Marcela 'Xela' Garcia

Marcela “Xela” Garcia grew up attending art classes at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (WPCA), a non-profit arts center that provided opportunities for her that she couldn’t find in other places. The center helped her grow and understand her place in a culture that was new to her. Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Garcia’s native language was Spanish. When she came to the United States at a young age, she stood out. Because of her different language and customs, Garcia questioned where she belonged in her new environment.

“I had very supportive parents that instilled the power of my culture and my identity. I really found refuge in that, especially in the arts,” she explains. Art allowed her to ask those questions, helping her make sense of the world around her. Garcia uses her childhood lessons as a driving force to show others that art can transform lives and neighborhoods. So, in 2016, when the executive director position opened at the WPCA, Garcia decided to join the team and merge her goals with those of the organization.

Since the inception of the WPCA in 1987, the mission of the organization has been providing accessibility to the arts for youth and underrepresented people in the Walker’s Point neighborhood. The WPCA invites artists from around Milwaukee and around the world into its gallery to participate in arts education programming. With the varying ideas and experiences of the artists, the WPCA can incorporate vastly different cultural perspectives into their programs.

One of the many ways the WPCA represents the traditions of the people who have lived in the Walker’s Point neighborhood is through events like their 26th annual Día de los Muertos exhibition. The exhibit that opened Friday, Oct. 19, challenged the viewers to consider their ancestral connections and the meaning of death in communities. Local artists were invited to create altars that explored the theme of tradition, family, life and death.

The WPCA is a safe space for people to start a dialogue, which is why it has been seen as an anchor in the Walker’s Point neighborhood for the last 31 years. “We have what we need as a community, and oftentimes we don’t realize that,” states Garcia. The organization uses artist talks, exhibitions and community events to talk about relevant issues, such as immigration, gentrification and segregation. Through art, people are able to express how they feel about such issues, giving them a platform to explore solutions when they wouldn’t otherwise have one.

“At an early age, I saw the power the arts had in building confidence, pursuing leadership and finding a voice when you sometimes didn’t feel like you had one; in doing it in your own way, and in your own terms,” Garcia says. The first step to helping youth and underserved community members succeed is by opening doors that allow them to explore their creativity.

For more on the Walkers Point Center for the Arts, visit wpca-milwaukee.org.

View the article on the Shepherd Express website, part of my regular Hero of the Week column. 

Jean Bell-Calvin

This country’s health care system is complicated, difficult to navigate and not attainable for everyone. Jean Bell-Calvin and her team at the UW-Milwaukee Silver Spring Community Nursing Center are working to change that, starting at the local level. The team at the Nursing Center treats their patients differently than the average hospital. Rather than simply looking at symptoms, they take the time to speak with their patients about their day-to-day habits and stressors that may have caused the symptoms. “You have a right to be treated a certain way, have your questions answered and have somebody take the time to listen,” says Bell-Calvin, the Nursing Center’s director and driving force behind the clinic for the last 30 years.

Bell-Calvin has made it her life’s work to help the community understand health. If asked to talk about her life, she will tell you, “It is not about me but the wonderful team of people I work with and the people we serve,” yet she deserves enormous praise for her dedication to the people of Milwaukee. In 1988, Bell-Calvin took a job at the recently opened clinic and has worked to improve the programming to meet the needs of North Side residents ever since. The original goal of the clinic was to promote health, focusing on education and nutrition. But in the late 1990s, after being approached by Milwaukee County, the clinic transitioned to providing primary care for the underinsured. Through the General Assistance Medical Program, the clinic became a contracted insurance provider for the county and began to provide primary care to community members that otherwise could not afford it.

There is more to health than clinical diagnoses; the Nursing Center also takes into consideration the many factors that can affect people’s well-being, such as relationships at home, not being able to pay the bills or a lack of reliable transportation. The Nursing Center seeks to build a relationship with the people they serve and adapts their programming to meet the needs of the community.

A vital partner that helps them achieve this goal is the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center (SSNC), a non-profit community center that services the people in the neighborhood through programs relating to health and wellness, education and employment. The SSNC often looks to the Nursing Center for programming related to health and nutrition, providing an opportunity for the nurses of the UWM Nursing Center to go out in the community and learn what is needed to improve people’s health. “It’s about looking at people, finding out what their needs are and plugging them in,” Bell-Calvin explains.

Bell-Calvin and the UW-Milwaukee Silver Spring Community Nursing Center emphasize that primary care is not enough to keep people healthy; they must also be educated. Whether that means teaching people proper nutrition or helping them understand how to use their insurance plan, the goal is to empower people with knowledge. “This is the work I’ve been called to do,” says Bell-Calvin, and with that work, she continues to change lives one family at a time.

View the article on the Shepherd Express website, part of my regular Hero of the Week column. 

Dasha Kelly Hamilton Helps Milwaukee Youth Find their Voice

“We need each other.” Those are Dasha Kelly Hamilton’s words describing what she’s learned from young people she has worked with for the past 18 years. Our country and our city are changing because more people are speaking up, but the voices we need to hear the most are those of the youth in this country. For them to speak louder, they need a support system and the confidence that their voice matters.

Still Waters Collective (SWC), founded by Kelly Hamilton, is one of many organizations in Milwaukee working with local youth to help them find their voice. It is an outreach organization that uses creative writing and performance art to build community. The organization started as an adult open mic but has since grown to predominantly serve youth by partnering with public schools to teach poetry workshops. Words have power when we speak our truth, but the real power happens when an audience listens to those words and is affected by them.

The organization first transitioned to work with youth when Kelly Hamilton was asked to teach a workshop at a Milwaukee high school. Her world changed when she asked the class a simple question: “How many of you think your voice matters?” Less than a third of the class raised their hands, which surprised her. They were so young, she thought, but not excited by their ideas, thoughts and imaginations. “I was never there to teach them but to show them that they are important,” says Kelly Hamilton. At the end of all her workshops, she has each student write a poem because it “requires the young person to consider all the possible ideas in the universe... Recognize that you’re creative, and your voice matters. Magic happens by the time we get to that poem.”

Words Have Power

Kelly Hamilton reiterates one point to every one of her students before they perform their poems: “Every time you speak your truth in front of an audience, there’s someone who needs to hear it.” That statement is why poetry is so important. We all relate to one another and through words, we can come together to a common understanding. Listening can be just as powerful as speaking, and having active listeners shows these young people that their words have power.

Words touch our lives in many ways, and SWC wants to make sure that words are also being used to connect the people across our city. One of their core programs is the SWC Fellowship in which students from ages 18 to 25 complete course work and connect with local community members to build relationships. The intention is to cross the lines in Milwaukee’s different neighborhoods and show the participants of the program that they are welcome in any part of the city.

“These are young people who have figured out that their voices matter,” says Kelly Hamilton, but, as she explains, this is also a time in their lives when they could lose that confidence. Still Waters Collective ensures that they have a time and place to share that voice.

We all have stories hidden away where the still waters run deep. Telling those stories helps the listeners better understand their community and allows the storytellers to speak their truths to the community. The people of this city can empower each other by listening; by listening we can open a conversation.


View the article on the Shepherd Express website, part of my regular Hero of the Week column. 

