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Kara Parde


Not a lot of people can say that their business started with a musical, but that was definitely the case for Kara Parde.

When her 12-year-old daughter, Danielle, nabbed the leading role in the Lincoln Community Playhouse’s production of “Annie,” Kara stepped into the spotlight as well.

Kara quickly discovered that redheaded, orphan Annie and her friends weren’t the only ones facing a “hard knock life” – the community playhouse had its own set of troubles. Before long, parents started to help, and Kara followed suit.

She brainstormed a few ways to help the community theater raise money, and then her marketing and business background kicked in.

Kara figured that the odds were pretty good that the 200+ girls who auditioned for the production would show up to see it. And what do 12-year-old girls like best? Jewelry.

Kara soon found herself at her kitchen table making bracelets with her daughter. They sold the bracelets during the intermission of the show and gave the proceeds to the community playhouse.

By all accounts it was a win-win. Kara and her daughter found a new hobby and they raised money for the playhouse. But long after the play was over, the duo continued making jewelry.

The demand for their products was high and so the mother-daughter team decided to officially launch a business – KD Designs.

The two tag-teamed local farmers markets and hosted bracelet-making birthday parties. They tried anything and everything to keep their business momentum strong… and it worked.

Kara and Danielle began to do business outside of Nebraska and traveled around the country doing wholesale jewelry shows. In a business sense, these kinds of trips were necessary for their business to grow, but it had an even bigger impact on their relationship.

Kara said that while some mothers and daughters grow apart during their teen years, she and Danielle grew together. Their ‘business trips’ doubled as fun weekend getaways and a way to make new memories, become better friends and grow their business together.

When Danielle got to college, the shows were also a good excuse for Kara to take time to go see her daughter and work together, even though Danielle’s involvement was different than when they first started the business.

Instead of helping make bracelets, Danielle did layout design for catalogs. Instead of running after merchandise blowing down the road at a windy day at the farmers market, she created the displays in the front of the store.

Even though she wasn’t always there physically, Kara said that her daughter still pushed her to grow the business. When Kara knew that KD Designs had outgrown its first store, Danielle was the one who found their new location and pushed her mom to try it out.

When Kara thinks about her story, she said so much of it is surprising to herself. She grew up in a small town and graduated from college with a business and marketing degree. While she loved doing creative things, she quickly settled into a banking job because it was good, safe way to earn a living.

That’s why it was such a scary leap to start her business. Kara had been so used to a secure working environment that the uncertainty of something new was terrifying, but she did it and never looked back.

But she didn’t do it alone. From her business partner daughter to her husband, son, extended family and friends, Kara said her story is about so much more than just herself.

Running a business has given Kara the opportunity to step outside her comfort zone, to be brave and learn to trust her instincts. More importantly, she said it helped her see her daughter as more than just her daughter, but also a business partner and friend.

Case Maranville


Managing over 200 apartments means that late night phone calls are just part of the job.

There are the usual stories – of good folks paying their rent and friendships that form. And then there are other sorts of tales – of the electricity going out in an apartment because of vandalism or a tenant whose mugshot happens to make the papers.

Fortunately, these are the more unusual situations in residential property management, but Case Maranville recognizes that with each new tenant, there is always an element of risk.

Case has worn many hats over the years, and each venture has had elements of uncertainty. He has been a musician of a nationally known band, has a degree in wildlife management, is an entrepreneur, an audio engineer, and currently co-owns a residential property business with his brother.

Despite the variety of his experiences, each situation has helped inform Case’s perspective and has pushed him to continue to take paths that occasionally involve risk.

Before his property management days, Case played bass and toured with a band he helped form called Vota.

While in the music industry, he and his bandmates understood they couldn’t sit around and wait to be discovered – they had to create their art while simultaneously figuring out how to make it profitable. By devoting themselves to their craft and forging partnerships and connections within the music industry, they were able to tour and perform in front of thousands of people.

“I learned a lot about working within a partnership and learned about self-determination. Those lessons help me now in the business I run with my brother Cole.”

In 2006, Case began to realize that he needed to begin considering a career move when his wife Lindsey gave birth to their first son River. While the band had been a great fit before kids, it soon became apparent that touring and having a family wouldn’t remain sustainable.

Case left the band and he and Lindsey decided to move from their farm just west of Lincoln and into a house in the heart of the city.

“This was in 2008, just before the housing market crashed, so the banks looked at our credit and didn’t think twice about letting us take out a second mortgage. We rented out the farm and I quickly started learning what it meant to be a landlord.”

