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Innovator, influencer or renegade?

Innovators, influencers and renegades

Innovators, influencers and renegades — oh my! Minnesota businesses are bursting at the seams with them. And the best thing is no industry can contain them — from health care to construction to law and retail, our state is brimming with brilliance. Don’t believe us? Read on.

Meg Lewis
Designer, Educator, Speaker at Full Time You, Ghostly Ferns, Fool Proof
darngood.co

Why we think you should know her: OK, we’ll be honest, on our initial visit to Meg Lewis’ website, we weren’t certain, exactly, what she did. But it made us happy — so, so very happy — so we knew we wanted to be a part of it. And then when we found out what she did, well, that was just the icing on the cake.

In her own words: I empower individuals to discover their unique selves through a book, video series, workshops and talks titled “Full Time You.” I also coach, create friendly experiences and teach workshops for happy companies. I founded Ghostly Ferns, an international collective of designers and commercial artists. In Minnesota, I co-founded Fool Proof, a shared workspace for creativity and collaboration.

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Renegade. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
In 2014, after I had been working by myself for a handful of years, I was still frustrated by the lack of fulfilling work and the amount of imposter syndrome I was experiencing. I was living a life of what I thought a freelance designer should have. My personality, work and communication style was all a mirror of what I had observed others do. 

Through a series of self-discovery exercises and revelations, I realized that the qualities of my personality that were unique (the things about me I had been so desperately trying to hide) were actually the secret to positioning myself as a truly original freelancer and person. I decided to flaunt my true personality 100%. As soon as I started doing so, everything about my work changed. More fulfilling work began to gravitate toward me as people were magnetized by my unique, authentic personality.

Being excited about my true self and pushing it forward gave me a new sense of self-love and a confident personality. It naturally attracted amazing opportunities, relationships built on trust, and a multitude of positive outcomes throughout my work and life that I never saw coming. I shifted my entire business model to reflect my real self which instantly generated more income!

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? I’d love to encourage myself to stop caring so much about what I think others think about me. I always thought I was constantly being judged. That if I acted just right everyone would love me. It made me create
a fake personality; the person I thought people wanted me to be. It took me years to shake it off, and today I still find it creeps back occasionally. 

Wynne Reece
Reece Law, L.L.C., Partner
The Creative’s Counsel by Reece Law, L.L.C., Founder

reece-law.com

Why we think you should know her: Creative people are notoriously bad at business. (Not all of them. We acknowledge the Thomas Kinkades out there.) Wynne Reece is the daughter of a Grammy award–winning composer, so she grew up in the creative world, even working as an event planner. Her boutique law firm focuses on creative entrepreneurs and businesses, including public relations firms, artists, advertising agencies, chefs, fashion designers, et. al. 

In her own words: The Creative’s Counsel by Reece Law, L.L.C. is geared toward supporting business owners by offering affordable, approachable, understandable legal work. Though Reece Law was founded in 2013, in just over two years since its inception, we’ve worked with nearly 450 local businesses. Reece Law offers litigation services and pro bono services through various organizations, in addition to launching an innovative take on an ADR practice and its own pro bono clinic. In my spare time, I organize and partake in philanthropic ventures and serve on a number of committees and boards. 

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Innovator, with a hint of the others!

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, fail big, fail fast, fail hard, and then press on! For it is failure that gives you as much guidance to your eventual success as accomplishment does. 

The best things in life are...passion, laughter, adventure and the ability to not take yourself too seriously.

Paul Owen
CEO, OneOme 
oneome.com 

Why we think you should know him: Using a patient’s DNA to determine the most effective medications and to reduce the risks of trial and error is genius. Pure genius.  

In his own words: OneOme, co-founded by Mayo Clinic, is a pharmacogenetic testing company. OneOme’s RightMed® test is a pharmacogenetic test that analyzes a person’s DNA to predict how he or she may respond to hundreds of medications. Doctors can use RightMed test results to identify which medications may — or may not — work best for a patient. This may lead to more effective medications, fewer adverse drug reactions and lower health care costs.

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Innovator.

