develop my leadership skills and expand my professional network.

The program provided me with invaluable insights, mentorship, and resources that have been instrumental in my journey. Armed with newfound confidence and expertise, I swiftly ascended to the role of senior program manager, where I now oversee education and research initiatives within my organization.

This progression speaks volumes about the impact of the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program in nurturing emerging leaders and empowering women to excel in their careers. Through the program, I gained access to a supportive community of likeminded professionals, enabling me to leverage their collective wisdom and drive meaningful change within my organization and beyond.

Furthermore, the program equipped me with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate complex challenges and seize opportunities for growth and innovation. As a result, I have been able to make significant contributions to our educational and research endeavors, ultimately enhancing our impact on the community we serve.

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Tell us about yourself.

My name is Maija Davis and I was born and raised in Fargo, ND. I am recently married and enjoy spending my days with my husband, Matt, and our sweet pup, Rosie. During my 8-5, I serve as the Director of Marketing & Experience at West Acres where I help lead marketing and event strategies. When I am not at work, you can find me on all the socials, as I am a self-proclaimed “micro-influencer!" I love all things fashion, beauty, interior design, cooking, etc., and enjoy sharing this type of content online.

Tell us about your career path since participating in the United Way 35 Under 35 Women’s Leadership Program.

For the last four years, I had been serving in a Senior Marketing Specialist role but had started to crave more. I loved the strategic work I was involved in but was eager to lean into my passion for leadership. This desire pushed me to apply and it couldn’t have been better timing for me. Throughout my time in the program, I feel like I was truly able to tap into my potential as a leader. Just six months after graduating from the program in 2023, I accepted my current position as Director of Marketing & Experience at West Acres and I am so grateful to be where I am today!

What were some of the most important things you learned?

Throughout my time during 35 under 35, I was given the chance to sit down and take the time

to dive deep and learn more about myself. I learned about my strengths, my values, my leadership style, and how I can use this insight to help better my relationships both personally and professionally. I think one of the most valuable things I learned was the importance of vulnerability and community. If you are struggling with something, there’s a great chance you are not the only one. It was eye-opening to have 34 other women who could provide support and guidance to each other as we all were navigating through different personal and professional experiences. There truly is power in being vulnerable and sharing your experiences with your community.

What advice would you have for young professionals out there?

It’s okay for your career path to not be linear. We are taught to believe we can easily just work our way up the ladder, on a clear path, but it doesn’t always work like that. Everyone is on their own individual journey and throughout the twists and turns, you will always find your way forward. My path to leadership was not always smooth sailing. As much as I anticipated a perfect, simple path for myself, my growth came with a fair share of growing pains. But any setback I encountered throughout my career, ended up being a redirection that led me down an even better path that got me to where I am today.

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Tell us about yourself.

I am deeply passionate about this community. For me, that shows up in the values I instill at home, at work, and in my neighborhood. This value of community and connection is something that took me a while to fully understand as a young person, but I’ve come to know that its really about authentically sharing our lives with one another and co-creating a community that reflects us all. I enjoy celebrating the uniqueness of our region with weekend farmer’s markets, family getaways in Lake Country, the experience of great food at my favorite downtown spots, and spending time with my family and friends.

I get to share in all of life’s moments with my husband and our precocious but sweet, preschool-age son. I believe that every family should have access to enjoy the things that make our community a great place to live—safe and stable housing, food that meets their needs, education, financial stability, good physical and mental health, and the social connection that lets us know we belong. And because of my role at United Way of Cass-Clay as Director of Community Impact, I get a “behind the scenes” perspective of the strategy that stewards the generosity of our community in proactive and collaborative ways. It's the intersection of these values that give me so much purpose.

What impact did your participation in the program have on you both professionally and personally?