While he and his family settled into their life in Lincoln, Case found a job working as an audio engineer for a large church in west Omaha. This job provided him with a good baseline income, the ability to use his expertise in sound and music and the flexibility to slowly begin exercising his entrepreneurial mind.

One day, Case’s brother Cole called him up to propose a business idea. He had been reading books about investments and thinking about rental property in Lincoln and in the meantime had found an intriguing opportunity in the form of a duplex for sale near downtown Lincoln.

Neither brother had any idea that this initial purchase would take them to the place they are today, with 236 residential units in 37 buildings throughout the Near South neighborhood.

“We now offer a variety of options. We have a lot of tenants aged 20-30 looking for the interesting old converted houses near downtown. We also have people with fixed incomes and those who need subsidized housing.”

Case said that his work has become a really good fit for his personality.

The job requires him to be a “finder” – one of his favorite things to do – of the right properties to buy and the right tenants to fill those spaces. He likes that he gets the opportunity to provide good housing situations for all different kinds of needs and strives to provide fair, good service for his tenants.

He also finds his interpersonal and problem-solving skills being put to use. From lease agreements to conflict resolution, Case finds that forthright, respectful communication is key to maintaining good tenant-landlord relationships.

“I’ve learned a lot about people in the last eight years. Property management is 50% about the buildings and 50% about humanity.”

Case appreciates the opportunity to work alongside his brother and to be invested in the work together, recognizing that they both bring important things to the table.

One of the elements Case most appreciates about his work is the opportunity for both freedom and control, something that has slowly come as the business has developed.

“Owning your own business is a 24/7 thing. It’s just the way it is. There are eventual perks though – being able to control your own schedule. I want to work hard, but not be a slave to the job. I will work hard for those ends.

“For now, music is on hold and that’s ok. That’s how it’s supposed to be. We still have music around the house. Even the 19-month-old will get on the mike when we’re all hanging out down in the basement. You have to remember that just because things are on hold doesn’t mean it’s over. The things you love will come back around.”

Every business story or idea Case speaks of is laced with a thoughtful approach. He is not simply a straightforward engineer or businessman, nor is he an artist who can’t figure out what he’s about. His self-determination is evident and the ease with which he moves speaks to an inner confidence and peace.

Case isn’t on a crusade, but seems to intuitively understand that the risky things in life are sometimes the most valuable. He works hard to make sure he remains engaged creatively and thoughtfully as he serves the people within his sphere of influence.

Ben and John Siebert


Returning home to the family farm is a common Nebraska story. But returning home to start a farm from scratch, with a crop that covers four and a half acres, is an unusual tale.

“We had approached our dad with nearly 100 business ideas,” Ben laughed.

It wasn’t until they proposed starting a vineyard that he responded positively and wanted to hear more.

Ben and John Siebert were raised on an acreage in the Bohemian Alps between Lincoln and Seward. It was a perfect place to grow up, and the brothers took every opportunity to roam the rolling hills.

While they were provided many freedoms as kids, Ben, John and their brother Jason were instilled with the value for discipline, hard work and engagement in the world around them.

Their parents led by example – their dad waking up early every morning to head into the office, while their mom was busy volunteering, working various jobs and caring for foster kids who lived with them.

When summer arrived and sports were on pause, the boys took on the many available jobs associated with farms: detasseling, roguing, working cattle, even catching and blindfolding a neighbor’s pheasants.

As John and Ben found themselves graduating and entering college, they continued to follow similar paths. Both went to UNL, graduated with business degrees, and landed jobs at Sandhills Publishing.

At Sandhills, the brothers’ work-ethic and desire to learn paid off. John was assigned to ad sales in an aviation magazine while Ben worked with a construction equipment publication.

It was a job you jumped into head-first, traveling, meeting with top-level executives and learning from your mistakes. They developed patience, business acumen and a value for listening to people’s stories.

It wasn’t surprising then, when they came upon a story that became the starting point to their business of making wine.

“We were at a washer tournament (which is a competition comparable to the game of horseshoes) near Sprague, Nebraska when we noticed this guy carrying a pony keg under his arm. He was going around, filling people’s glasses, but it looked more like wine than beer.”

A washer tournament is an unusual place to find business inspiration, but Ben and John did just that.

They came to find out that Chad, the tournament organizer and keg-holder, was indeed pouring wine, and it was good. A certified winemaker who had studied the craft in Europe, California and Washington, he had returned to the midwest and had been experimenting with Nebraska grapes for ten years.