Who do you admire most? I admire my father who passed away a few years ago, primarily because he had an incredibly strong work ethic and was a very humble man. His favorite saying was, “If you do the right things for the right reasons, everything will work out.” 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? This company, OneOme, and the RightMed test we’ve created. We’ve worked incredibly hard to provide a high quality, scientific product that’s affordable, so those that need it the most can get it and benefit from it. 

Who is the one person you would like to meet who you haven’t yet? I’d love to sit down and talk with Barack Obama, specifically about the Precision Medicine Initiative that he announced during his 2015 State of the Union address. He had the foresight to recognize that we need medical treatments tailored to individual patients, rather than the average patient....We need to figure out a way to empower people to take better care of themselves and have more access to their own data, and not have health care providers as the gatekeepers of this information.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Same thing my mom used to tell me: Patience is a virtue, and a little won’t hurt you. 

The best things in life are…family, friends and faith.

Kris Lindahl
Founder
Kris Lindahl Real Estate

KrisLindahl.com
 
Why we think you should know him: OK, you’ve more than likely heard of Kris Lindahl. You’ve more than likely seen Kris Lindahl. But do you really know Kris Lindahl? We think not. Read what the man who is single-handedly reinventing real estate in our state has to share.

In his own words: Kris Lindahl Real Estate is Minnesota’s independent real estate company. We’re a group of highly driven real estate innovators who’ve joined forces to disrupt the real estate industry in favor of the consumer. By bringing the profession into the 21st century (and beyond), we’re selling a home every nine hours, helping people get top-dollar on the most important investment of their lives, and supporting the communities where we live and work. 
 
Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade?
All three, but if I had to choose one: innovator.  
 
The title of the story of your life would be...Be Generous! Never Give Up, Never Give In, Always Give Back.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? I’m already pretty good about trusting my instincts, but I think I would tell my younger self to trust them even more. There’s never a “perfect time” to do anything, so once you know it’s something you’re going to do, just do it!

The best things in life are...the ones that make your life better by making other people’s lives better.

Camille A. Thomas
Owner and Lead Visionary
The Vision Investment

thevisioninvestment.com 

Why we think you should know her: Sign us up for coaching that brings together fierce women who are called to do more. Her clients praise her results both in their businesses and in their everyday lives.  

In her own words: The Vision Investment is a coaching and consulting firm that supports powerhouse women entrepreneurs, leaders and visionaries. It offers high-quality, private and tailored coaching for individuals and groups through masterminds, one-on-one coaching, live workshops and events. Clients realign their vision(s) for their lives and careers, renew their confidence, get clear on the next steps, and take action. The Vision Investment takes a holistic approach and assists its clientele in transforming their mindset as well as how they show up in the world, so they can truly live the life that they desire. 

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Renegade.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? That I started and have sustained my business. It takes confidence to start a business, but it takes courage to keep going.  

Who would play you in the movie version of yourself and why? Janelle Monae would play me in the movie version of myself because she is fierce, goes after what she wants, she’s beautiful on the inside and outside, and she isn’t afraid to take a risk even in the midst of fear. 

Who is the one person you would like to meet? Oprah. Doesn’t everyone?

The best things in life are… having amazing, high-vibe people around you, traveling and exploring other cultures and taking time for self-care. And good food, of course.  
 

Anne Dugan
Co-organizer, Free Range Film Festival, freerangefilm.com
Co-owner of the Food Farm, foodfarm.us

Why we think you should know her: You want us to draw you a map?! She started a freaking film festival in a barn, 30 minutes south of Duluth. (No seriously, do you want us to draw you a map? It’s about two hours north of Minneapolis.)

In her own words: We show interesting movies in a big old barn in Northern Minnesota. Our tagline is “a farm fresh alternative to stale cinema,” and by providing a unique venue to a range of voices in film and new media, we are able to attract a great mix of artists and audience members that results in surprise and wonder for the world.  

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Since I’m a Midwesterner it’s hard to tout myself as any of those things, but I would choose innovator as I always thought I would be a scientist when I was little and making crazy art in a big weird space is as close to having a laboratory as I’ll ever come. 

Who do you admire most and why? My grandmother came to this country when she was 18 years old, relocating from a big port city to a small Midwestern town. Her favorite line was “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I have a photo of her at 80 years old swinging on a kudzu vine. She got things done and often proclaimed, “mustn’t be a sniveler.” 