During the program, I had a baby under two, a new role in

an organization and work I was proud of, and was feeling ready to refocus some of my energy inward. I think this desire for selfreflection and growth opportunities is a commonly shared experience among women entering this program. But until I completed the program, I hadn’t fully expected just how life-changing it could be. I gained dear friendships, and access to a network of leaders in our community to continue learning from, while I cultivated and celebrated my strengths, and developed a practice of reflection. But maybe most important of all was the incredible gift of time— time to do some introspection, consider the intersection of my personal and professional paths, and intentionally think about ways to pour this growth back into my community and my family.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

If you're interested in learning more about how United Way is working toward solving some of our community's most challenging issues such as preventing homelessness, making sure more families have access to nutritious food, preparing our kids to succeed in school, and making sure more people have access to mental health services they need, our team at United Way would love to hear from you! Reach out to me or anyone on our team to learn more.

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Dani Gilseth & Dori Walter


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West Fargo Business Owners Spread Gratitude and Local Love

Sometimes flowers, balloons, or treats fall short of the sentiment you want to share.

That’s how Dani Gilseth felt as she and her family navigated a loved one’s cancer diagnosis in 2018.

“You can’t take away a diagnosis like that,” Gilseth, co-owner of Grateful Cratefulls said. “There wasn’t anything like a cozy hug you could send to the hospital. That’s where the idea started—a piece you could gift someone that needed a pick me up.”

Sending Local Hugs

While organizing a benefit for their family member, Gilseth, her mother, Dori Walter, and her aunt, Amiee Hanson, were inspired by the small businesses in their community that came together in their time of need. As the idea moved toward reality, the women decided to focus on high-quality products from local entrepreneurs that matched their values and personalities.

Just one problem—this was a new enterprise for the family. They all came from different industries, with different backgrounds—accounting, education, and business development.

“I remember sitting around my kitchen table, pulling stuff out of my cupboards to see what would fit if we were making a gift set,” Gilseth said. “From that cozy hug gift, it kept branching off into gift baskets with the same warmth, but for all kinds of occasions.”

Looking to start with the right foundation for success, they developed a business plan. They worked closely with the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce and the North Dakota Women’s Business Center to cultivate a network of business advocates.

Finding Flexibility

Adaptability was an important part of that plan. The women recognized that building a brand in the gift-giving industry would be a challenge and that success, for them, might look somewhat unconventional.

“The name of the game when starting any business is pivot,” Gilseth said. “We’ve always been in tune with listening to what our customers want. Who is our customer, and what do they want?”

Sometimes that means moving laterally. The company opened a brick-andmortar in West Fargo in 2018 and a second in Bismark in 2023, but as their brand evolved, the team realized a storefront wasn’t meeting their customers where they were.

“We had beautiful storefronts where you could come in and pick out your gifts, but our primary client base is busy professionals—women in marketing, HR, or business ownership roles—who look for opportunities to get their gratitude and gifting done without having to go into stores and make stops. That’s when we pivoted. We saw a demand for what we’re doing in the B2B gifting world.”

What Does Success Look Like?

By following customer trends, Grateful Cratefulls has been able to maintain growth in an ever-changing industry. More importantly for the team, though, they have been able to realize their vision of success.

“What we’ve wanted for a long time is to grow in the direction that we’re growing,” Gilseth said. “We’ve always had this picture in our heads of what our success would look like. We see this big, beautiful overhead door where our UPS truck can come in and unload or we can load up our packages. That’s where we’re going— to more of a fulfillment center—where we can really focus on being the best at what we do.”

The company will always offer comforting, high-quality gifts filled with local favorites, but is currently working to build out its business gifting options. From branded welcome baskets to customer gifts that show appreciation and spark conversation, the team is focused on bringing their thoughtfulness and creativity to the forefront.

Learn more about the women behind Grateful Cratefulls and their uniquely Midwestern gifting options by visiting their website.



10 Questions Questions 10

ohn Machacek, Chief Innovation Officer for the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, has worked with countless startups throughout our community over the years. He knows their ups, and their downs, but most of all, he knows the questions to ask them. Here are John Machacek’s 10 questions for Joe Wright, Owner and Chief Sock Guy, Wright Foot.