Friends and family had occasionally suggested that the Sieberts attempt to grow grapes on their land. Meeting someone with the unusual expertise in winemaking and familiarity with Nebraska grapes and growing seasons made this seem like a real possibility. The pieces began to fall into place.

Soil samples and a successful test crop led to laying out the first acre of grapes in 2011. In 2013, they planted 3.5 additional acres.

“It took three years before we were able to produce wine. We use 100% Nebraska grapes – a combination of our own and varieties from other vineyards in the state.”

As Ben and John talk, it is evident they have thrown themselves into the labor and learning curve of owning a vineyard.

They discuss their method of production, which mirrors French winemaking. No sugar or preservatives are added in order to allow the flavor of the grapes to shine through.

They speak of the seasonal difficulties they have already encountered, acknowledging one of the most mild and optimal growing seasons and one of the most unpredictable, challenging years in Nebraska’s history.

“In sales, there is a predictability with four or five routines to each week. When you are growing grapes and making wine, your routines are responsive to the weather and your produce.”

They are beginning to enjoy the “fruits of their labor” quite literally.

“Opening a bottle of wine, you remember the year of that harvest and everything that was going on. Every bottle, every vintage, a memory.”

The brothers’ goals have been straightforward from the beginning: Make the highest quality wine and make the business successful.

In order to do so, they have maintained a philosophy of partnering with good people and facilitating a place where ideas and mistakes are part of the process.

Which is reflected in their name: Junto Wine.

“We had originally had a name that played off our location. One night, John called me and said he had a better idea,” said Ben.

John had been watching a documentary when he learned about a club Ben Franklin had begun to promote conversation about philosophy, community involvement and politics.

The name and intention struck a chord with Ben and John. The name reflected their own beginnings and pointed to their love of history.

Junto Wine is now in full swing, with a tasting room and an event space built right next to the vineyard. Friday nights are busy with local music and guests gathering after the week of work.

Ben and John speak of agritourism and the good relationships between Nebraska vineyards, but eventually come back to the simple pleasure of working so close to the land.

“There is a divinity in the process of making wine. It points to a higher quality of life. There is a delicacy in everything you do and in everything that is involved. Makes it easy to be proud of it.”

Ben and John are living out a new Nebraska story with Junto Wine. But it’s the weaving of history and tradition with the new industry of Nebraska grape-growing and winemaking that makes this place particularly special.

Natalie Elsberry


Natalie Elsberry always knew she’d work in the wedding industry.

She loved the pretty flowers, the unbridled spirit of joy and just knowing that it was someone’s special, longed-for day.

“I was a weird kid,” she said with a laugh. “I liked all that cliche stuff.”

At first she thought she’d be a wedding planner. She’d be the woman with the ideas, the keeper of the wedding secrets and surprises and she’d do it all with ease and a little wedding-day magic. But that was far from the reality of being an actual wedding planner.

Natalie helped a few of her cousins plan their weddings, and while improvising is her strong suit, the sheer number of details zapped any wedding-day bliss that she hoped to experience.

For a while she thought about opening a wedding reception hall. She had the plans ready to go and had even scoped out a spot for her idea to take shape, but the more she thought about the logistics the less she was convinced her idea would work.

So, she circled back to what she really loved about weddings – flowers.

Now, eight years later, I Bloom. is her wedding industry job. She’s not the wedding planner or the reception hall host, she’s the flower lady and it’s the perfect job for Natalie.

Her days involve getting shipments of flowers delivered to her house, helping clients envision flowers for their weddings, designing bouquets and talking with various local and wholesale flower vendors.

Last year she and her husband moved their family to a bigger house to accommodate her growing business. They needed a bigger basement for production and a 3-car garage to house her industrial-sized flower refrigerator.

This year alone, Natalie and her assistants worked 79 weddings, and next year she expects to do more. It’s crazy, and good and so much more than she expected when she started out.

Flowers have always been part of her life, mostly because they were a major part of her mother’s life. Natalie grew up in a little house with a huge yard where her mother expanded her flower collection a little each year. The running joke is that after all of Natalie’s siblings get married in her parents’ backyard, her mom will convert any leftover green space to flower beds.

Gardening was her mother’s therapy of sorts, it was where she felt most at home and could relax from the pressures of being a mom with seven kids. Natalie said she and her siblings were often out gardening alongside her mother, pulling weeds or just running around outside.