Who would play you in the movie version of yourself and why? Parker Posey. We adopted the highway outside the film festival in honor of her (the Parker Posey Film Society). She is weird and wonderful and has a way better voice than I do. 

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Make time to stay in touch with friends. That old adage we learned as a girl scout — “make new friends but keep the old...” — it’s a pretty good map for life. 

For business communication, you prefer…face to face! My favorite moments of the film festival are watching our visiting filmmakers make connections with other filmmakers and audience members. We’ve had some of these connections end up as feature-length films and lasting friendships.

The best things in life are...ephemeral.

Ravi Norman, Chief Executive Officer
& Richard Copeland, Founder/Chairman
THOR Companies
Thor.build

Why we think you should know them: Name a high-profile building in Minneapolis and chances are THOR Companies has played a role in building or renovating it. This year the company is moving into its new $36 million headquarters in North Minneapolis. Neglected for 25 years, the refurbished building will help to revitalize the neighborhood. 

Their company in their own words: THOR Companies delivers SMART models for building, transforming and sustaining healthy communities via turnkey real estate services, which include development, design, construction, energy management and consulting.

 

Ravi Norman
Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade: Innovator.

Who do you admire most? Reginald Lewis because he was the first African-American billionaire. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? The birth of my three children.

What day would you like to relive? [My birthday] September 7, 1974. Being born again with all of the wisdom gained over my 43 years.

Who would play you in the movie version of yourself and why? Vin Diesel because his movie persona epitomizes family, strength and adventure.

The title of the story of your life would be...Beating the Odds.

Who is the one person you would like to meet who you haven’t yet? Barack Obama.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Be patient.

The best things in life are...faith, family and friends.

Richard Copeland
Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Influencer. 

Who would play you in the movie version of yourself and why? Will Smith because he is very versatile. 

The title of the story of your life would be...The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

Who is the one person you would like to meet who you haven’t yet? The Queen of England.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Stay out of trouble.

The best things in life are...family.

Ben Passer
Creator of Snack Cellar
Director of Energy Access and Equity at Fresh Energy

Why we think you should know him: OK we admit it: We all want his side gig reviewing snack items and thought we’d get some treats as appreciation for showcasing him. (Just kidding. Kind of. But seriously, would it kill you to send over some Halo Top?) Ben Passer is a true renaissance man. When he isn’t giving insights on Keebler Fudge Stripes, he’s fighting for a clean energy economy.  

In his own words: Snack Cellar is my website and social media channels (@snackcellar on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat), where I find and review the newest and most exciting snacks and junk food. Professionally, I work at Fresh Energy, an independent energy policy nonprofit organization in St. Paul that is working to speed Minnesota’s transition to a clean energy economy.

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Influencer.

What day would you like to relive? My wedding day. We were surrounded by family and friends, and the sheer joy we felt all day was just amazing. It was perfect and went by way too quickly.

Who would play you in the movie version of yourself and why? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson because: 1) he’s one of my childhood heroes, 2) I’d like to think we bear a slight resemblance to each other, and 3) he doesn’t turn down any role he’s offered.

Who is the one person you would like to meet who you haven’t yet? Barack Obama.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Work hard, take risks, have fun.

The best things in life are...edible.

Soleil Ho
Freelance food and culture writer and podcast host
Racist Sandwich and Bitch Media’s Popaganda
 

Why we think you should know her: We’re pretty sure she’s the coolest person on the planet. Also, she uses her voice to advocate for others who can’t use theirs, which pretty much makes her the coolest person on the planet.  

In her own words: I am a food and pop culture writer and host of two podcasts: Racist Sandwich, a podcast on intersections between food and identity, and BITCH Media’s Popaganda, a show that views ethics and society through a critical feminist lens. My work often engages the intersections between what we consume (often literally) and how we see ourselves and our world. 

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Renegade!

Who do you admire most? My friend Ruby Tandoh, whose courageous and straightforward writing on food, mental health, and the body has been a true beacon of light for me.

Who would play you in the movie version of yourself? Jenny Yang, comedian and fellow stocky Asian. She’s a brilliant performer, and I’d be so honored if she pretended to be me.

