Through our work we have had the good fortune of seeing firsthand how success comes in every shape, size, color, faith, and orientation. More importantly we’ve learned that success is often the result of people embracing their unique backgrounds and so we’ve asked the community to tell us about their background and how it has impacted where they are today.

Ruby Sandoval | Family & Wedding Photographer

I grew up in a small border town with Mexico, and it wasn’t until I left that I realized I was too Mexican to be American, yet too American to be Mexican. In a way, I felt like I didn’t belong. That maybe I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I have always been independent and having a mother who worked for the love of running her own business made a significant impact. I saw how my friends’ moms would be at home all day catering to them and their husband and again felt out of place. Don’t get me wrong, my mom is the greatest mom and an amazing wife, but seeing how she pursued her dreams was incredible! Sometimes people judge her and criticize her for not doing whatever they think she should be doing, but that never stopped her and still doesn’t. If she has an idea, she elaborates on it. If she has a new dream, she chases it. It is because of her that I am a go-getter, and I’m not afraid to “not fit in.” In a world full of Kims, why not be an Audrey. Read more>>

Brandy Lawson | Founder & CEO of FieryFX

My great-grandparents on both sides of my family were homesteaders in the dryland prairies of Eastern Montana. I come from farmers, innovators and risk-takers. My parents moved to the “big city” of Billings and the year I was born opened a restaurant. My dad used his engineering background to write his own computer programs in the 80’s to track sales and run payroll. And that’s where I started to really see how technology and systems can amplify the capabilities and impact of one person. In 1989 my parents lost the restaurant, our house and my dad had to start over again. He created a plan, went to his friends and family and asked them to invest in purchasing a Dairy Queen. They did, he ran it, grew it, moved it, opened a second one, formed a team and eventually was able to purchase the land and buildings that the businesses ran out of. My parents are now retiring, having been able to groom a team of partners that are purchasing the business. I share that whole story as it really informs who I am and what I believe is possible. Read more>>

Ashley Sheen & Erica Ptak: Owners & Co-Founders of Desert Dweller Co.

Inspired by a deeply rooted love of the desert and a passion for water conservation, Desert Dweller Co. was founded as a tribute to our native state and is fueled by the desire to preserve our landscape and vital natural resources for years to come. As Arizona natives – born and raised in Flagstaff and Phoenix – who value sustainability and conscious living, we share a deep passion for the environmental diversity of our state. We love our home and want our families, friends, and businesses to thrive in the Southwest for years to come. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ As Desert Dwellers, water is one of our most precious resources. By directly supporting the installation of SOURCE sustainable hydropanels in water-stressed communities, we hope to make a significant impact on the future of water in Arizona and beyond. Read more>>

Josh Metzler | Founder, Locavore

I’m a born-and-raised Arizonan — from the time I was born to the moment I left for college at 18, I was a Gilbert boy. My first job was as a cashier for my dad’s concession company at Freestone Ballpark…occasionally we’d work local markets and events, and from there I began to develop an affinity for the AZ business community. Beyond the products at their booths, I knew that behind each business was a family working hard to make it happen, and a community excited to rally behind them. As a high schooler, I spent Saturdays playing my guitar and singing into a microphone at the Gilbert Farmers Market, which led to many a Saturday stroll through the market…every weekend felt like a new adventure to find the newest, coolest AZ business, an energy that permeated through the market. From there, my wonder only grew. It took a 2,000-mile move to New York for me to discover just how formative my AZ upbringing was, and how truly special our local business community is. I couldn’t stay away for long, and moved back home shortly after graduating. The more I reflect on it, the more I discover a common thread that traces my AZ experience: community. Read more>>

Jerrel Singer | Artist

I was born in Tuba City, and reside in Flagstaff, AZ. I’m Diné(Navajo) my upbringing was to care the land and the land will take care of you. My dad was a rancher and took part in Rodeos. He instilled work ethic of hard work and taking. Read more>>

Tonya Gabriel | Esthetician & Makeup Aritst

I am a first generation Chaldean American. Chaldeans are the original Christian people of Iraq (once known as Babylon). My parents immigrated to the states in the 1970s from North Iraq. My mother was eight years old when her family fled Iraq into Lebanon and ultimately made it to the US. My father was in his early 20s, he was forced to leave his whole family behind and flee to Greece until he was accepted into the states. They met in Detroit where they started their journey for a better life together and eventually had me and my four siblings. My parents constantly spoke of their journeys and past hardships as they raised us and the one thing that always stood out to me was how they were never afraid to take a risk. A risk for a better life and future for themselves and future family. Leaving their country and families to journey across the globe to a foreign place where they had to learn a new language, culture and build a better life from scratch. I was born in Detroit in 1987 and raised there until I was 10. Luckily, there was a large community of Chaldeans and I was surrounded by my culture. Read more>>

Hayley Weinman | Real Estate Agent

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i, which I feel has had a huge impact on who I am today as Hawai’i is a huge melting pot. Personally, I’m a mix of Portuguese, Chinese, and English, and had many different cultural traditions growing up. On top of that, being able to grow up with a tremendous amount of influence and understanding of both the rich culture and history of Hawai’i also helped shape many of my characteristics, such as showing aloha, being open minded, hospitable, and so many more. When I was younger, my grandparents would always bring a small gift with them to visit either friends or family, as that was their way of showing their appreciation and aloha. These little moments are just some of what helped inspire and shape me into who I am today. Hawai’i is also a huge vacation/tourist destination, so being exposed to hospitality and the “aloha spirit” at a young age taught me how to exude that in everything I did. I was in the restaurant industry for several years and even received a bachelor’s degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management. Read more>>

Joshua Kennedy | Guitar Player/Singer for The Black Moods

I grew up in a small town called Wheaton Missouri, with a population of around 700. Growing up where I did, most people have respect for each other and are kind to one another. Being surrounded by that, doesn’t prepare you for how harsh it can be in the world, especially in the music business, but makes it easier to meet people, which I’m very grateful for. So, that’s probably good for networking. Read more>>