As she got older, Natalie realized school wasn’t her thing. She went to college on and off for a few years at UNL and SCC, taking any flower and business courses that were available to her.

In 2006 she got married in her parents’ flower-filled backyard. She designed the flowers for her own wedding, using a monochromatic palette and filling every inch with romantic bouquets and centerpieces.

For the next few years, Natalie worked various full time jobs while she booked wedding gigs on the side. Her work started to get noticed by more than just friends and family and in 2008 she officially launched I Bloom.

The first year in business, Natalie booked three weddings, the next year she did twelve and the number has only grown from there.

This year was a little rough, she said with a laugh. It wasn’t uncommon to have four weddings scheduled for a single weekend this past June.

But busy isn’t a bad thing, she said. It’s growth and it’s what she always hoped for when she started I Bloom., even if it’s not all what she expected.

She didn’t plan on growing her business to the point where her family needed to move. Or that she’d be on a first-name basis with the delivery men who show up on a weekly basis with shipments of flowers. She also didn’t anticipate the kind of growth that would necessitate juggling being a full-time mom and a business owner.

Her days are full of flowers and excited brides-to-be, but they’re also full of cleaning up kid-inspired messes, keeping her family fed and playing her fair share of dolls with her three girls. Natalie’s office is on the first floor or her house, where her kids can go back and forth between their mom and their toys, but she can still stay on top of emails, meetings and Pinterest inspiration boards.

This is her life, and even in the chaos of growing her business and her family, Natalie said these last few years have felt like her sweet spot.

It feels like she’s right where she’s supposed to be, like her story is finally starting to make sense, it’s more than she bargained for at times, but it’s also a whole lot more than just flowers and weddings.

Grant Peterson


Grant Peterson is a self-proclaimed do-it-yourself-er.

He’s watched hours of YouTube videos and web tutorials to help him on his latest projects, he’s sourced reclaimed wood from Craigslist like it’s his full-time job and a few years ago he started his own business.

But all of this is in addition to his day-job as a high school social studies teacher.

He is a 25-year-old with two distinct storylines.

Grant grew up in Lincoln and said some of his earliest memories are of doing house projects with his dad and grandfather. He loved watching them tinker with tools, and seeing a project go from start to finish.

In high school, he took his first wood shop class where he learned the basics of furniture making. When he went to college and moved into his first house, he had a choice to make about furniture – buy average furniture that will probably fall apart or make something that would last.

This question prompted Grant to make his first bedroom set. After his friends and family saw his work, he quickly received requests for other projects. He made bookshelves and coffee tables during school as a hobby, but also as a way to earn a little extra money.

It was during this season of going to school and making furniture that Grant had a sudden realization about his career path. He was attending Baylor University pursuing a degree in business when he realized the only reason he was a business major was for financial reasons.

He had grand plans of getting a great job post-graduation and taking home a substantial paycheck. It was a nice thought that promised a comfortable life, and while there was nothing wrong with wanting a comfortable life, he realized he’d be comfortable but bored.

So, Grant went to Plan B – teaching. His mom was a teacher and he’d seen the way she could value and impact students through her work, and he liked having that sense of purpose. His motivation quickly switched from monetary to relational as he realized the kind of impact he wanted to make with his career.

He transferred to UNL, where he finished up his degree and then moved to Lexington, Nebraska for his first teaching job.

It was here that he officially launched his custom-woodworking business – Amos Approved. His business and logo feature his golden retriever, Amos, who is Grant’s woodworking buddy and constant companion.

The name of this business actually wasn’t his idea, a friend thought it up, and Grant was a little hesitant to run with a concept involving his dog. However, the name stuck out to customers and pointed to the level of excellence that Grant puts into each of his projects.

He laughed about the fact that people often call him and ask about Amos before they even get around to their reason for calling Grant about a woodworking project.

Juggling the two jobs and passions has been a major learning curve, he said, there’s no handbook for how to run a business, be a woodworker and full-time teacher. However, Grant wouldn’t have it any other way.

Learning has been a consistent theme in his life – it’s what he loves about woodworking and it’s what he loves about teaching.

Woodworking takes a lot of patience and diligence and Grant said no project goes without a bump in the road. He’s learned various techniques from his grandpa and father. He’s also experienced the generosity of fellow craftsmen like his mentor and friend, BJ, who lent Grant tools and his expertise as he started his business.

Being a high school social studies teacher is a job that changes every day. It’s dependent on his students, the subject matter he’s teaching, the time of year and just the nature of high school.