Maudwella Kirkendoll

Maudwella Kirkendoll grew up in Milwaukee’s 53206 neighborhood, which gave him a perspective of people who work long, hard hours to support their families but still need some help to get by. It’s that perspective that drove Kirkendoll to become the devoted community worker that he is today. “I know there is some point when you can move people from needing help to the people that are helping,” he says.

Kirkendoll loved growing up on the North Side because of the sense of community, but it was also a rough part of town because of crime and poverty. The deaths of friends due to violence and lower economic status in the neighborhood were simply circumstances he had to navigate through. Once he learned how to overcome those challenges, though, he found a way to help others do the same.

When he was a child, Kirkendoll describes standing in endless lines with his mother, waiting to receive government assistance. He remembers feeling embarrassed and treated poorly at the time—two things that motivated him to change the system to make it easier for people with similar situations. In 2000, Kirkendoll was hired as a caseworker at Community Advocates (CA) and has since worked his way up to become the company’s chief operating officer. The reason he was drawn to the organization was its passion for helping people, a characteristic that has persisted for the past 18 years.

CA is a social service agency that is composed of four divisions: Basic Needs, Milwaukee Women’s Center, Behavior Health and Public Policy. People come to CA’s Basic Needs Division for assistance with issues including housing, landlord issues and tenant training. The Milwaukee Women’s Center Division provides a family shelter, domestic violence shelter, drug treatment programs and more. The Behavior Health Division aims to relocate people living on the street into permanent housing. Simultaneously, CA works on changing public policies that will help reduce poverty and transition people into regular jobs. This only touches on the many programs CA implements, but they impact the lives of community members in so many more ways.

One program that drastically affected Kirkendoll’s life—and the lives of the participants of this particular program—is the mentoring of young men at the Racine Youthful Offender Correctional Facility. Kirkendoll and other mentors go into the prison matched with young incarcerated men in hopes of steering them onto the right path for their lives post-incarceration.

Kirkendoll strongly connects with these men because, as he says to them, “I’ve been where you’ve been. I grew up in the same area, had some of the same experiences, and you guys can make it. Stay focused.” These men need someone to understand what they’ve been through and someone to guide them to the right choices at times of weakness.

Connecting with one another and taking the time to listen is what makes a difference for so many people looking for a safe haven when they walk through the doors of Community Advocates. Our community is hurting in so many ways, and it’s time for us to follow this model—and Maudwella Kirkendoll’s personal example—and listen to those that are speaking the loudest.

 

View the article on the Shepherd Express website, part of my regular Hero of the Week column.  

CORE El Centro

Our current health care system is complex, difficult to navigate, and inaccessible to people with limited funds and recourses. Especially for people from different cultural backgrounds, these challenges can feel impossible to overcome. But CORE El Centro understands health differently.  To them, health is an elaborate web of pieces that we must tie together to be our best selves and that starts with a safe space to practice healing.  When co-founders Jayne Ader and Madeline Gianforte started CORE El Centro 16 years ago, they saw a need for an understanding of healing and access to health services in the community.  “People have this innate wisdom about their path and each path is different. So how do we help you find that,” says Ader.  Their goal is to inspire individuals and families to achieve optimal health by offering affordable services in both English and Spanish. 

co-founders Jayne Ader and Madeline Gianforte

CORE El Centro treats members of the community that have limited access to health care due to low income, language barriers, cultural barriers and other factors. Most of the organization’s clients are Latino, but anyone is welcome for treatment.  Their ability to connect with clients through language and culture is what makes CORE El Centro unique.  When a client first visits the building, they meet with a staff member called a health navigator, who discusses their health concerns, problems at home, and general troubles to truly understand the factors impacting their health.  “They can really connect with what you are going through,” says Carla Del Pozo, director of the Integrative Health and Wellness program.  These health navigators are able place the client with the best possible practitioners because they are trained community health workers and people from the community.  In order to heal someone, CORE believes you must first get to know them and understand where their pain originated from.

The organization is built with four main programs: Integrated Health and Wellness, Gardening and Nutrition, Children’s Wellness and Volunteers.  They offer one-on-one sessions in therapies such as acupuncture and massage, as well as courses like reiki, yoga, gardening and nutrition.  CORE El Centro has also built strong relationships over years with their partners, such as Aurora Walker’s Point Clinic, The Healing Center and others.  These close relationships allow CORE to confidently refer clients who are in need of different healing services than what they offer.  “Part of the mission is building community,” explains Ader. “By building community, you also heal.”  When people are given access to health care through language, cost and community members that understand their needs, people are able to better themselves and give back to their community. 

 

View the article on the Shepherd Express website, part of my regular Hero of the Week column.    

Dr. Kyana Young and the Marquette University Strategic Innovation Fund

 Dr. Kyana Young, a postdoctoral fellow at Marquette University, began working in the Global Water Center in 2016.  With a background in environmental engineering, Young’s passion is finding solutions for safe water to improve global and public health.  Soon after she arrived, it occurred to her that there was a lack of diverse groups of people represented in the building.  But it didn’t take her long to do something about that. 

She spoke with staff at Marshall High School and Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS), including Larry Farris, Toby Hairston, Rochelle Sandrin, Jan Haven, and Megan Sun, who helped her come up with an idea for a program that would provide opportunities to demographics that are underrepresented in scientific fields relating to water research.  She applied for a grant from Marquette University with the support of the group at MPS, and was awarded the Marquette University Strategic Innovation Fund Grant.  The grant made it possible for her to provide internships to students at Milwaukee’s Marshall High School and bring them to the labs of the Global Water Center to do hands-on research. When working in the classroom at Marshall High School, the youth learn how to write lab reports and do data analysis with their teacher Megan Sun.  The students are taught how to apply their newly learned scientific knowledge to solve real world problems.

Each student is assigned a project for the semester by participating companies and universities.  Young asked these organizations to host and mentor the youth, including Stonehouse Water Technologies, Youth Rising Up, Solar Water Works, DRM International Inc., Sun Yat-Sen University, Grand Valley State University, Assembly of God and Marquette University.  Dr. Young knew that the students needed more than community partners, they needed mentors like Dr. Moe Mukiibi, the chief technology officer at Stonehouse Water Technologies (the company with the most interns in the program), to make the program a success.  The program is meant to “create a path for them that could be life changing, so that they can see why they are working in a lab and see what this can become,” says Mukiibi.

 “When you provide an opportunity and you back that up with resources, this is what can happen,” says Young as she describes how the students have excelled far beyond the expectations of the program. “This impacts the global community.”  Thanks to Young and the team at MPS, these students have a chance to explore their interests and realize career paths that can make a major difference in their lives.   

View the article on the Shepherd Express website, part of my regular Hero of the Week column.

Fyxation Bicycle Company

Those of you that have strolled into the Fyxation bicycle shop in Riverwest, may not know the whole story behind the company that designs their own bicycles and parts.  The concept for the brand and their original product first came to light in 2009 when owners Nick and Jessica Ginster were living in Taiwan.  An idea popped into Nick Ginster's head to design a bicycle tire for fixed gear bikes that had both sturdy tread and was available in multiple colors; a niche in the market.  He was originally contracted by a company to make the tire, but they backed out.  So, with the encouragement from his wife Jessica, they decided to invest in the brand and take the tire to market.  At the same time, Nick's brother Ben Ginster came on the team to run the accounting and logistical side of the business.  With a perfectly balanced group of people driven to succeed, the company was born.  

