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.

Mandelynn Moses | Visionary & CEO

My life has been one of grave adversity. I was born into a life riddled with abuse and lack. At a very young age I came to the conclusion that the world is not a safe place. Not only did I believe the world was not a safe place, I had no sense of belonging in the world. Being of a mixed race definitely accentuated this feeling. At the very young age of 14 I got pregnant with my first child, 16 when I had my second. Many pinned my life as being over, that I had no future. However, I am incredibly resilient and competitive by nature, I made sure I was to prove them wrong, although I knew the world was judging my every move. My upbringing and the events in my life have made me strong. But beyond my strength, it has taught me the power behind story, connection, empathy and most importantly not losing the ability to dream. Read more>>

Amy Yellis | Small Business Owner & Designer

I am a Phoenix native. We feature a lot of cactus prints in our clothing line – and I love to represent our gorgeous natural landscapes. I’ve shipped cactus-print clothes all over the world! My bachelors degree is actually in church ministry. I learned to both preach and teach, as well as balance a budget and hire staff. It’s been oddly helpful as a small business owner! And then I went back and got an MBA in 2015 when I was pregnant with my daughter. That education has been invaluable with navigating an international supply chain and some of the more technical sides of business like financials and legal paperwork. Read more>>

Annette Yates | Solopreneur & Former Information Technology Professional

Although I relocated from Richmond, Virginia to Phoenix, AZ twelve years ago, I grew up in a rural area of Virginia as the youngest of five children. While a senior in high school, my dad lost his job which affected my family financially and my sister’s ability to remain in college because my mother did not work. As the fourth and fifth of five she and I were very close therefore, when our family’s financial struggles affected her, they affected me deeply knowing she was struggling. Needless to say, even though I graduated in the top ten in my high school class, there were no college fund available. My dad was never able to secure a new job that paid as much as his former position and knowing that my sister may have to quit college due to family financial issues, upon graduation I relocated to Richmond, Virginia to seek employment so that I could send her money to help her remain in college. Read more>>

Cynthia Eral | Artist & Interior Designer

I grew up on a small Minnesota family farm in a home built in 1928. My world was filled with adventures in the woods, camping by the river, gardening with my grandparents and enjoying the colors and patterns of the changing seasons. My parents presented me with my first oil painting kit when I was nine. I took painting lessons from area artists. I learned patience and new ways of challenging myself with a variety of materials and utilizing the concept that, “It was ok to be yourself. With my Mom being a creative example, I observed her as she managed the updating of our home with modern tastes while maintaining the warmth and charm of it’s original construction. I feel that my upbringing emphasized the importance of looking for inspiration from all kinds of events in our lives. My painting abilities over the years has allowed me to create personal spaces that are a reflection of my clients own identities. Read more>>

Megan Norton | Program Director

My childhood was spent in a small rural town in Northeastern North Carolina. The kind of small town known for its post office and volunteer fire department, where generations of families have lived, and everyone knows their neighbors. My dad’s family was rooted firmly in agriculture; raising hogs, chickens, and cows and farming family lands with corn, soybeans, and peanuts. My mom’s family worked in timber and railroad operations with train tracks running straight through the back of their family property, the same property that my parents and grandparents still live on. I was born to two of the hardest working people that I have ever known, who made sure that their family was taken care of, regardless of the impact it took on their own health. Read more>>

Dakota Scott Schambach | Creative & Future Entrepreneur

I grew up in north Phoenix in a mid-lower class area. I’d say my upbringing has had a really significant impact on who I am today. And the funny thing is I’ve noticed it more as I’ve gotten older. I was raised by a single mom and I am the older sibling out of my sister and I. And I think because of that I am very self-sufficient and extremely independent. I’m not really afraid to figure things out for myself. If something needs to be done, I just do it. I don’t like waiting around for someone else to help me, when I can do it myself. I have a really strong work ethic. I’ve never really gotten things handed to me, which at a young age seemed unfair, but now I am EXTREMELY grateful for it. It taught me to value what I have, work for what I want, and not focus on materialistic things. Read more>>