This past year, Grant moved back to Lincoln and started teaching at East High School. He coached football this fall and is learning the rhythms of a new school.

He bought a house and is doing major renovations on it, with Amos carefully watching his every move.

Grant’s story isn’t what he imagined for himself when he started college. He’s figuring it out as he goes, learning from his mistakes and working to understand how to be confident and courageous as he teaches and builds his business.

These are lessons that can’t be taught via a YouTube video, it’s trial and error, but at the end of the day that kind of methodology is what makes Grant proud of his two storylines.

Steve Glenn


Steve Glenn gets giddy when he talks about work.

Almost a giggly, middle school girl kind of giddy. He listed off the agenda for his Friday afternoon, consisting of an assortment of phone and in-person meetings extending from 12:30 until after 6:00 that evening.

“Doesn’t that just sound like a fun day?!?!!” said Steve as he looked up from his calendar. He wasn’t being sarcastic or overly optimistic, he just loves his work.

No, Steve doesn’t give away puppies for a living, he’s a business owner and entrepreneur. More specifically he’s the owner of Executive Travel, Headwind Consumer Products, four True Value hardware stores, a Batteries+Bulbs franchise, a few shopping centers and a Subway in his hometown of Pawnee City, Neb.

It’s a lot, but it doesn’t stress Steve out because it didn’t happen overnight. 

Steve started his first company, Executive Travel, after reading a book titled, ‘How to start a travel agency.’ He started out in a small office where his desk doubled as the top of a 4-drawer filing cabinet.

Steve sold travel door-to-door, slowly building his business and coming up with innovative ways to make travel more accessible. He even gave away computers to his customers as a way to excite them about travel and technology. People thought he was crazy, but Steve saw how intrigued people were with his out-of-the-box methods, and his business boomed.

“I’m disruptive,” Steve said. “Doesn’t that sound like a bad thing?”

Being disruptive has fueled Steve’s daily excitement to try to new things, but it doesn’t mean he hasn’t had his fair share of failure.

Steve said he’s started more than 40 different companies, and a handful of them have been duds, but that’s fine by him. He sees failure as part of the creative process and he’s taught himself how to deal with failure head-on.

He learned how to fail from his experiences as a Husker football player, businessman and political candidate. Each season showed Steve that there was always someone faster, stronger, smarter or more popular than he was. It didn’t feel good, but Steve realized that he could either be defeated by those realities or learn from them, and he chose the latter.

Steve directly attributes his success to his ability to fail, pick himself back up and try again. He’s not afraid to fail, and he challenges others to do the same.

But what stood out the most about Steve’s story is that he knows who he is and who he’s not.

Steve is not a Type-A boss and he doesn’t try to be. He’s more of a visionary, and hates the idea of a plan with no flexibility.

He’s a big picture kind of guy who knows how to dream big, take risks and push the envelope.  He’s not very good at focusing his own thoughts, but he’s an extremely thoughtful and inspiring mentor.

Steve doesn’t claim to have all the answers, he doesn’t boast about his success or any of his skills. Instead, his story is about knowing what he loves, doing what he loves and staying aligned with his passions.

Pastor Tom Barber


In 1969 he was chosen to travel and sing at venues around the world with a popular group called Up with People.

In 1975 he graduated from Pepperdine University on a full-ride scholarship.

In 1978 he received his MBA from Pepperdine.

In 1990 he managed a Kentucky-based company where he was making six figures and drove a Saab convertible.

“Now, I’m here,” said Pastor Tom Barber, CEO at the People’s City Mission.

Wait, what?

Pastor Tom casually plotted out his career history like he was reading off his resume. He’s straightforward like that, and not one to get caught up in the could-haves or would-haves of his past.

Tom laid out his career so plainly that I had to stop him and circle back to why and how he transitioned from big-time businessman to city mission visionary, and that’s where the story got interesting.

After graduating from college, Tom planned to work in full-time ministry, but thought he’d try his hand at the business world first. To his surprise, he was extremely successful. He quickly latched on to the principles and skills he needed to lead people and happily worked his way up a corporate ladder he never imagined himself climbing.

He was wealthy. His kids went to private school, he and his wife owned expensive cars and a lavish house – he was providing for his family and then some.

But in 1992 something just felt off.

Tom said it’s hard to explain, but he knew God was nudging him toward ministry again, and his wife felt the same way. So, they talked to their pastor. He told them about a job opening at Christ’s Place Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

After an interview that went better than he expected and a surprisingly generous offer was made on their beautiful home, Tom said he knew it was time to move to Nebraska.

