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The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative

The editorial team has a special attachment to our new series, The Trailblazers: Rewriting the Narrative, because so many of us feel that media portrayals of women have been too one dimensional. Today, women are doing incredible things in all fields – from science and technology to finance, law, business, athletics and more.  With the Trailblazers series, we hope to highlight and celebrate female role models, encourage more equal and just representation in the media, and help foster a more tight-knit community locally helping women find mentors, business partners, friends and more.

Susan Mayer

It all began when a friend came over for a play date with our young kids. She brought some jewelry-making tools and as soon as I picked them up I felt like I had something to say. I started with about $300 and bought a few tools and some vintage pieces because that’s what I loved about the creative process. I started to wear the pieces, my mom started where the pieces, and people started to ask about them. I had a trunk show in my home a few months later and it was a huge success. The next big step was to try and sell it into a boutique. And from there it started to get photographed. It grew very organically because I was a mom first and the beauty of this business was that I was able to make time for it when I wasn’t busy with the kids Read more>>

Jillian Gum

In all honesty, my story was never headed towards becoming a CPA — it was somewhat of a “happy accident”. After high school, I took a gap year in Nashville to sing and write music. While I loved the experience, I learned it wasn’t something I wanted to build a life around. Flash forward, I went to school at UMKC as a business major and took the required accounting classes… I breezed through them. One of my professors noticed how naturally Accounting came to me and encouraged me to pursue it as my major. A few years later, I graduated with my Bachelors of Science in Accounting, earned my CPA designation, and began work in public tax, serving large corporations and high-net-worth families, and then worked in tax for a private multi-national construction and steel company. Read more>>

Julie Swopes

I started Jules Co. as a hobby. I actually started making leather earrings in the beginning. A lot of my friends and family liked them, so I thought why not start a business page! After several months of posting earrings, it grew, and then I made my first shirt for myself. I posted about that, really not thinking anything of it and it was a hit! I mean who doesn’t love a comfy t-shirt. I felt like it was something I could have fun with and get creative with so I just kept it going. I started getting custom order requests and then wholesale orders, it was crazy! Looking back at the start, I would have never imagined this is where I would be right now. I’m enjoying it, meeting so many other small business owners, and learning so much about how to run a business! Read more>>

Stacie Wimer

After my second divorce at the age of 41, I began online dating. As I shared, my entertaining and often funny dating stories with my married friends, they encouraged me to write a book about my adventures. As I immersed myself, in both dating and the writing process, I began researching podcasts that might offer insights into dating later in life. I was interested in learning from podcasts because a podcast called “Love Over Addiction” changed my life. Read more>>

Ashley Collier

I truly have a love for Bulldog and all dogs, but I love Bulldog the most we all have our favorite breed in our favorite pic and that is mine. So, I decided to get a bulldog his name is Dot boy, he is everything to me he is a lot of fun and very hyper and he owns his own business. I love dressing him up putting outfits on him it’s the cutest thing in the world! I thought every dog needs to be dressed up in the Kansas City area, so I opened up that boy the brand to express my love for that boy and clothing for dogs Read more>>

Isabelle Mullinax

I have always been a creator ever since I was little and once I saw the trend of painting shoes, I saw no harm in at least trying out a business. So, I bought the basic materials and made my first listing on Etsy. It took a while but in about a month or so of multiple new designs and staring up on social media, I got my first order! And they haven’t stopped coming in since! Read more>>

Ann Madden

Hello! I’m Ann, the creator of Ann Madden Marketing. I’ve always known that I wanted to work for myself, especially after growing up with two entrepreneur parents, I knew the corporate world wasn’t for me. However, I also knew that gaining experience and connections through those channels would be key to my growth and success. And let’s face it, as a fresh out of college 20 something-year-old, I needed a steady income. ⁣ Read more>>