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Joe, what would you say is your Wright Foot elevator pitch?

Wright Foot is a vibrant sock company that playfully specializes in puns. Featured puns such as “Otter Space” and “Couch Potato” are fan favorites within the substantial sock collection. With humorous socks like this, you’re guaranteed to start the day off on the Wright Foot.

I recall that this all started with you wearing fun socks and posting about them, and becoming known as the “sock guy” on Instagram. Then as you decided to sell your own socks, how did you go about creating the business?

I definitely embraced “Sock Guy." When I was trying to come up with a brand name, I actually didn't have Wright Foot as the first idea. Another idea I had for a name was Monkey Toe Socks. Luckily, one day I woke up and realized my last name was perfect for a sock brand. I decided that I could make cooler socks than what other brands were doing. So to set myself apart, I started by giving my socks funny names. For example, the first few sock names were “Feeling Lucky Punk” and “Blue My Mind." It seemed like a simple idea at first but that is how I slowly transitioned into puns. Without naming my socks funny names like that right from the beginning, Wright Foot definitely would not be what it is today.

When I was deciding on my brand colors, packaging, and overall look, I wanted to stay away from having one true brand color. The reason for that was to let my socks do the talking. I went with cardboard packaging because I felt like it gave it an old-school feel. I have always liked the brown bag look so wanted to incorporate that in my brand. For my shipping mailers, I went with a full white mailer but put my logo on a full side of it. It feels a little boring but when it comes in the mail, people know instantly what it is. I have played around with the idea of switching up my mailers for certain holidays, I would love to make it even more of an experience when my customers get their socks in the mail. Maybe this year will be when I implement that! This is something I love about running my own business, there are always opportunities to switch stuff up and to try something new.

To find my manufacturer, I searched Alibaba.com, which is filled with manufacturers in just about every market you can think of. I ended up working with three different manufacturers that were overseas. Oddly enough, the very first one I started working with is the only one I am working with currently and I have been working with them for five years now. One thing that drew me to this particular manufacturer was that they let me start with small quantities of socks. For example, they sent me a catalog that I could pick out and only had to start with 10 of each of the ones I selected. Once I started to transition to my own designs, they allowed me to start with 50 pairs. This was a huge draw—other manufacturers needed me to do 250 pairs, which at the beginning of my Wright Foot journey, I definitely was not in a place to order that many socks. With the new designs I wanted to make sure they were popular enough to be able to sell all of them. With 50 pairs, there was a lot less pressure and I felt like I could explore more with all my new designs. Something I wish I had done was get some samples from them right when we started communicating. However, luckily my first order through them, the socks were great quality and the cost of the first order was reasonable, but I also


10 Questions

had a full-time job as a teacher so the risk was low.

There are a ton of different platforms to sell things on such as Shopify and Squarespace. I stumbled upon Wix and they have been great to me—they even did a spotlight feature of me on their social media just a few months ago. Wix is very user-friendly with their drag and drop feature. They continue to add new features that help improve the experience for not only the consumer but for my side as well. They allowed me to add a gift card option as well as a free shipping option for customers who ordered over a certain amount. So, knowing they are striving to improve their services is what has kept me working with Wix.

Another thing that I take pride in is the fact that I do all my own shipping. Pirateship.com has absolutely aided the convenience for me. I got myself a thermal printer and now can print all my shipping labels at home and that saves me a ton of time when I can just drop them off at the Post Office.

I also hand-write thank you notes for every single online order that I get. It really makes a connection with people, and it shows that I truly appreciate their order and support. Making it a community is something I take very seriously; my customers mean the world to me.

The first few years of Wright Foot was a GRIND. In the early days, I would try to cold message at least 50 people a day on Instagram to offer them a discount code for my socks. With this, I developed some really cool connections with customers who are still shopping with me to this day. I would spend hours looking at hashtags that allowed me to find people on Instagram who would be interested in the socks I was selling. With all that work, over the years my following slowly grew to the point that a simple post can sell socks for me now and I don’t have to spend my time cold messaging people and can point my energy towards other things.