For the next decade or so, Tom worked at Christ’s Place Church, started a college ministry and  worked as a marketing professor… and then he heard about the job opening at the People’s City Mission.

At the time it was a small mission housing 80 people and helping about two to three thousand people in the city each year. Tom looked at the Mission and saw lots of potential.

Today the Mission has 210 beds, a separate veterans program, the third largest free medical clinic in the U.S. and in 2015 they served 33,000 people in Lincoln.

Wait, what?

Tom rattled off these facts much like his career history, boiling the difference down to his business-like approach to running the Mission. He played to his strengths and it’s working.

From recycling programs, giving away donated goods and connecting donors with the homeless, it’s all been an intentional way to serve better and serve more people in the process.

We’ll be honest, Tom is proud of that shift in statistics over the past 12 years, but he attributes it to more than just his presence at the Mission.

“People say ‘Aren’t you unbelievable!’ and I say no, it’s what God wanted me to do,” he said. “I think people think more highly of me than they ought to, but God’s hand is on us and I’m just using business truths to run this place.”

For Tom, getting to this point was about timing. He waited, he went and he stayed where he knew God wanted him to be.

He was hippie Tommy in college, Mr. Barber in the corporate world and now Pastor Tom at the Mission – all titles that built on each other in a way that he never could have mapped out himself.

It wasn’t easy, he admitted that much. Leaving a certain lifestyle, moving to a place that was far from friends and family, trying to understand poverty in a new city, but looking back, it’s almost comical to see the way each element of his story fits into a larger story, he said.

Tom’s story is about being where God wanted him to be, about obeying and using his skills for the task at hand.

Many times his story didn’t make sense, to him or those who looked on with skepticism. But it was about becoming Pastor Tom, and Tom loves being Pastor Tom.

Steve Kiene


Simple, but complex. It’s a weird combination, said Steve Kiene, but it’s him. Jeans and a tshirt simple, and software nerd complex.

If you saw Steve around town, you might confuse him for another one of the tech geeks grabbing coffee before hunkering down in their office for the day. Which might be accurate in some sense, but also a gross understatement.

If you know anything about Steve’s story, then you know that well before he was the Managing Principal of Nebraska Global he was well-known in the realm of Mac software. He’s even had some pretty hardcore groupies/stalkers, no joke. But let’s back up a little. 

At 11 he flunked out of summer school because he discovered “the drug” that was computer programming.

At 17 he skipped classes to hang out with programmers and turned down going to MIT because all he wanted to do was program.

And at 19 he had a job offer from Apple that he turned down. 

But Steve doesn’t care about his reputation. In fact, he can be a bit of a polarizing figure in the community because he has some pretty definite opinions. His real mission, like him, is simple but complex.

Steve doesn’t want to build companies, he wants to build people.

Heard that before? Yeah, so have we. But Steve puts his money where his mouth is.

Back in 2006 he had a decision to make – keep pushing his two companies forward or sell. He sold. And while Steve said at times he questions his decision to sell MindVision and eSellerate, he never regrets what he did with the $25 million he got from the sale.

He gave half of the money to the employees who helped him build the two companies, and donated and invested much of other half in the community. For him, splitting the money with the people who had invested time and effort in his companies meant they should share in the sale, and the sheer fact that he was the sole proprietor didn’t matter.

Steve makes up his own rules, much like his dad.

As a kid, Steve would go to work with his dad who owned a heating and air conditioning business. He watched him repair systems and write up bills, oftentimes only charging people for the cost of the materials.

His dad didn’t explain why he did it, he just did what he thought was honest and right, and Steve noticed.

That’s how Steve feels about building the community by building people –  he wants to do what he thinks is right and helpful, that’s it. 

And he’s in it for the long, long haul.

Earlier this year, Steve and his wife became parents again. He clicked his phone on and showed me his home screen – a photo of his happy, pudgy little boy.

“This is what matters,” he said, pointing to the screen.

Steve said being a parent makes him feel like a pseudo-parent to the people he works with everyday.  He feels invested in their well being, and pushes them to create things that matter, not just to fit some entrepreneurial stereotype.

Steve isn’t about smoke and mirrors. He isn’t about spinning his story to make people like him.

He’s just a guy with long hair and glasses, who cares about doing what’s right for the community both now and in the future.

Because to Steve, people matter.

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