Joy Hagerman

My name is Joy Hagerman, and I’m the owner of Goddess Maker Fitness, a women’s gym opening soon in Overland Park Kansas. After having been in the fitness industry for years and always working in other people’s gyms, this year was the first time, I seriously considered what it would look like for me to open my own space. On a Friday night early in March, I met up for some queso and margaritas with a group of girlfriends and it was all we could talk about. We tossed around a multitude of names, but when “Goddess Maker” was suggested, we all knew it was the one (A goddess maker is an exercise complex made up of several exercises all put together – pushup, renegade row, squat thruster, reverse lunge – and it’s an exercise we love to hate).  Read more>>

Shirah Yates

Yes! Well, I’m not sure what first ignited my love for makeup, skincare, and beauty but I remember when YouTube was at the cusps of the “ Influencer Takeover.” I would practice beauty routines and makeup looks. I remember Nikki Tutorial when she was in her bedroom probably around 19-20 was one influencer, I watched regularly. I would go to work and have my female coworkers complimenting me and my makeup and even start filling in eyebrows (with the halo concealer look lol) and applying lashes (with hair glue) at a desk or in the bathroom. Read more>>

Tonya Tomory

Being an entrepreneur and a business owner was never part of the plan. I’ve never even taken a class past Intro to Business and numbers and budgets overwhelm me. Originally, while attending Pittsburg State University and majoring in journalism, my goal out of college was to go to work for a major newspaper or publication as a writer. I liked writing, but I didn’t love it. During my junior year of college, I took my first photojournalism course and fell in love with the camera. Read more>>

Tonya Pesch

After graduation from high school, I found myself lost on what I wanted to do for my career path. I enrolled in my local community college in nursing classes. One day, during my break in the day, I was walking around when I saw a class putting together a window display for a fashion show. I remember how interesting that looked and how I wanted to be a part of it. The next semester, I took a big leap and enrolled in all fashion classes. As a kid, I learned how to sew from my aunt, who gifted me my very first sewing machine. I loved doing sewing projects all through elementary to high school, and how much creativity I had. Read more>>

Delilah Reed

I’ve been an artist for 16 years. Born and raised in Wichita, KS. In 2018, I started my business The Loud Cicada. Muralist, illustrator, and painter focusing on nature, especially insects and flowers. I got my first big artistic break when I started a henna booth through The Workroom’s 2nd Saturday Artisan Markets. I began selling art prints and stickers then while working at the most wonderful coffee shop in all of the land, Espresso to Go Go, I was encouraged to continue to make art and sell it inside the shop. A friend and co-worker, Maggie Gilmore, and I signed up to create our very first mural for Avenue Art Days. After that mural in 2016 everything took off and the mural is of a cicada and that is where the name of my business The Loud Cicada comes from. In 2020, I opened The Loud Cicada Mini Shop inside of Grow Giesen Plant Shop and in November 2021 I’ll be opening The Loud Cicada Studio/Shop at Revolutisia. Read more>>

Dana Mullis

I started my business, Great Plains Promo, in August 2019. I previously managed a screen printing shop in Lawrence, KS for about five years and after having our first child, I decided to start my own business in the town where we live, Baldwin City, KS. I knew I wanted to create custom apparel because I saw the need in this community, but I also wanted to help other entrepreneurs like myself, build and create their dreams. When I first started, my main goal was to dive into the community. I am originally from a very small town 6 miles north of Pittsburg, KS, we had lived in Baldwin City for about 5 years, and I didn’t know many people. I was fortunate enough to discover that my community is chock-full of amazing and creative people. People who care about their city and making it better for everyone in it. Creativity flows in the veins of this town. I knew I wanted to use my wide variety of skills to make valuable contributions to what was already happening here. Read more>>

Tara Stark

Hi, I’m Tara! I have always loved crafting but rarely found the time. That was until 2016 when my two daughters left home to pursue their dreams. I suddenly found more time on my hands than I ever really desired and knew I needed to find an outlet as the face of motherhood was changing quickly with only my son left at home. I began watching videos of soapmaking and the interest was sparked. I ordered a variety of oils, lye, and a soap mold off Amazon and made the easiest recipe I could find. My first batch of soap was a simple Lavender bar made with just three inexpensive oils. I was intrigued and I wanted to know more. I began researching the chemistry of soapmaking. I wanted to create a bar with all of the best qualities, long-lasting, skin nourishing, good lather, and bring on the bubbles! 30+ recipes later, I found the one that would become the staple soap recipe of Great Scot Soapery. Read more>>

