There are so many factors that affect how our lives turn out, but one of the most interesting is how our backgrounds give us unique strengths and perspectives that affect who we are as adults. We asked rising stars from the community to tell us about their background and upbringing and how they feel it’s impacted who they are today.

Phannie Haver | Movement Educator, Somatic Facilitator, Movement Artist.

I am from Denver originally which is the reason I’m back living in Denver now. In my opinion, really in my experience, each moment of life, each chapter is a building block for the next. Neurologically speaking this is also true, we build the template of how we perceive in early development and that is our foundation for experience. My upbringing made me very observant, a trait that I believe has been a significant contributor to who I am today. I was exposed to a lot of different experiences and people through my entire family life. Spending time at music festivals, traveling to different countries, being in many different environments made me both independent and respectful of who or where ever I was. Since my early teenage years I’ve been observing myself and my experience and always asking why. This skill is now what I rely on for being both present and continually transforming into who I want to become. Read more>>

Natalie Magee | Yoga Adventure Retreat Leader

I’m originally from Birmingham, Alabama. I grew up in a smaller community where everyone knows everyone’s business. There are many family-owned businesses where I grew up in the suburb of Mountain Brook and also a lot of old money wealth. I had great opportunities for an education, but after college I found it hard to find a job in such a tight-knit community. I never thought owning my own business was attainable and always thought, because I didn’t have an “in” with a newspaper or magazine (my degree was in Journalism) that I needed to escape to a big anonymous city so I could find a decent job. Growing up, seeing so many small businesses and family names on storefronts, definitely inspired me to be the business owner I am today. I realized that I didn’t have to rely on a family name to become successful, all I had to do was think of a problem and solve it for people. Read more>>

Courtney Ozaki | Creative Producer & Cultural Connector

I was born and raised in Colorado as a third and fourth-generation Japanese American, and my background and upbringing constantly provide me with strength, perspective, and resilience as I continue to forge my own entrepreneurial and creative/artistic path. My parents were born and raised in Colorado, and their families both ended-up in Denver following World War II because it was one of the only places to turn to amidst post-war racism. Additionally, it was the only place where my father’s parents knew anybody within the United States, a distant cousin resided in the city who could sponsor him because his identity had been taken away from him when he was brought to the US. What was sacrificed by my family, and how they were able to rebuild in Denver despite being stripped of all of their rights and most of their worldly possessions, has had a significant impact on who I am today. Read more>>

Victor Rivera | Artist, Designer, Builder

I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and raised just North of there in Schuylkill County, a rural coal-mining community tucked away in the Appalachian mountains. People there are very hard working and resourceful, so that has always pushed me to make the most out of any situation. I think this has translated into my art and design because I try to use all reclaimed or salvaged materials when I’m making things. I think there is a lot of beauty in the older things. They have their own stories and uniqueness that can’t truly be duplicated. A lot of the older generation I grew up around worked in the trades, coal-mining, or farming so I’ve always been inspired to work with my hands and be making things. I would always help my step-father, James, work on different cars and machinery so he taught me a lot of basic technical skills and how to really approach engineering and design. My mom, Jackie, was always encouraging my creativity and independence from early on in life. Read more>>

Jaime Ofalt | CreativCat Design Co-Owner // Brand Strategist and Content Creator

I’m from a small town in western Pennsylvania. I grew up close to my family with parents and grandparents who sacrificed and worked harder than anyone I knew to give my sister and me everything they could. Dad talked a lot about wanting his girls to go to college. More than that, he desired for us to chase our dreams because he missed out on some of his own and worked a job that physically wore him out. That job would eventually take his life after a tragic fall. Watching my parents put us first and work night and day to put food on the table instilled within me a drive to work hard myself. But I was also very aware that dreams are essential, and they’re in us for a reason. I wanted to honor my Dad and family by chasing mine. Whenever I get worn out after long days and even longer weeks, I remember my parents and grandparents and the hard road they walked to help get me to where I am now. And then I dig in and get back to work, unwilling to let them down. Read more>>

Allison Burgund | Owner, Fill & Refill

When I was little we ground our peanut butter from just peanuts at the co-op in town, that’s where peanut butter came from. We put it in a glass jar we brought. My father, who worked for the EPA, would bring us endangered species stuffed animals. We had a collection of patches from habitats he had worked to protect. I hand-sewed them on my first backpack we got from the first @rei store in Seattle. We swam (we lived on Bainbridge Island in the PNW) in the freezing Puget Sound wearing @saltwatersandals sandals that are made of leather and rubber to protect us from all the sharp barnacles. Crunchy? Yes, but it was hardly popular back then, it just was good. The baseline to all of that was nature, being in nature, valuing nature, protecting nature. We can’t all have careers saving nature, uh, duh. But we can all do small acts, and repeat often to help. Refilling is one way to feel good and help our town, our nature. I am proud to offer this option, and it feels a little like home to me. Read more>>

Maggie Yesko | Tattoo Shop Manager & Photographer

I’m from Central PA, Lewistown to be exact. It’s a small town outside of other small towns in a very agricultural area. I grew up riding horses and eventually my parents even both a farm to live on when I was in 8th grade. So I spent a good part of my adolescences living and working on a farm. I think that the work ethic that a farm – or any plot of land with animals on it – requires has had a significant impact on me in general, but most importantly how I handle business and my livelihood. I didn’t grow up on a large production farm, it is just a small farmette of 14 acres with a small number of equine and livestock. Although it isn’t a big job, it still took a lot of cold early mornings for feeding and turn outs and just as many hot summer afternoons making hay. It was work that had to be done because the animals and the land required it, you could complain and try to get your way out of it but the animals need to be fed. Read more>>