Originally from Milwaukee, Nick and Jessica first met over 20 years ago while working together at a bike shop.  Nick worked as a mechanic and Jessica was the store manager.  They were brought together by their love for bicycling, health and spreading adventure.  Nick was always mechanically inclined and an avid biker since a child, and at the age of 13, he disassembled a snow blower engine to create a gas-powered bicycle.  His mom looked at his dad and said "engineer."  The rest is history.  Jessica, however, has a background in health, science and community engagement.  She has a natural talent of adapting to rapidly changing circumstances and understanding the needs of Fyxation’s customers. 

Before moving back to Milwaukee in 2009 to start Fyxation, the couple lived in Taiwan for five years because of Nick’s job that involved overseas production of bicycle products.  He later took that knowledge to start his own company (still in Taiwan), doing product design and product sourcing overseas for U.S. companies.   When Nick and Jessica came back to the United States, they first presented their fixed gear tire with Ben at the world’s largest bicycle trade show.  “Fyxation has always been a Milwaukee company and Milwaukee is our home,” says Nick.  

The business took off when they found distributers to sell their product through bike shops around the U.S. and globally, but this did not happen by luck.  It was a "very tactical approach," explains Jessica.  Their well laid-out plan combined with years of experience allowed the company to grow quickly.  Soon after their tire was on the market, other companies began making competitive tires so Fyxation started diversifying their products to include pedals, parts, accessories, frames, and then bikes. 

“That has developed into the product line that you see today," says Nick.  "We are quick to change when we need to.  But from the beginning of our brand, we always made quality affordable products and we still do that.”

The time came when they needed a local warehouse.  The natural choice was to use the Pedal Milwaukee building in the Silver City neighborhood. The building was formerly owned by Tom Schuler of Team Sports but Fyxation just bought the space.  Until that point, Fyxation only sold their products through other bike shops, but when people started knocking on the door of the warehouse looking for a Fyxation store, the team decided it was time to open a public storefront, so they could better connect with their Milwaukee customers. “We had never been very good at telling our story locally," explains Nick, "and when we opened the store, we had a public front and decided to change that.”  So, in 2014, the company opened the store you now know in Riverwest.  

Fyxation has continued to grow over the years, both in their production and community outreach.  One of their first local projects was designing a custom bike for Colectivo and have since expanded that by designing custom bikes for Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee County Parks, Wisconsin Bike Fed, Goose Island, Nike and many other partners.  Nick's favorite project they've done recently is their custom-designed bike for the Milwaukee people's flag.  The bike was in such high demand that they decided to do a limited run of 40 bikes, which sold out in under a year. “We really believe in cycling and trying to help out in our communities as much as we can," says Nick.  It's impossible to list all of the ways Fyxation gives back in a short blog post, but to name a few, they host and support local organizations like DRAFT Milwaukee and Black Girls Do Bike.  Fyxation also donates to organizations outside of biking like Lymphoma & Cancer Society, Progressive Community Health Centers and Feeding America.

Everything they do as a company comes back to their core mission: to deliver adventure.  Fyxation wants to be a place where people of all ethnicities, backgrounds and experience levels feel comfortable to get on a bike and ask questions.  “One of the strongest suits that I bring is the fact that I am a female in a male-dominated industry and I’m also a woman of color," states Jessica. "For me, it’s all about empowering the consumer, empowering the community.  Knowledge is power so let’s share the knowledge I’ve gained with people who are intimidated."  Biking is for everyone, whether you're the urban commuter, the mountain bike adventurer or the person that occasionally wants a little wind in your hair.  Stop by their shop so they can find the perfect bike to fit your style and help you discover your adventure. 

Visit Fyxation's website to get in touch or see their product line. 

 

Finding Affinity: Sung

This month I want to do something a little different than my normal blog posts.  I recently spent five weeks in Vietnam and while in this drastically different culture, it made me think about how we relate to each other in Milwaukee.  Hear me out for a second.  At first, the country seemed so foreign that I could not relate at all, but after spending time there and getting to know the welcoming people, I started to realize that we have a lot in common.  Milwaukee sometimes struggles with this because as many of us know, it is a very segregated city.  This series called “Finding Affinity,” that I will occasionally post, is meant to help us find similarities in each other rather than differences.  If we can connect with one another, maybe we can make the world a more peaceful place.

 

Affinity:  /noun/

  1. a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for someone or something.
  2. a similarity of characteristics suggesting a relationship, especially a resemblance in structure between animals, plants, or languages.

 

* * *

“All of us, we’re not so different.”  Those were Sung’s words as she led me through the narrow paths of the rice fields near Sapa in Vietnam.  Sung was our tour guide, who proudly showed my friend and I around her village in the far north of the country.  We followed her for three days up and down steep dirt roads beneath banana leaves and foggy skies.  The only item she carried was her small, vibrant bag draped over her shoulder, made using of the colors of her village. Adversely, we were weighed down with our large backpacks hugging our waists, with the newest back-support technology.  It was a simpler way of life that she shared with us, but not necessarily an easier one.

Sung is 38 years old, no taller than four and a half feet, with five children and a husband.  The family lives with her husband’s parents because that is the tradition in her culture.  While Sung works the rice fields and leads tours to support the family (as most of the women do), her husband’s parents take care of the children and the home.  Having her children in school, Sung explains to us, is more important than anything because she wants to give them the opportunities she never had.  And isn’t that what all parents want?  Her daughter recently taught her how to spell her own name because Sung never learned to read or write.  Yet, her spoken English is nearly perfect, thanks to the tourists she has talked with every day for the last 6 years.

My friend and I shared long conversations with her, revealing pieces of each other’s lives for about 10 hours a day, and we slowly came to realize how similar we are, regardless of the cultural differences.  We are all searching for happiness and finding a balance in our lives.  Often all of us must compromise our hobbies and desires for our obligations.  The moment this all became obvious was when we took a break from hiking to swim in a peaceful river at the base of a waterfall.  As I was sitting on a rock drying off, I noticed Sung was perched atop the adjacent boulder with her long hair let out, deep in thought looking over the valley.  It was her bold independent gaze that I recognized in myself; a woman determined to achieve her goals, no matter the cost.

We often get caught up in the conveniences and privileges in our lives, but we too easily forget that we all want the same things: peace, freedom and happiness.  Sung opened my eyes to her way of life and made me realize how lucky I am, but the truth is that we all have challenges and we all have to find a way to make the most of what we’ve been given.  On our last day together, we walked up a dirt road with the occasional motorbike zooming by, to sit above what seemed like endless rice fields stretching below us.  I tried to imagine what life would be like if I called this home.  After sitting quietly next to Sung for a few minutes, I looked at her, and she looked back and smiled.