Micah Chrisman

My life in the Midwest—specifically in the Kansas City Metro—started like many folks in the region: On a farm. I grew up in Grain Valley, MO, which has since developed into a suburb, but as a child, we were surrounded by small farmlands right off I-70. This land, with its dense woods and rolling fields, became the center point for my fantasy fiction stories. My siblings and I would dress up in our garb and romp through the forest for hours each day, fighting invisible monsters and rescuing our friends from certain evils. Our imaginations ran wild and, as a result, I began writing my first novel “The Legend of the Seer” when I was only 14 years old and self-published it in 2011 at 21 years old. Read more>>

Rachel Budke

I have always been inspired by what happens at the intersection of art and science. While studying bakery science in college, it became clear to me just how much having a creative outlet helped me to thrive. Art classes had been a part of my life ever since elementary school, and my college curriculum was very rigid with very little room for electives. My baking laboratories, which I thought would provide me with the opportunity to explore some creativity, were very structured and didn’t allow me to express myself. My solution – which was one of the best decisions I have ever made – was to study for a semester in Florence, Italy. It took a lot of time, effort, and paperwork to shape my class schedule in a way that would align with my required courses. Read more>>

Jennifer Wolz

Growing up, you never think you are going to be just like your parents. Boy, was I wrong! I went to college, worked for a few years, and then met and married my husband. We always knew I would stay home when we started having kids. He was a KCPD officer with various shift changes that made it more difficult to do a part time job. I baby sat for a few years – and knew I couldn’t keep doing that. I then talked to my parents some and — here is the part of the story where I started to become them. My parents had started an embroidery business in the middle of my college years. I went with them to learn how to run the machines since they were computerized. So while struggling to figure out what work I could do on my own schedule and around my husband’s – my dad suggested bringing up one machine to test and see how it would go. Read more>>

Catina Taylor

Lawyer. Educator. Advocate. Entrepreneur… These are some of the hats that Kansas City native, Catina K. Taylor, wears. Some may think that a Jack of all Trades cannot be a master of any, however, that is not the case with Catina. She moves seamlessly from one to the other often intertwining them together for the most effective impact on clients, students, and community. She often explains that the skills in each of these areas uniquely prepared her to do the work she does today. It is often said that from the time Catina could talk she always said she was going to be a lawyer. Where did that come from? She has no idea as no one in her family or in her neighborhood was an attorney; Her father, an engineer; her mother, a government employee and stay-at-home mom, her parents didn’t ride her or her siblings to be the best or the brightest. They, somewhat quietly, set the expectation that their children were to do their best at all times and failure wasn’t an option. Read more>>

Britta Ekholm

Like most things in life, the story of how I got where I am today is a series of happenstance. I started college as an English major (lol) and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life. I recognized that what I enjoyed most about literature was how the stories we tell can provide a space for connection, healing, and insight into the human condition. I also noticed how the stories we tell ourselves shape our view of ourselves. What if we could re-author our stories to reduce our suffering? Changing the story of “I am unlovable” to “I am enough”. Read more>>

Tiffany Kim

As a mom of two under two at the time of my discovery, there were not a lot of places I could bring my toddler to play without worrying about him running out the front door or touching things that were not for children. It was even stressful going to the park because there were so many blind spots. Finally, I discovered Kinderland Play & Cafe during a trip to Las Vegas. It was the most relaxing day of my motherhood career. There was a gate after check-in, so there would not be any escape artists. Soft play for the toddler, while also providing a cafe for me to sit and care for my three-month-old. Read more>>

Abby Carter

As a young adult, I was obsessed with fitness. I loved going to the gym and taking group fitness classes of every kind. I started teaching group fitness classes when I was 16 at the Shawnee Community Center. As an eager teenager, I continued to expand the repertoire of classes I taught and began personal training when I was 18. Although I loved to exercise, the obsession with body image began to wear on me. I felt like I was doing a disservice to personal training clients by focusing solely on their measurements, size, and physicality. Read more>>

