Where you grew up and your background can often have surprising effects on our lives and careers. We’ve asked folks from the community to tell us about how their background has affected them.

Kris Wrede | Aromatherapist & Natural Perfumer

I grew up in a small town called Neenah, Wisconsin…Behind the cheddar curtain as they say! It was a fairly natural way of growing up, as my Dad grew much of our produce and my Mom canned much of that as well. Most everything else we pretty much got locally. I started working part time at a health food store, and was really way into natural products. I had really bad acne in high school, so I tried some natural skin care products that were super helpful. They had essential oils in them, and at that time I did not know what those were. However, it led me on a path of using natural products in skin and hair care, and eating super healthy. A number of years later I got in a bad car accident and was finally convinced to see an acupuncturist in Chicago. Now I am a big proponent of acupuncture, but back then it took me a minute to be convinced! He actually gave me a book by my now friend, aromatherapist Robert Tisserand. He said the essential oils in the book would help with the pain, and it did. Read more>>

Mandy Bishop | Nature-Based Coach & Guide

I was born in–though those are absolutely a part. I was born the second and youngest daughter to my parents on the lands of the Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho in what is now called Denver, Colorado. I am born out of probably an average lower middle class household in America. Born out of weekend fishing trips, swim meets, dance recitals and football Sunday. Born out of birthday parties and prom and weekend barbecues. I am born out of a culture that recognizes graduations, weddings and retirement parties as our rites of passage. I am the granddaughter of immigrants; a wild stew of Italian, Irish, Scottish, English, Scandinavian, Germanic and Romaní peoples of old Europe. Many of whose bones rest in the region of present day New York. I am also the granddaughter of a Mohican chief whose son changed his name to VanGelder in order to try to fit in with white settlers. Read more>>

Lindsay Sutula | Founder & CEO, Top Fox Marketing

Early in life, I was very serious about playing the saxophone. I thought I was going to be a touring jazz musician. My parents encouraged my practice because the band geeks generally stayed out of trouble a bit more than the soccer players. (My other passion.) Once I started talk about majoring in music in college, my dad got a little less enthusiastic about encouraging me to follow my dream. He thought I would never get a job. The skill I gained through years of playing the saxophone and through hours of practice each day was how to learn. I looked at chord progressions and difficult passages backwards, forwards and inside out. I picked everything apart and would go over it and over it until it was automatic. Today, it’s natural for me to look at challenges from a lot of different angles. To test, to adjust, to slow down and study problems and challenges so you can go fast. Read more>>

Olivia Merrill | Realtor with Team Denver Homes & Fashion Blogger, The Denver Look

I’m originally from a family of 6 in a small town in Maine, known as Gorham. My family played a very huge part in forming the person I am today, as do all of our families! I was taught the value of hard work, family and spirituality and how important these things are in life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the experience I had in my upbringing…. I experienced a lot of love, support and happiness and for that I am forever grateful. I also experienced a great deal of pain and trauma as a young child. The pain impacted me the most and I have learned over the years that I am extremely grateful for that experience as well as it taught me survival skills. It taught me how to protect myself and how to thrive regardless of my environment. It taught me I could chose the outcome of any situation, bad or good. I could use the situation/pain to fuel my drive for success. That is what I have done and still continue to do!. Read more>>

Zach Chapman | Photographer & Preschool Teacher

I am born and raised in Yuma Colorado. Growing up in a smaller farming community gave me the appriciation for the little things in life. My parents are farmers and they taught me respect for others and for the land and animals that i now get inspired to take photos of today. They also raised me as a Christian and I now am a believer and am inspired by all the beautiful things God has created. Being brought up how I was gave me an apprication for everything. Read more>>

Gordon Lyng | Grade Level Chair / Humanities Educator / Athletic Director

I grew up in New Jersey and was raised in a single parent household. My upbringing taught me at a young age to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. Not having that extra parent around, especially a male figure, pushed me in the direction of helping others because I knew how difficult that situation is / can be. My incredible mother raised three boys by herself and for a large part of my life, I considered myself to be the closest thing to a “father figure” for them. I took on a ton of responsibilities that kids should not have to take on and because of that, I believe it has influenced me heavily in the professional world. Due to my childhood and my passion for education, I want to make the largest impact I possibly can. I specialize in working for underserved communities because I know first hand what it is like to live with disadvantages. I have connected with hundreds of young people who have went through or are going through similar situations that I went through growing up. Read more>>

Riley Ellis-Beach | Owner of SkipTown, a Travel Agency Specializing in Surprise & Spanish Teacher

As a young teenager I strongly disliked Tom Petty. The fact that it was his strange voice playing over the car stereo rather than my poppy music drove me crazy… “Come on Dad…” Fast forward a decade, and after hearing the lyrics “you belong among the wildflowers… you belong somewhere you feel free…” on family road trips, something must have stuck. I grew up in Salida, Colorado, a small mountain town on the Western slope. Both of my parents worked hard and saved so that we could take a family road trip at least once a year. I always loved seeing new places, but surprisingly had never been on an airplane until I was 18 years old. When I graduated high school, I took my first airplane trip to Ecuador with a group of students. I quickly learned that my Spanish wasn’t what I thought it was (not even close), and that I was meant for adventure. Shortly after, I moved to Fort Collins to begin my undergraduate degree at Colorado State University. Read more>>