Kavon Cortez-Jones

When you first meet Kavon Cortez-Jones, you will be inspired by his optimism and avidity for Milwaukee.  Also known as K.J., he is a poet, spoken word performer and to some, a mentor who is immersed in Milwaukee's art community.  His dedication to writing is remarkable to say the least. “I don’t think I’ve missed a day of writing in the past 10 years,” says Kavon proudly before mentioning that he has filled 65 composition books.  But his words don't stop at the end of those pages, rather he makes a point to influence and teach others what writing has taught him.  Through performances, collaboration with various art organizations, and the written words in his book Club Noir, Kavon is very much a part of the city's pulse.

Currently 23 years old, Kavon grew up in the Harambee neighborhood of Milwaukee. Everything changed for him when Kwabena Antoine Nixon and Muhibb Dyer came to his elementary school to perform poetry for the students, as part of their "I Will Not Die Young" campaign.  "They wowed me with their performance and that was the spark," explains Kavon. Ever since that day, he was inspired to write and become a poet but did not know what to write about until he met Paul Moga, an educator at Riverside High School who opened up new possibilities for him.  That's when Kavon discovered performance and slam poetry, focusing his efforts on that medium.  K.J.'s early life in Harambee was challenging but writing carried him through and allowed him to express himself in the only way he knew how.  Now he tries to share his love for writing with others in the community.

After high school, Kavon started performing his poetry at open mics around the city such as Linneman's and Miramar Theater, and now runs an open mic called "Express Yourself Milwaukee," which happens on the second Friday of the month at 1300 West Fond du Lac Avenue in collaboration with the Express Yourself Milwaukee youth organization.  After gaining recognition, he began receiving commissions to perform at places like the Kimpton Hotel and to run poetry workshops for students at Whitefish Bay Middle School and Riverside High School.  "It’s beneficial for folks in Milwaukee to learn poetry because it’s so subjective. All you need is a notebook and a pen, and you can just create your life all over again. You can tell your story," states Kavon.  He is also an intern at TRUE Skool, an organization where youth come to express themselves through hip-hop and the creative arts as a means to educate themselves in social justice leadership and entrepreneurship.  When Kavon teaches workshops, he has the kids "splash the page" or simply write down whatever is in their minds for 15 minutes, helping them to understand the self-discipline of writing.

Kavon's proudest achievement is his book Club Noir which showcases his writings from ages 18 to 22 and acts as his "coming of age story," as he puts it. "I realized that poems kind of spilled out of me cuz I started writing about what I wanted to write about... That book is a dream come true." As explained in the book's introduction, Club Noir is Kavon's imaginary utopia; a cafe by day and club by night, located on Doctor M.L.K. Drive that welcomes all people, specifically catering to the black community and is a safe haven in the midst of our complicated world. "Every city civilian from oldies, youngins to passionate visual artists and writers garrulously make the place come to life," writes Kavon in his vibrant introduction.  Dive into his book to feel the essence of Milwaukee and the nostalgia of his youth.

If you want to have a genuine, engaging conversation, reach out to Kavon on Facebook (search Kavon Cortez-Jones) and he will most likely offer to meet you at one of the many coffee shops around the city where he finds his muse.  Listen to Kavon perform two of his poems by clicking the audio links below.  The first is called "Paris of the Midwest," written when he was 18 years old and is featured in his book Club Noir.  The second poem is called "A Love Letter to Milwaukee," written in 2017 at the age of 23.

Urban Guesthouses and B&Bs: A New Way to Experience Milwaukee

I recently wrote an article for the Shepherd Express about Milwaukee's guesthouses and B&Bs, highlighting the uniqueness of these businesses and why people would want to stay at this type of accommodation.  You can read the article here or see it on the Shepherd Express website.

 

The accommodation industry is shifting toward small cozy guesthouses and Milwaukee is picking up on the trend. When most of us imagine a bed and breakfast (B&B), we think of a remote cottage in the countryside, but Milwaukee has urban guesthouses and B&Bs that offer easy access to the city and a comfortable, welcoming place to rest your head at night. With the rise of the “sharing economy” through sites like Airbnb and Couchsurfing, people in the industry are realizing that travelers are looking for a “home away from home.”

Imagine for a moment that you are visiting a new city for a few days, and when you first arrive to your accommodation, you are greeted by a friendly face—the owner of the house. Rather than walking into a generic lobby, you enter what feels like home, with a personalized touch. You sit down in the common room with a warm cup of tea to have genuine conversation with the other guests, and suddenly this city doesn’t feel so strange.

As travelers, we are drawn to these small, unique businesses when looking for accommodations because we want a story. The structure and design of a guesthouse tells the story of its neighborhood, just as much as its owner does. By staying in a family-run guesthouse or B&B, you get the chance to meet the people who run it and see Milwaukee through their eyes. Not only will they reveal the hidden corners of Milwaukee, but they take the time to learn about you and your interests before suggesting the perfect outing. When traveling, the place where you stay should be as much a part of the experience as the rest of the city.

Milwaukee has six small, family-run guesthouses or B&Bs that are all notably unique. From Victorian-style bed and breakfasts to a guesthouse in the midst of flourishing gardens and a cozy gallery space, each place adds a unique accent to the urban neighborhoods of this city.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

 

The Brumder Mansion

www.milwaukeemansion.com

The Brumder Mansion brings a different experience to the Concordia neighborhood. Built on Wisconsin Avenue in 1910 by George Brumder (1839-1910), the building has a theater in the basement and five bedrooms, most of which have a Jacuzzi and fireplace. Nine years ago, Tom and Julie Carr came from California, bought the Brumder Mansion and rebuilt the basement theater. Some guests come for romantic escapes in the bed and breakfast, while others come specifically for the theater.

“This isn’t a bed and breakfast; it’s a Hollywood set,” says Tom Carr. Stay a night during one of the performances, and you will be taken away into another world of fantasy and imaginary characters. The Brumder’s theater puts on four to five shows per year, made possible by production manager Amanda Hull, artistic director Tom Marks and Milwaukee Entertainment Group. Whether you are trying to solve a murder mystery or you are being swept up into the madness of the Hatter in Alice’s Wonderland, you won’t be bored. Don’t miss their upcoming shows including Dancing with Hamlet.

 

Kinn Guesthouse

www.kinnmke.com

Originally from Chicago, Charles and Connie Bailey moved their family to Milwaukee in 2015 when they bought the Cream City brick building on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View. After a year-and-a-half of restoring the building, the couple opened Kinn Guesthouse in March of 2017. The name Kinn comes from Charles’ father and grandfather who ran the Drake hotels in Chicago and passed the trade down to him. The eight-room guesthouse has a chic modern feel with large windows in every room, making the rooms seem twice their actual size. All but one of the rooms and the spacious common area are on the second floor of the building, above the restaurant, Kindred.

Before you get to your room, you will be stopped by the stunning kitchen and living room space that is free for all the guests to use. Along with the deep-cushioned couch, gallery wall and fully outfitted kitchen, the Baileys have a Nespresso machine, bottle of wine and popcorn waiting for their guests. “People care to live in a different way,” says Charles. “They want something that’s more cozy and comfortable and feels more like home than the big hotels.” If you stay at Kinn, you will most likely meet the charming couple and be treated to the Honey Pie pastries that they offer every weekend.