Were there any particular resources you used to get guidance or teach yourself?

One big resource was my education in communications from Valley City State University. A major in business obviously would have been good too, but I have many different skills that my communications degree has given me. I find myself using those skills just about every day.

I went viral on TikTok back in 2021 and that really set me on the path that I am on now. My 5 second video gained over 7 million views in about 48 hours and brought in over 500+ orders. After this video went viral, I had a huge problem with inventory, so I reached out to SCORE. SCORE is a collection of volunteers with a plethora of knowledge in about every type of business you can imagine. I was lucky enough to be assigned to Del Carver when I reached out to SCORE. He has helped me in so many ways to better run my business, to look at things a little differently, and to take the actions I need to better all areas of my business. I have appreciated SCORE so much that I have now volunteered to be a mentor. SCORE brought me on as an SME (Social Media Expert). I wouldn’t say I am an expert, but it has been so fun to help fellow small businesses out with what I have learned over the years. I want to be able to help small businesses achieve the success that I have. There is so much potential in the world we are living in with just social media alone, and I want people to be able to seize that potential.

A significant element of your socks are the puns that you incorporate into the design. How does the design process work as far as coming up with the notion and then actually designing the visual representation?

The puns seem to come to me in many different ways. Sometimes they just pop into my head, sometimes I scour the internet to get inspiration, and other times I could just be in the middle of a conversation with family or friends, and they say something that sparks an idea and I have to run to my notes section in my phone to write it down. Once I have the concept in my head and what I want it to look like, I then reach out to an artist to help me bring my idea to life. I have been lucky enough to work with some phenomenal artists. My cousin has designed a few socks for me, as well as a friend from college, and a friend I met while shooting a commercial in Colorado have also helped me create some phenomenal designs. Another resource I use is an App called Fivver There are countless freelancers ready to tackle any type of project you can throw at them. I highly recommend using this app for anyone looking to start any type of business.

One thing I would love to do is to work with local artists and showcase their work on my platforms. Especially the local artists that I have become friends with over the years. Definitely be on the lookout for that when I am finally able to get that going.

From when I get the sock idea, it usually takes me about two months to get the final product in my hands. This includes waiting for the design to be finalized,

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sending it to my manufacturer, having them send me a sample picture, and finalizing that. With my manufacturer overseas, I am always impressed with how quickly I can actually get the socks online and sell them.


I want to ask some questions about marketing, as your business is consistently catching my eye with your content. What are some lessons learned so far, with what you’ve done?

There is an instructional YouTube video for basically everything. That doesn’t mean we should do everything, or that it is worth the time it takes to be good at everything. I could learn how to do my business taxes, and file free on something like TurboTax. Realistically, there is a better chance of me paying a good professional friend of mine to do my taxes, and they will get me a higher return. I know my Tax Accountant Josh Rahn at Elite Tax and Consulting costs more than TurboTax. I also know my return will be higher going through them. That is a net gain, and I don’t have to stress out about taxes. Paying to have people you trust fill the gaps in your skillsets allows you to focus on what you're best at. Plus, there is a value to my time and I may need to spend many hours figuring out how to do some task, that they can complete quickly and with more ensured accuracy.

I like the idea of knowing the actual people behind the professional services you need for your business. The cheapest online tax service will not help you in an audit. The best insurance price, won't pick up the phone in an actual crisis when you need them. I am better at knowing great people than I am at knowing about tax or business

laws or insurance. Also, they also know a ton of local people because that is their job and they will be great referral sources for you. So, I will keep networking.

I notice that with some of your posts, you are not only showing particular socks but you are telling the viewers about some of your business goals and even some shameless asks to increase views. Will you please tell me more about those strategies?