Alexis Hinkley | Travel Nurse, Photographer, Cat mom and Outdoor Enthusiast

I grew up (primarily) in a town on the east side of Seattle, WA called Issaquah. My family also owned a house in Maui until the recession, so I grew up bouncing between the tall, misty mountains of Washington state and the island Oasis we were so fortunate to have access to. The outdoors were naturally a huge part of my life. My parents put me on skis when I was 13 months old and I haven’t missed a ski season since. I also loved the ocean as a child, bringing bags of frozen peas with me into the water in Maui to “befriend” the fish. At 13, I moved to Utah for a little over a year and lived right outside of Zion National Park and became an avid hiker. At 14 I had already done every hike within the park, including having hiked the entire length of the 18 mile canyon that forms the park. I think these things play an obvious and unquestionable role in the formation of my identity today. The outdoors have always, and will always, be where I am most at peace. Read more>>

Audrey Sayles | Mural Artist

I am from Seibert, CO. I grew up with my two sisters on a farm south of town where we helped our parents. Since our dad didn’t have any sons, we were raised bucket feeding calves, cleaning grain bins, driving tractor, and any other job he could find for us. Through all of this, from an early age my parents pushed hard work and how it pays off, that nothing is ever handed to you and that you have to take risks to get what you want. My mom is a teacher and my dad is a farmer. He has worked hard to adapt to the ever changing world and is a leader in the regenerative ag community. This has not been easy as he has been looked down on by neighbors, been the talk of the town until other adopt his practices. It made him an outsider. But he kept course because he had faith and confidence. I have always loved art, but never thought that it could be a part time job, even a career as I wanted to live in a rural area. Read more>>

Mike Olafson | Filmmaker

I think my upbringing and background have a tremendous impact on who I am and even more so why I focus on producing “vintage” styled films. As a child of the 70s, I absorbed WAY too much pop culture- movies, music, TV, skateboards, moto cross, custom vans (yes, they used to be really cool once!) It was just a fun time to be a kid. The odd thing is that my Dad and I were actually going through a very rough time then as my mother was dying from cancer. From about 1975 until she passed in 1978, it was a tough time. But my Dad really held things together for us and through all of that I was still able to “be a kid”. I was about 9-12 during that time and I had some great friends then. I think maybe because my Mom was dying, I tended to really appreciate the good times we had then even more- I didn’t take them for granted. So the fun of the 70s means a lot to me. And somehow that aesthetic crept into my creative persona as an adult. But besides all of that, (and maybe I am biased) the 60s and the 70s were some incredibly exciting times for kids and adults alike. Read more>>

Katerina Stameris | Holistic Health Coach & Yoga Instructor

My mom is the reason I am who I am and do what I do. I’m from a traditional Greek family in the suburbs outside of Boston, Massachusetts. As a little one, I watched my mom struggle with her weight and her relationship with food. I also watched her come home stressed out after work basically every single day. It wasn’t until I was in college that her high expectation, low rest lifestyle caught up to mom and she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily they caught it very early, stage 0, and were able to remove it with minimal complications. These experiences plus a whole slew of stories in between, like my own battle with weight and disordered eating in high school, shaped my mind to one that prioritized things differently. I’ve dedicated myself to helping busy humans in their 20s and 30s break free of unhealthy patterns that hold them back and keep them small in order to rise as their highest selves. My approach is holistic since we humans are dynamic, yet everything is connected. Read more>>

Annabel Reader | Owner & Shoe Instructor

I think my upbringing has influenced me hugely and follows this idea of “a life more lived, a life less ordinary”. I grew up for my formative years in New Zealand, it was a childhood without a TV and a lot of time looking in rock pools at the beach. Both my parents were self employed, Mum running a local art and book gallery and Dad as a civil engineer. We are a close knit family of 7, born in 5 different countries and living in Indonesia for a stint then settling in New Zealand. My parents encouraged us to find out if we could build it, concoct it, experiment, discover and look deeper into how things were made. Before settling in the USA I travelled extensively around the world, mostly by myself. Sometimes just to travel sometimes through work as a professional dancer and stilt performer. My work in the last 10 years has often featured lots of costume work including for Colorado Opera, CSU, Theatre Aspen, and Cirque Du Soleil. Read more>>

Suraya Yahaya | Farm Kid & Fractional COO and Integrator For EOS

I am from Malaysia, and I grew up and lived there until I was 17. My parents were farmers, and so my sister and I grew up and lived on farms throughout the country. We were raised with good old fashioned family values – to work hard, be respectful, treat everyone equally and give back to the community. At 17, I left Malaysia to pursue my law degree in the UK, and then returned home to work briefly in Kuala Lumpur (the big city!) and Sydney, Australia, before moving to the US in 2000. I guess you could say I am at heart a farm girl who learned business, strategy and operations from the best: my farm parents who taught me the values of having a strong work ethic, putting people first and being resilient. I bring that today, along my diverse skills running and scaling businesses globally to the work that I do helping entrepreneurial companies grow and scale. I have worn many hats, even from a young age – and today I apply all those skills of diversity in experience. Read more>>

Jade Sato | Farmer

I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I am yonsei, a 4th generation mixed Japanese American. I was raised in a family business, Sato’s Flowers. A flower nursery that sold direct to customer seasonal plants and offered landscaping services in the summer. During the winter we sold Christmas trees and poinsettias. Growing up the tasks of a unfocused 6-10 year old at the flower shop were to learn to water the greenhouses filled with starts, practice ring up customers at the register, practice potting up mixed flower arrangements, and when I was strong enough try to help unload deliveries of flats of flowers. That environment filled with soil, plants, and family is the happiest place in my mind of my childhood. I learned through observation the strength and knowledge my family had to pass down to me and my cousins about working with the soil but also how to build a family business. Read more>>