 

Manderley Bed & Breakfast

www.bedandbreakfastmilwaukee.com

For the last 17 years, Marie and Andrew Parker have been running Manderley Bed and Breakfast, making it the oldest running B&B in Milwaukee. Originally from the Milwaukee area, the couple decided to open the bed and breakfast once they discovered the elaborate mansion on Wells Street in the Concordia neighborhood. “Even in its dilapidated condition, it had charm and appeal,” explains Andrew. After seven years of rebuilding the structure and designing the interior with hand-made stencils and hand-painted art, they finally opened their dream business. Because there were no other Milwaukee B&Bs at the time, the couple helped the city write the laws pertaining to bed and breakfasts, making Concordia the official Bed and Breakfast District of Milwaukee.

When you first walk up to the Manderley mansion, you will most likely be greeted by one of the friendly cats waiting for you on the porch. As you pass through the door into the house, you will be taken back in time to a Victorian era filled with old books, ornate wall décor and a warm fireplace. Andrew and Marie will make you feel right at home with friendly conversation over fresh breakfast from their backyard chicken coop and vegetable garden. There is no doubt these two are dedicated to their guests and to Milwaukee.

 

Muse Gallery Guesthouse

www.themuseguesthouse.com

When you choose to stay at the Muse Gallery Guesthouse in the heart of Bay View, you may spend hours sitting and talking with Mary Ellen Hermann and Andrew Meechan—the owners of the place. The novelty of this guesthouse comes from the Milwaukee art hanging on its walls and the dedication the couple has for the local artists. All of the art changes quarterly, thanks to the curating of Renée “Luna” Bebeau. To see the work on display, stop in during one of their gallery events or during the Bay View Gallery Night.

As experienced travelers, Hermann and Meechan see the value in bed and breakfasts because of the well-traveled people they often meet in such places. “When you have breakfast with them, you learn so many things, particularly the next two dozen places you want to go visit,” explains Mary Ellen. The guesthouse is meant to be an experience and a welcoming place for travelers to relax and feel like they are part of the city.

 

Sanger House Gardens

www.sangerhousegardens.com

While walking up the front stairs to the Sanger House Gardens through the lush greenery, you can look over the vast array of plants at the beautiful cityscape of Milwaukee. If you continue on the winding pathways through the arching branches and multitude of colors, you will reach the carriage house in the back of the garden. There is only one bedroom in this urban getaway, but it is a luxury space with two floors, kitchen, laundry machines and double doors that open to the gardens. Steve Bialk and Angela Duckert bought the Brewer’s Hill property in 1985 and have been enhancing the gardens ever since.

About five years ago, they decided to start a wedding and event business in the space. Along with formal events, the couple has also hosted neighborhood garden clubs and participated in Doors Open Milwaukee 2017. After getting repeated requests for a guesthouse, Bialk and Duckert finally renovated the carriage house and opened the guesthouse last April. There is no breakfast included with your stay, but when you arrive, you’ll get a personal tour of the gardens and personal suggestions for your Milwaukee stay. One of the best things about Sanger is that pets are allowed. It’s a place where you get the best of both worlds: close proximity to the city and a hideaway amidst blooming flowers.

 

Schuster Mansion Bed & Breakfast

www.schustermansion.com

In that same Concordia neighborhood, you will find Schuster Mansion Bed and Breakfast, run by Rick and Laura Sue Mosier. They’re known for their Victorian-style high tea and exceptional hospitality. If you want coffee or tea delivered to your room in the morning, a choice of breakfast from their menu that has not changed in 10 years and freshly-ironed sheets every night, then the Schuster Mansion is the place for you. As you wander through the halls of the mansion, you get lost in the relics adorning the walls and the hand-made decorations throughout the house. The attention to detail is unreal, even down to the shower curtain rings covered in fabric so they don’t make a sound.

The moment you meet Rick and Laura Sue Mosier, you already feel like old friends. “It is so fun to meet people and learn about their lives and why they’re here. We’re part of people’s lives,” says Laura Sue. After talking with the couple for what could be hours, they will give you customized suggestions about the city based on your interests and their own secrets spots in Milwaukee.

Moxxy Group

If you need a kick-ass marketing strategy and someone to tell you the truth about your business, then call Katherine Juergens and Alice Stephens of Moxxy Group. Katherine met Alice after working together at Aurora and after deciding to start her own business, Katherine founded Moxxy Group in February 2017. These two complement each other's skill sets perfectly. While Katherine is the creative big picture thinker with grand ideas and ambitious goals for the future, Alice keeps clients grounded by focusing on building long term marketing strategies that best align business objectives and the road map for getting there. "What we can bring together is a really cool combination," says Juergens, "plus we happen to represent two industries that are massively underrepresented by women.” Katherine brings more than 15 years of health care industry experience to the table while Alice is equally as knowledgeable about the financial services industry.

Having worked in corporate companies for most of their careers, the two women offer a different perspective to marketing, which is the opposite of corporate America. Juergens and Stephens know first-hand that corporations spend millions of dollars on research trying to find out who their consumer market is, when "it's really quite simple," states Alice. "It’s just not simple to the people who are cutting the checks in leadership positions for a lot of these corporations. And that is a huge problem. A lot of what we do is bringing that customer voice to the forefront.” Moxxy Group works with senior leadership teams to develop a marketing plan that is actually relevant to the consumers, who in these industries are majority women. When proposing necessary improvements, they don't hold back and explain the reality of the company's product. Katherine attests, "My reputation was the girl in the room who is going to say what everybody is thinking but nobody says." And that was the driving idea that motivated her to start this business.

This dynamic partnership works with an array of companies internationally but many of their clients are also based in Milwaukee. Both women have lived in Milwaukee for over 20 years and in that time, they have seen the increasing development of small entrepreneurs. From their perspective, the Milwaukee entrepreneur is unique because they are more vested in developing an idea versus using it as a financial element. They are seeing all kinds of extraordinary ideas pop up around Milwaukee but these inventors don't know where to start and "that's where we come in and help," says Alice. The Moxxy Group feels they are among these start-ups, looking at things in a fresh new way.

A large motivator for Alice and Katherine is girl power and they want to share that message. "We have both lived and grown up in industries where there just is not enough girl power," says Alice. Applying that experience, they make sure to keep a balance in their marketing strategies to ensure all potential clients are being reached. These two have a passion for Milwaukee and are using their unique point of view and no-nonsense attitude to make big changes in this city.

To connect with Katherine and Alice, visit their website: www.MoxxyGroup.com

Silver Spring Neighborhood Center

As you pull off Silver Spring Drive onto 64th Street, you may not think twice about the large building in the quiet neighborhood but once you walk through those front doors, you are greeted by smiling faces and a vibrant chandelier made by the kids that are part of the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center (SSNC).  The community center is a nonprofit organization that services the people in the neighborhood through programs relating to health & wellness, education, and employment.  At the heart of this organization are the people that work tirelessly to ensure these community members thrive in their city. “Whenever you are doing social service work, it is so critical.  You go through a lot internally. It’s no easy job,” says Devin Hudson, the Development Director at the SSNC.  The work they do at the neighborhood center opens so many doors for the individuals that take part in the programs.