The title of the story of your life would be…Who Else Is Gonna Say It?

Who is the one person you would like to meet who you haven’t yet? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Jeremy Edes Pierotti
Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Sansoro Health
 

Why we think you should know him: With health care, every minute counts. This is especially true of accessing patient records, such as medications, allergies, lab results and scanned images. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. That’s an issue Jeremy Pierotti and his company is tackling. 

In his own words: Sansoro Health solves health IT’s most pressing challenge today — achieving secure, seamless data exchange between electronic health records and leading-edge applications. Sansoro’s software platform, Emissary, removes barriers to interoperability by liberating health data with its proven application programming interface (API). This allows health IT innovators to spend less time on integration and focus more on developing transformative products.
 
Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Innovator. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? I am proud and fortunate that when I get together with my siblings and our families over holidays, we laugh, tell stories and genuinely love spending time together. Of course, that’s not really my accomplishment — the credit for that goes to my parents!

What day would you like to relive? This summer, my family and I traveled through Israel. One day we woke up in Jerusalem and ended the day cooking a dinner of eggplant and sweet potatoes over an open campfire in the Negev Desert. In between, we visited with Palestinians in Bethlehem, ate delicious shawarma at a little place in Sderot owned by a Russian-Jewish immigrant, watched Israeli drones track explosive ‘kites’ being launched from Gaza, and watched the golden-red sun set behind the rocky desert dunes. Experiencing all of those things in one day is amazing enough, but experiencing it with my family and spending the time together made it even more special. 

Who is the one person you would like to meet who you haven’t yet? I would genuinely like to meet Barack Obama — not because I agreed with everything he did as president, but because he seems to have an impressively deep and nuanced understanding of the world.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Take more risks and stop being so serious — you will have more fun, learn more, and you have plenty of time ahead of you to play it safe. Also, all those low-fat, high-carb foods are really terrible for you!

Caroline Wanga
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and Vice President of Human Resources, Target

Why we think you should know her: An advocate for inclusivity, Caroline Wanga’s authenticity, no-nonsense humor and energy are palpable. In an intro at a 2018 conference for the retail industry she described herself thusly (and in part): a Kenyan immigrant, college dropout, a TV junkie, an ally of justice and equality (and food) and a (piece of) work in progress. The world needs more humans who think, work and live like Caroline Wanga. Seriously.

In her own words: Target serves 30 million guests in our 1,800 stores each week and millions more who visit our digital channels. At Target, we embrace diversity and strive to give everyone access to the same opportunities. By creating equal opportunities for all, we can better understand and serve our guests, connect to the communities we serve and build a stronger team. We want all who engage with Target to feel welcomed, valued and respected.

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Yes.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? My beautiful, hella-smart, black-girl-magic offspring, Cadence Freakin’ Fradence.

Who do you admire most? I admire all who were and are committed to cultivating a future they knew they weren’t going to live to see but did it anyway. 

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Stop cheating on your future with your past. It’s over. 

The best things in life are...at the intersection of being a masterpiece and a work-in-progress. 

What day would you like to relive? None, because I’m too excited about what new possibilities exist within the days yet to come. 

Jason Sole
Community-First Public Safety Initiatives Director, The City of St. Paul

Why we think you should know him: A former gang member and three-time convicted felon, Jason Sole turned his life around at the age of 25. He earned a bachelor’s and master’s in criminal justice and went on to lead the NAACP, is a professor at Hamline University and is the director of Community-First Public Safety Initiatives for the City of St. Paul. 

In his own words: I’m tasked with creating public-safety initiatives (grounded in community-defined evidence) to create a safer St. Paul. One of the main priorities is to provide a true second chance for those who’ve paid their debt; returning residents are an asset and should be valued as such.
 
Who do you admire most? My mother, because she put her dreams on hold just so her children could have a chance. My mom was a teen mom, but she still graduated at the top of her class. She worked for the post office for 28 years, and now she’s in college.
 
What accomplishments are you most proud of? I’ve worked to change public opinion of me and others who have been entangled in the criminal-justice system. Also, I’m an emotionally available father. Due to my father’s addiction, I didn’t have a role model for fatherhood. I was worried that I wouldn’t be patient enough or would be too busy chasing my dreams, but I’ve surprised myself. 