Jennifer Martin

Yoga Brain sprung after studios closed down in 2020. I wanted to continue teaching a live class in a safe way and offered free classes every Saturday in the park. As the community grew over the summer, the idea of a festival was formed: An outdoor event that would include diverse classes and workshops, local vendors, and performers. By the end of September 2020, we gathered over 200 people on a Saturday, to stretch both bodies and minds throughout the 40-acre venue. Read more>>

Miranda Munden and Jen Dulski

Our founder, Jen Dulski, had absolutely no rescue background when she decided to move halfway across the country and establish a senior dog Sanctuary. Her dream began by converting an old horse barn into a warm, home-like space for senior dogs to spend the rest of their days surrounded by love. Eventually, volunteers began to trickle in and then the first adopter – causing Jen to have to relicense as a rescue and not just a Sanctuary. Fast forward a few years, and we are now nearing almost 3,000 animal lives saved! Read more>>

Julianne Hutchcraft

I was born curious and drawn to care for the suffering at a very young age. I was the child that ran to kids that fell off the swing, trying to comfort them and care for their wounds. I believe my story was in me from the very start. My journey in health care began in 1998 as a Registered Nurse, caring for patients who were in the Intensive Care Unit, Cardiac Unit, and Emergency Room. I worked the night shift and often stayed late to have meaningful conversations with patients and their family members. I quickly learned the simple act of listening with presence is often the most therapeutic intervention I could provide in their darkest of days. I found my career choice to be fulfilling and rewarding as I saw the light of hope flicker in so many that suffered. I gave my heart and soul to my work of making the world a better place, one patient at a time. I was living my purpose. Read more>>

Linda Belgiere

I used to work at the Buckle in college and I absolutely loved it. I loved seeing all the new items and helping people feel their best in their clothes. Fast forward eight years, and I now have two babies under two! Stella Loren is 18 months and Viviana Marie is 4 months. Stella was born in the heart of covid so we rarely went anywhere with her. She had all these cute clothes so I would dress her up and take pictures like she was a real-life Barbie Now, I have two girls and I love dressing them up in matching outfits and I love to match them too! I’ve had the idea of starting a boutique for a while and one day I just did it. Read more>>

Annie Lui

I’ve always loved photography, but it wasn’t until when I started working for my university’s newspaper that I started photographing people. From there, it all spiraled uphill (that’s a phrase, right?!). My college studies were completely irrelevant to photography, and I never imagined photography becoming such a huge part of my life. I owe a lot of my success to my friends who were my “guinea pigs” when I first started my business in Texas, and all those who continued supporting me as I established my business as an industry professional. Read more>>

Stephanie Hansen

My pathway looks a bit different than others. It’s not as streamlined as many of my counterparts in the publishing industry. While in school I had to have radiation treatment for a medical illness and that changed my plans. Oddly enough another medical illness which included a close brush with death is what got me back on course. Nothing like waking up in the ICU changed for life can make you carpe diem in quite the same way. My first step was to research through writing conferences. Then, I worked as an editor for Mind’s Eye Literary magazine. After that, I consulted with Hollywood book & film agent Michele Wallerstein and former Trade Book editor for Prentice-Hall, Inc., and former Editor-in-Chief of Writer’s Digest Books, Carol Cartaino. Finally, I became the Owner, Senior Agent, and Subsidiary Rights Manager for Metamorphosis Literary Agency. Read more>>

Jessica Horne

I started writing short stories very young. As a teenager, I mostly enjoyed writing poetry and participating in spoken word contests. I was in graduate school around 2013 when I started writing Tia’s Tingles (my first book) and I didn’t get up the confidence to publish the book until 2017. The idea for Tia’s Tingles came to me during my graduate school years at Northwestern University’s counseling psychology program. While interning, I noticed that there weren’t many books catered to social and emotional wellness for children of color. Thus the book character Tia was born. Read more>>