The Silver Spring Neighborhood Center started in 1958 as a settlement house servicing the Westlawn neighborhood.  The center was a resource for new residents to turn to as they started their lives in Milwaukee.  Throughout SSNC's history, their partners have helped shape who they are and who they impact.  So in 1986, the center partnered with the UWM College of Nursing, which allowed them to implement programs like health care services for people that are under-insured, classes to teach teens about choosing healthy foods, collaboration with the Childhood Development Center and the list goes on.  At the core of these programs is the director Jean Bell-Calvin, who has been with the UW-Milwaukee Silver Spring Community Nursing Center since the start.  “It’s a blessing to do the work that we do,” says Jean, “It’s about resources.  It’s about how you advocate for resources in the community and it’s a challenge.”  The lives Jean has touched in the community is hard to put into words, much less fit into a blog post.

Jean Bell-Calvin (left) and Devin Hudson (right)

The next major partnership happened in the early 2000s when SSNC joined with Browning Elementary School, part of Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).  The two started their cooperative because MPS was focused on bringing neighborhood schools back to the city.  A neighborhood of support is what binds these organizations together.

The core of the SSNC's programs have always been youth oriented, but they also have a number of programs for adults such as their GED program and the Transform Milwaukee Program which opens job possibilities for those with a criminal background or a child support order.

For those in the area needing guidance or a way to start over, the Silver Spring Neighborhood Center stands as a center for hope.  The SSNC has quality employees that can work with you to make the program successful.  As soon as you step onto the campus, you are confronted with encouragement and place of comfort away from the challenges of everyday life.  The SSNC's impact on Milwaukee is overwhelming.  Learn more about what they are accomplishing on their website: www.ssnc-milw.org

Kinn Guesthouse

As you walk into the entrance way of the Kinn Guesthouse, you’ll find a beautiful open kitchen that faces a large couch, conveniently placed next to a cozy fireplace.  As you enter, you instantly feel as though you’ve walked into a close friend’s home.  Decorating the wall behind the couch is a broad collection of art displayed in a gallery style.  If you look close enough, you’ll find two black and white portraits of men hidden among the colorful bustle of art.  These men are the grandfather and father of Charles Bailey, the same men that ran The Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago and The Drake in Oakbrook, respectively.  Now that Charles has opened his own guesthouse with his wife Connie Bailey, they thought it fitting to name their business Kinn (adding the extra “n” because the building is on Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View).

Originally from Chicago, Charles was a floor trader for years.  But as the industry changed, he started looking at other career options.  “I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of hotels because I’ve been around them my entire life. I never thought I’d be in the business but it always intrigued me,” says Charles.  The couple lived in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood until they decided it was time to move as their son, Quinn was getting older.  The family moved their life to Milwaukee and soon after that, found a beautiful brick building in Bay View for sale.

“The building presented itself and our dream started to take shape,” Connie explains. “The concept was all Charles, but we did work together to perfect the idea and execution.”  The couple put in a great deal of work to get the building to where it is now.  It started out as a masonic lodge then a series of bars and restaurants that didn’t take care of the space.  Connie and Charles gutted the entire thing and brought the building back to life, while keeping the original flooring (110-year-old maple) and exposing the cream city brick walls.

Charles was always interested in the idea behind Airbnb and foresees the company changing the hotel industry.  “To me, the success of Airbnb means that people care to live in a different way.  They want something that feels more like home than the big hotels,” he says.  Charles found the perfect mix between that homey concept and the luxury feel of hotels: comfy but not too personal.  “Usually you just want to live like you do at home [when traveling],” says Charles. “I didn’t have to prove that concept, I just had to build it.”  The idea was to keep overhead low by making the building totally self-sufficient so that Charles and Connie could focus on enriching the rooms as much as possible.  When you book a room with Kinn Guesthouse, you receive a code for your room that becomes active the day you check in.  When you arrive, your room is ready, there’s community wine in the common room, and if you happen to be there on a Saturday morning, Charles is most likely there to greet you with fresh muffins from Honey Pie (the bakery next door).

Kinn Guesthouse opened in March of this year but it is already very involved with theMilwaukee community.  On all the walls in the guesthouse, you will find artwork from local Milwaukee artists that Connie handpicked herself.  The exception is the gallery wall in the common room, which is part of Charles and Connie’s personal art collection.  Connie plans on swapping the artwork in the rooms to display more local artists. On the Kinn website, you can find links to these artists.  Kinn is also working with the restaurant Kindred, located on the first floor of the building.  “We are starting to create events that bring local vendors in for conceptual dining experiences,” explains Connie.

Kinn makes it easy for travelers to instantly connect with Milwaukee.  Guests can enjoy the luxurious day-lit rooms while feeling like they’re at home with access to a kitchen and a bottle of wine waiting for them on the counter.  And the best part is that Charles and Connie take the time to get to know their guests.  View their website and take a peek into the Kinn Guesthouse.

View the full blog at www.MKEinFocus.com

Milwaukee Talks Green

“The partnership works perfectly because we get to engage the community and broaden our reach by working together.”  That’s Jessy Ortiz, Outpost’s Sustainability Manager talking about how she and Anastasia Kraft created Milwaukee Talks Green. Jessy and Ana started this group this past January because they wanted to inform our community about sustainability.  The group meets roughly once a month to host events with guest speakers, tour local facilities, clean up rivers and more.  “The whole idea of MKE Talks Green is to educate our community so people will know more and can make better decisions in their everyday life,” explains Ana Kraft.

But lets back up a moment because these two ambitious women didn’t even know each other until November 2016.  Ana, originally from Germany, saw things differently than many Americans because she grew up in a country with small cars, renewable energy, extensive waste management and elaborate recycling.  “Instead of complaining, I wanted to meet people. I’m sure there are many people out there that care about the environment and want to learn something,” she says.  Inspired by TED Talks, she decided to make a Meet Up group where speakers could present to the community and everyone could discuss the topic afterwards.

Enter Jessy Ortiz and Outpost Natural Foods.  At about the same time, Jessy and the company were discussing how to better engage the community in sustainability.  The original idea was to start a group only for owners of the Outpost co-op, but when Ana showed up at the Bay View location asking if Outpost would host the Meet Up group, it made more sense to include the whole community.

Ana and Jessy plan out the events with themes based on the time of year or relevant holidays.  For instance, in March their theme was water for World Water Day and they invited speakers from Milwaukee River Keeper, Feed Mouths Filling Minds and water expert Dr. Moe Mukiibi.  In April they focused on local farming, hosting speakers from the Young Farmers Program and Victory Garden Initiative.  In the summer months, they organized outside events like a tour of Milwaukee recycling facilities and of the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.  August’s theme will be sustainable grazing and later in the fall they will be focussing on energy efficiency.

The two women emphasize that the group is meant to inform people of what’s already going on in their community and hopefully inspire them to get involved.  “The idea is think global, act local,” says Jessy.  “This is one way for Outpost to extend their mission: to provide owners a healthy, diverse and sustainable community.”

“Education is the most powerful tool we can use to change the world,” Ana passionately states. “Hopefully we will create a community where people see their impact.”

To join these two inspiring women at their next event, visit their Facebook page and learn more about how Milwaukee is becoming a sustainable city.