What day would you like to relive? The day I completed my undergraduate degree.
I completed my criminal justice degree in front of my family and friends but couldn’t celebrate the accomplishment because I had to immediately report to a jail cell to complete a one-year sentence. 

The title of the story of your life would be...Ubuntu: I Am Because We Are.
 
If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Stay focused. I lost my way when I joined a gang at 14....The war on drugs baited me, and I fell for it. I’d tell the younger me to stay focused. Everything you need is in your heart and mind. 

Andrea Swensson
Host of The Local Show, 89.3 The Current

Why we think you should know her: Oh, where do we begin? Andrea Swensson first caught the eye of Prince when she doodled a picture of him during a show — a picture he used as cover art for a song. He invited her to cover his shows, sending, as she noted in a tribute to him, “missives through the ether, from his imagination to my laptop, from ‘P.’” She continues to be a champion of local music, translating brilliant musical performances for those of us with a tin ear. 

In her own words: 89.3 The Current is Minnesota’s non-commercial, member-supported radio station playing the best authentic, new music alongside the music that inspired it. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? Researching, writing, and publishing my first book, Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound, with the University of Minnesota Press was an intellectually challenging and rewarding experience. It allowed me to grow so much as a writer and as a human being.

The title of the story of your life would be...All the Things She Could Not Tweet.

Who is the one person you would like to meet who you haven’t yet? One of my ultimate goals in life is to interview Bob Dylan.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Slow down and be kinder to yourself. There is plenty of time. 

Wayne Zink
Founder & Chairman, MY SISTER 

Why we think you should know him: Wayne Zink is the perfect example of how doing good is good for business. The socially conscious former owner of the fair-trade Endangered Species line of chocolates, Zink is founder and chairman of MY SISTER, a purpose-driven clothing line. 

In his own words: MY SISTER is an ethically based clothing company that works to put an end to sex trafficking, exploitation and gender inequality. Sexual exploitation is happening in every city and every state to girls and women all around us. We believe that everyone can participate in the progress towards a world without trafficking. Through fashion, we’re making it easier to join the movement.

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? I use my influence to drive innovation around equality in the nonprofit world and the for-profit world.

Who do you admire most? Nelson Mandela. He was always mindful that his leadership role might not have been possible had he not been imprisoned. During that time, he read and listened to the stories of many people and at the height of his struggle against apartheid, was able to reflect and consult versus giving into the anger and emotion of injustice. He just never gave up.  

What accomplishments are you most proud of? Installing fresh water pumps in Up Country (near the Cameroon border) Nigeria, with Endangered Species Chocolate and increasing cacao farmers’ incomes by 733% at the San Carlos Coop, Ecuador. And creating MY SISTER SBC, one of the first Specific Benefit Corporations in Minnesota that exists solely to put an end to sex trafficking, exploitation and gender inequality. 

What day would you like to relive? The day I would like to relive is my first time cliff diving into Lake Powell at age 10. Standing on the ledge, the exhilaration and fear I felt. And then you take that leap, and when you’re in flight, the feeling is utter freedom.

Who would play you in the movie version of yourself? Viola Davis. Viola is not afraid to put truth to the screen. She is opinionated, strong, not afraid to act out, and wants to reflect life as she sees it. 

Katie Steller
Founder, CEO, Steller Hair Company 
 

Why we think you should know her: Never underestimate the power of a good haircut. At a young age, Kate Steller was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and when she was 18, she had to have her large intestine removed. To lift her spirits, her mother took her to get her first professional haircut. That experience inspired her to help others gain confidence. 

About her company: Since opening in 2013, Steller Hair Co. has grown at an incredible rate. Starting out with a team of five, Steller is now a growing team of 15. Not only is Steller known for its exceptional hairstylists, but also its passion to create a space that feels safe and welcoming to all. 

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Renegade. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? Being named the SBA's 2018 Young Entrepreneur of the Year was such an honor. It wasn't just a reflection of me, but more so acknowledging my business as a whole. 

The title of the story of my life would be...Life Is Shitty, but That’s OK. (In memory of my former large intestine.)