Cynthia Fails

My journey, much like everyone else’s, has not been a straight path. In 2012, I was working for a non-profit organization, doing work that I love, when a tough reorganization gave me an opportunity to decide whether or not that space was still in alignment with my core values. Once I realized that it was not, I knew the right thing for me to do in that situation was to leave. I had no idea what was next or what the future would hold, but I took the first of many leaps of faith nonetheless. There was a five-month gap between the day I left that position and when I began working at the University of Missouri – Kansas City in early 2013. In that time I picked up quilting, and wrote, illustrated, and eventually published my first book. Read more>>

Kristen Chavez

I started as a hobby photographer in 2014, but at the beginning of 2020, fresh out of my divorce and becoming a single mom to two under two, I decided it was the time to dive in and make this a business if I was ever going to do it. Photography has been a steady source of joy in my life, and I always knew this was something I wanted to cultivate into a career. I loved to capture growing families over the years: new babies, growing toddlers, and funny middle-schoolers. At the beginning of 2020, I co-hosted a women empowerment event with Taylor Paige of The Perfect Touch KC. I did my first boudoir sessions at that event and found a new spark. Empowering women to celebrate themselves lit a fire in my soul. Read more>>

Bree A. Cox

A published and paid journalist since age 14, I served as co-editor of our city newspaper’s weekly youth page section. A poor kid and first-generation college student, I worked hard to get a full ride to Kansas State University, where I interned in the school’s public relations office, editing their faculty-staff newsletter and writing news releases for their colleges of engineering and veterinary medicine. My career includes many journalism and media relations successes, as well as plenty of failures. The positives include publication of pitched news releases in USA Today, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and more. I represented Cessna Aircraft Company and The American Red Cross as media relations manager, specializing in crisis communication. I worked for months at the National Red Cross in Washington, D.C., after September 11, 2001, aiding their communications office. Read more>>

Shā Sparks

After being able to walk away from an abusive relationship, I knew that I had to heal. I asked myself a couple of questions that were pivotal in how my life has shaped since then. Knowing the statistics of domestic abuse survivors is that most go back to their abuser and/or find another person just like them. With that kind of odds stacked against me, I knew that I needed to know what made this person attractive to me in the first place and what made me stay? More importantly, I asked myself, “what is it that I need to know that I don’t know in order to move forward?” To find the answer, I needed to invest in myself to heal in all the modalities necessary it took to heal. I went to counselors, coaches, read books, listened to podcasts, and did lots of research. Most of all, I took action, stepped out of my comfort zone by trying new things, and learned more about myself than I ever have. Read more>>

Roxanne Rankin

I was always into artsy things growing up, drawing any chance I could. I loved everything that allowed me to use my creative side. In high school, I took all the art classes offered, including photography. I loved it but didn’t know how a person could ever make a living taking pictures. I was also a huge Disney fan, so when I learned that Walt Disney went to the Kansas City Art Institute, I was determined to as well. And I did, majoring in Illustration. There is where I was first introduced to Photoshop. I learned to edit and enhance photos and totally fell in love with the possibilities! Unfortunately, at the time, KCAI didn’t offer a degree program in Graphic Design, so I transferred to JCCC until I found a University that did. I received my Associate of Arts Degree from there and then went on to the University of Central Missouri, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Commercial Art. Read more>>

Ariana Ollendick

I started teaching music lessons out of my grandparent’s basement when I was 16 years old. My grandparents were always my biggest supporters and fans in my life. However, music was always seen as a hobby in my family. It was never to be considered for a “real” career. They stressed the importance of always needing a backup plan. In 2016, I moved from St. Louis to California. I maintained a smaller student base online while going to graduate school for Clinical Mental Health Counseling. At some point, being a musician became my backup plan, and becoming a therapist was the path I had chosen for myself. Read more>>

Diana Allen

I served USD 350 with special education services for 13 years. I made a trip to Louisiana to see my son after he was stationed there at Fort Polk. A friend and I decided to get tattoos while visiting there. While I was getting tattooed, I was literally hit with inspiration to tattoo on others. Asking around about how to get an apprenticeship, I was discouraged by just about everyone. I finally ended up with an apprenticeship in Leavenworth Kansas. That is how I became the first female tattoo artist of the first city of Kansas. The rest is history. Read more>>

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