View the full blog at www.MKEinFocus.com

Feeding Mouths Filling Minds

We all have those moments when we see a cause that needs attention, and think "I should do something about this," but few of us act on that thought.  That's what makes Maria and Grant Groves stand out.  After a trip to Kenya, they started the non-profit organization Feeding Mouths Filling Minds in 2012.  When Maria was 20, she visited an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya on a service project that opened her eyes to challenges people face across the world.  The widespread poverty she saw stayed in the back of her mind until she finally went back to visit that same orphanage years later with her husband Grant.  This visit was different because the couple started talking about land use, how land use could improve food and water, and what the orphanage could do to optimize land use.  "That's how the organization got started," says Maria.

FMFM focuses on sustainable food and water sources because if these basic needs are fulfilled, children are "able to turn their attention to filling their minds rather than worrying about filling their bellies," as explained on the group's website.  Feeding Mouths Filling Minds has partnered with other organizations to build water wells in Liberia, farm ponds in Kenya, sustainable farming in Sierra Leone and so much more.  With Maria's unique skills in networking and business, the organization is able to acquire funding to implement these projects.  And with the help of their dedicated team, FMFM ensures that the projects continue to be successful by teaching local people in Africa how to carry out the programs.

Feeding Mouths Filling Minds has also started to focus on their local community in addition to their projects in Africa.  They have partnered with Youth Outreach Service in Chicago to build an urban garden for at-risk youth, that will provide local teenagers with healthy food and teach them how to manage their own garden.  FMFM is also in the process of launching a global students program that youth groups, teen centers and/or teachers could incorporate into their activities and lesson plans.  Under that program, kids would pick an African country to learn about and would complete academic components and required readings focusing on that country.  Then the children would choose one of the FMFM projects and would come up with their own ideas to help with funding.  The students would be connected with the children they are helping in Africa via email or mail.  They would "really own it and be empowered through that entire project,” explains Maria.

So when you think to yourself "I should do something about this," follow FMFM's model and take action.  The organization understands that children are our future, both in Africa and at home, and with their basic needs met, they can reach their full potential.  Learn more about the organization on their website at www.feedingmouthsfillingminds.com

Springdale Farm

Located just Southwest of Plymouth and alongside the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forrest, Springdale Farm sits peacefully in a valley.  In the fall of 1987, Peter and Bernadette Seely moved to Wisconsin to start their farm with a business model that was new to the midwest: Community Supported Agriculture.  When their farm first opened in 1988, they had 45 members that subscribed to the farm in order to receive fresh produce every week of the growing season based on which crops were available.  “It seemed like a good idea to build a better economy based on good food,” says Peter Seely.

Raised in a suburb of New York City, Peter didn't know much about farming but when a movement for organic food started in the 70s and early 80s Peter states, "the role of food and health became pretty obvious to me.”  So he apprenticed at an organic vegetable farm in Maine for a summer, which first made him consider farming full time.  A few years later, Peter taught high school math at a school in Iowa where he first met his soon-to be-wife Bernadette.   The school had a garden that was part of a program to teach kids about farming that Bernadette and Peter managed together.  In 1986, the couple spent a season touring farms, and among them were the first CSAs in the country.  After learning how these farms functioned, the couple thought: “Let’s see if that idea could take route here in Wisconsin.”

That idea took off.  For the first 20 years, they had a waiting list for their CSA, which serves Sheboygan, Ozaukee and Milwaukee counties.  Springdale is now one of about 12 farms in Southeast Wisconsin that follow the Community Supported Agriculture model. The farmers are in the process of creating a group called CSA Farms of Southeast Wisconsin, in which they help each other with advice and outreach about CSAs.

"So how does Springdale Farm benefit the Milwaukee community?", I asked Peter Seely.  As a CSA member, Peter explains, people "know they are directly supporting a local farm dedicated to keeping the soil and the environment safe to pass it on to future generations.”   Additionally, people know exactly where their food comes from and can have it delivered the day after it was picked from the field.

Now 29 years later, Peter and Bernadette Seely have 750 CSA members, 13 greenhouses, electric tractors powered by solar panels and a continued mission to provide healthy food and a sustainable future for our environment.  And in case you're wondering, their favorite thing to cook this time of year is pesto.

Learn more about the farm on their website: www.SpringdaleFarmCSA.org

View the full blog at www.MKEinFocus.com

Kathy Papineau and MKE Kitchen

It's hard to capture all of the things that Kathy Papineau does for the community in one blog post.  The best way to describe Kathy Papineau is that she puts her community before herself.  She runs three businesses that all work together: MKE Kitchen, Localicious and Soup in a Jar.  On top of all that, she is a huge advocate for the local food movement in Milwaukee and a role model for composting and eating local.

Kathy first became interested in food at a young age.  She grew up in Manitowoc, WI with 5 siblings, an unhealthy father, and a mother that didn't have much time to cook.  Kathy's childhood fueled her motivation to eat healthy and learn to cook by watching cooking shows on TV and reading magazines like Home & Garden and Good Housekeeping.  Years later as a stay-at-home mom, Papineau started her catering company Localicious around 2007.  She started small in her home kitchen, but the business kept growing until 2012, when she opened MKE Kitchen, her commercial kitchen in Riverwest. Soup in a Jar is her food truck you may see around town that she uses to sell her homemade soup and meet new customers. Naturally, Kathy thought of others before herself. “If I was going to build a kitchen for my business, I thought I should build a kitchen big enough so that other people could build their businesses too," she explained.

But that's not all the kitchen does, not even close.  Kathy teaches cooking classes to kids, and the classes incorporate the importance of composting and the benefits of a local market.  “Schools need to find room in their curriculum to cover stuff like that,” she says.  At the same time, the kitchen acts as a meeting place for local food groups such as volunteers from the Urban Ecology Center advocating for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.  Papineau has created a welcoming place for ideas to spread and for the local food community to grow.

Kathy moves fast and doesn't sit still for very long which means she has a million ideas for the future.  She wants to teach a course about starting your own business to teach people about all the business technicalities they don't consider at first.  Whether she planned it or not, Kathy has become a guide for the new entrepreneurs that rent from her and she's willing to share her experience.  One of those new entrepreneurs, Collin Wallace of Chillwaukee, talked about how helpful Kathy had been to his new business.  “She’s very accommodating and gives us the space we need, and puts us in touch with people and news stations,” he said.

With every new idea, Kathy stays true to her core goal: “I want people to eat healthier. I want them to understand the relationship between their food, their health and the environment. That’s what I want.”

Chillwaukee

On a calm sunny afternoon, I walk through the open door of MKE Kitchen in Riverwest to meet Danielle Dahl and Collin Wallace, owners of Chillwaukee.  I find them chopping rhubarb and juicing buckets of fresh vibrant lemons in the welcoming commercial kitchen that they rent from Kathy Papineau.  This was definitely not what I was expecting when meeting a couple that makes local popsicles.  But what do I know about making popsicles?  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Dahl and Wallace hand-make all of their pops from scratch using fresh ingredients and once the growing season starts, they plan to work with local farmers and use all local produce.  Some of their flavors include Strawberry Rhubarb, Lavender Lemonade, Chocolate Covered Coconut, Arnold Palmer and my personal favorite Bananas Foster.  Trust me, they taste even better than they sound.