This year, I thought it would be fun to show my followers the growth I am hoping to achieve this year. I have been giving an update post every week showing my progress. I am hoping to sell 10,000 pairs of socks, and 1,000 shirts and reach 500,000 followers. Who knows if I will actually reach these numbers but having my followers be a part of this journey is going to be a lot of fun. Many followers have been rooting for me to reach these numbers, and it means so much to me to see my followers support me as much as they do.

I have some other posts that pretty much ask people to follow, like, and share. This seems odd and maybe a little gimmicky, but people honestly forget to click the follow button and forget to even like a post at times. It is incredible how much more interaction you can get by just asking for the engagement. There are countless YouTube personalities who start their videos by asking for people to like and follow. It is simple but extremely effective. Now that I have saturated my page with those types of videos, I have noticed that when my followers see

me at events, they tell me how they like every one of my videos and watch it at least five times. So, these strategies have definitely helped to get more and more people to engage with my brand.

Your content is pretty much always fun and goofy. The video you have on your home page particularly cracks me up. What is your mindset in planning these out and setting the tone for your messaging?

I don’t take myself too seriously. I mean, I sell socks for a living. With it being socks, I love the idea of making my content bigger and badder than what people might expect. So, for my commercials, I have wanted them to be high quality, funny, and surprising. I have a buddy from high school who is extremely talented when it comes to video creation—Nick Biewer. We have made four different commercials together and they just keep on getting better and better. For one of my commercials, we made it look like a legit movie trailer with a ton of action and even a fight scene. For another video that is on my homepage that you mentioned, we wanted it to feel almost like “Saturday Night Live” or “I Think You Should Leave." There are a few clips of random different scenes. So, we can even pull those scenes out and use them for shorter clips. Bringing that level of creativity to a simple sock brand is just something I find really fun. We could easily just make content that simply shows off the socks and call it a day but it’s more fun just being a little extra, to entertain people and spread some smiles. Creating more content for YouTube and maybe even a Podcast in the future is something that excites me as well.


10 Questions

I am able to let more of my personality out when I make content like this. Being myself is exactly what I have grown Wright Foot from. So, the fact that I can just continue to be myself and make amazing videos with my friends is something for which I am extremely grateful. My job is pretty sweet.


Aside from the e-commerce sales, I have seen you at various markets and have seen your products in retail stores locally. How are you going about those in-person and wholesale sales?

Much like my content creation, it was a lot of trial and error to find what vendor shows I wanted to attend. When I first started Wright Foot, I was going to about every vendor show I could find. Now that I have been doing it for almost five years, I have weeded out some of the ones that really aren't worth my time. Some of my favorite shows I do every year are the Downtown Fargo Street Fair, the Folkways Night Bazaars, and the Carlos Creek Winery Grape Stomp in Alexandria, MN. The summer is definitely a busy time for me, but I have an absolute blast interacting with everyone and getting to tell them about my punny socks.

I have been able to get my socks in some local shops that I am pretty excited about. Right now, I am in Halberstadt’s, Scribble Lady Downtown and recently got into SCHEELS. For SCHEELS and Halberstadt’s, I simply sent a cold email. I am not afraid to reach out to those possibilities because what is the worst thing they say? No? If you are afraid of no’s, being an entrepreneur is going to be a very tough gig.


If you could go back in time to Joe from several years ago, what hindsight advice would you give yourself?

Don’t be afraid to be the face of your business. For a long time, I always told myself that I wanted my socks to do the talking. But business isn’t just the material or thing you are selling. It is a connection with people. It is people wanting to support people. If people see a person with a passion for the thing they are selling, there is such a deeper connection than just buying something.

About John

Lastly, what can we do as a community to help you and Wright Foot succeed?

Buy my socks! Haha! Purchasing a few pairs is never a bad idea when wanting to support Wright Foot and myself. But also following me on social media, sharing my content with family and friends, and just word of mouth are all things that you would be surprised with how much it helps any small business.

Support Wright Foot





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