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Life was never promised to be easy, so don't be surprised when it feels hard. Just remember, you've done hard things before, and you have 100% success rate so far. You always have a choice; choose to be kind even when life isn't kind to you. 

Dr. Bryan Laskin
CEO, OperaDDS 

Why we think you should know him: Not all heroes wear capes. Anyone who can make going to the dentist less formidable is top-notch in our book. His virtual reality system transports patients away from the dental chair to faraway places like a beach in New Zealand. No passport required. You may, however, be asked to swish and spit. 

In his own words: OperaDDS is a technology company that is making dental care easy and more enjoyable for patients and dental teams. Our products focus on elevating patients’ dental experiences, including the only virtual reality system focused on easing patients’ dental pain and anxiety and our communication system that is being used in more than 6,000 dental practices across the country to help streamline care via secure email and texting.

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Innovator. 

Who do you admire most and why? I admire my wife, Tesa, more than anyone. She’s made me a better person, and I’m lucky to have her as a teammate. Tesa always looks for the best in people and never talks negatively about anyone. That’s an admirable quality, and it’s also helped me greatly in business....Tesa helps me keep a positive attitude and consistently push ahead....I don’t have to look far for inspiration.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? I would tell myself to think bigger. When I was younger, I didn’t give enough thought to having this career where I am combining my passions of dentistry and technology. If I had started thinking bigger, sooner, it certainly would have been advantageous....Challenging the status quo isn’t easy, but young people should be encouraged to think big from the beginning.

The best things in life are...earned.

Dave Hinnenkamp
CEO, BerganKDV 
 
Why we think you should know him: Dave Hinnenkamp is an overnight success — if you don’t count all of those years he spent between first interning at BerganKDV and now helming the company. He is a true example of the positive returns of sweat equity.

In his own words: BerganKDV is a professional services firm that solves complex business, financial and technology challenges, all under one roof. We have more than 360 employees with locations in Iowa and Minnesota offering business planning and consulting, tax, assurance and accounting, technology, outsourced business services, turnaround management services and wealth management services throughout the Midwest.
 
Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Influencer.  
 
Who do you admire most?
 I most admire my parents. First, none of what I’ve enjoyed to this point would have been possible without them having given me life. Additionally, they somehow managed to provide for nine children on one modest salary. We didn’t have much money, but we were nourished, happy and given positive encouragement.
 
What accomplishment are you most proud of? Having our children “launched”!  Jennifer, my significant other, and I each have two children. Three of them are 24 years of age (Jennifer has twins), and one is age 26. They are employed, self-sufficient and most importantly, happy. Seeing our children grow into fine young adults has been an extremely rewarding experience.

The title of the story of your life would be...How Did I Get Here! 

Who is the one person you would like to meet who you haven’t yet? Oprah Winfrey. I don’t believe I’ve ever watched one of her shows and probably never will, but I have so much respect for what she has been able to accomplish in her lifetime. For anyone to accomplish what she has would be incredible, never mind that she did so as a minority and a woman in the time period she did. Incredible.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? One’s success is directly correlated to your ability to make others successful.

The best things in life are...free! Yes, it’s an old cliché, but very true. Relationships, love and happiness are priceless.

Jean Stelten-Beuning
“Lead Dog”, Top Dog Country Club, LLC

Why we think you should know her: Jean Stelten-Beuning left her high-level job at Marriott International to pursue her passion for pups. She took the leap and started the “unkennel” kennel — the dogs stay in suites. Her team doesn’t turn away any dogs, and she actively works with problem dogs five to six hours each day to socialize them.  

In her own words: Top Dog Country Club is a world-renowned vacation club for dogs. We’ve been featured on Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet, the NBC Today Show and in The New York Times.

We provide dog owners peace of mind when they travel, knowing their dogs are safe, happy and having the vacation of their lives. We live by one principle: It is all about the dogs. 

Do you consider yourself an innovator, influencer or renegade? Probably all three but certainly an innovator in that Top Dog Country Club was the first facility of its kind, setting a completely new standard of how to care for dogs when people travel. 

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Follow your dreams always. Find what you love to do and do it better than anyone. That is success!

The best things in life are...four-legged and furry!