Chillwaukee is all leg power.  Once Dahl and Wallace prepare all their popsicles, they load them into their bicycle/freezer and ride their business to the next event.  “That’s what we’re committed to, we can’t flake out. We gotta prove to people that biking is a viable means to getting where you need to go, even if you run a business," declares Danielle.  They mentioned that one of the hardest parts of running their business is when you reach a large hill and have to get the fully-loaded bicycle up that hill.  Sometimes it takes two people to push it over.  But the benefits far outweigh the struggles.

Danielle and Collin officially launched their business in May of this year.  The idea dawned on them when they were walking through a festival last fall looking at the vendors and thought, "we can do that."  The two of them were tired of working inside so they quit their jobs in hopes of spending the summer outside, “hanging out with people and connecting,” says Collin.  Previously a Milwaukee chef, Collin brings a professional food perspective to the business and fixes the bikes, while Danielle's history in photography and graphic design allows her to do outreach and run the website and social media.  Together they create the recipes. Can you say power couple?

Although it's been a steep learning curve, these two have a solid business plan and are already taking on Milwaukee.  They are passionate about the local food movement and dedicated to their sustainable practices. “Keep it really really simple. Keep it local as much as possible. Be good role models for composting. Bike as much as possible. If you want to be in the food scenes, you don’t need to buy a $40,000 food truck and have a generator running all day long…You can keep it small and simple,” explains Collin.  If you want to see where they will be this summer or want to get in touch with them about catering, take a look at their website: www.chillwaukee.com

Jacob Bach & Good Land Guides

Meet Jacob Bach.  He's one of the most outgoing, encouraging, eccentric and caring people I know.  One of his main goals in life is to always make the people around him laugh.  Just a few months ago in February 2017, Jacob incorporated Good Land Guides, "a Wisconsin-based tourism company that focuses on getting people out into the good land," explains Jacob.   Not only does he take people on backpacking and rafting adventures in nature, but he also leads trips into cities or interesting places around Wisconsin in order to show people what Wisconsin really has to offer.  On top of that, he tries to schedule one volunteer day per month like the Devil's Lake clean-up event last month that brought about 300 people to the state park to clean up trash and maintain the trails.

So how did Bach get here?  Yes, he does spend most of his time outdoors, but no, that's not necessarily his professional background.  He actually started as a dancer, actor and then a comedian.  Bach grew up in Milwaukee learning dance and acting, then started doing comedy through the ComedySportz High School League, which he now teaches. In 2010 he started The Improvised Musical, a theater company he ran with co-producer Mary Baird that was a traveling improvised musical which he calls "the gypsy company."  The group would travel around the country headlining improv festivals in New York, performing at universities and other venues.  During the company's five-year run, the company won best theater company in Milwaukee by the Shepherd Express.

Once the company ended in 2015, Jacob began to focus on his solo career.  He started a podcast called "Yeah, Bro!" which Jacob describes as "the show where straight guys talk about gay things.” Little did he know, he would gain thousands of listeners in the first year and get asked to do photo shoots for Milwaukee Magazine and Quest.  “I was getting a reputation for being me… I was notorious for being myself, like having a personality,” says Bach.  He has also been working at ComedySportz for 10 years, making a living from coaching comedy, performing, independent contracting and leading team building work shops for corporate companies.

His life was running smooth until his father had a massive heart attack in 2014 and Jacob was the first responder on the scene.  Luckily his father was fine, but the event changed both Jacob's and his family's perspective.  It "opened my family’s eyes to doing things” and not worrying about money, he mentions.  Skip ahead to 2016: Jacob made it his goal to see every state park in Wisconsin in one year.  “I finished up that tour and completely fell in love… I didn’t know how badly I wanted to share things with people.”

After completing his 2016 goal, Jacob took the NOLS Southwest Outdoor Educator course to become a trained outdoor guide.  Once he got back from that trip, he realized that he wanted to work in the outdoors and show people this “crazy awesome” state. That’s when the idea for Good Land Guides first popped into his head.

So as I sat on the couch with Jacob at the rock climbing gym listening to his story about his life, the creation of Good Land Guides made perfect sense to me.  But I had one final question: What do both comedy and guiding do for the community and why do you do them?

His answer was so profound, that I am going to let him take it from here:

“I think that they are both honestly the same. It’s just an escape for people for a while. Both of them should be bringing you happiness in some way.  I do comedy because I need attention, but I also do comedy because I like to give people attention. Specifically, I do improv because it’s so interactive with people and it’s so collaborative.  I love commanding attention from people but it’s because I like to make sure that people are always laughing about something or at least having a decent conversation about something.  Guiding people is my way of sharing what I love with people. It’s a communal thing. You’re getting people out into places that you have chosen for them.  And you’re showing them why you love it and hopefully they are loving it in return.”

Dr. Moe Mukiibi

How clean is the water we are drinking?  Is bottled water really any better for us than tap water?  How can I be sure that the water I am drinking and using in my home is safe?  If it's not safe, what can I do to fix it?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Moe Mukiibi is asking for us.  As a globally recognized Water Exert and Tech Innovator, Mukiibi has been all over the world trying to solve our water problems and wants to empower the average person by helping them understand what is in their own water.  “We gotta do better, we gotta educate the people,” he proclaims.

Dr. Mukiibi grew up in Uganda walking miles with his mother every day carrying water back to their village.  They did not have many sources of water, so the only option was to walk to the closest source, and bring it back to their home.  When I asked Mukiibi what motivated him to go into the water field, he replied, "I [went] into the water area to find a solution…I was so determined that I was going to help my mother out to find water…I remember that vision very well when I was 5 years old.”

Since then, he received a PhD in Chemical and Environmental Engineering and has worked around the world with various water technology companies. He now resides in Milwaukee working as the Executive Chief Technology Officer with Stonehouse Water Technologies at the Global Water Council.  But for Dr. Mukiibi, that is not enough.  He has 9 patents out for water technologies that he invented, including a machine that can convert air into water.  Don't believe me? Ask him yourself.

As part of his "Wise Up on Your Water" initiative, Mukiibi also wants to start a water co-op in Milwaukee for the average person like you and me because most of us don't really know what is in the water that comes from our tap, bottled water or wells.  Mukiibi points out that he has seen a lot of people looking for solutions but they don’t know how to decide which is right. For instance, people use waters filters at home, but often choose a filter based on advertising, personal bias or simply guessing.  “I want to change that. I want to empower and educate the people. I want to give them the tools.”

If people joined this co-op, he would teach them how to read the water report they receive in the mail every year, teach them how to test their own water and help them find a filtration system that matches their water supply quality and lifestyle.  Dr. Mukiibi's idea is to first educate this group of people.  Then once educated, these people can take this information and educate others, make money off their ideas or simply be safe in their own homes if that is what they desire.

Dr. Moe Mukiibi is a strong believer that knowledge is power.  He explains to me that we need to be informed and "together that is how we are going to make a difference in the world.”

To get in touch with Dr. Mukiibi, visit his LinkedIn or email him at dr.moe.m@fwmtech.com