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.

Darius Smith | Videographer and Photographer

I was born and raised in Flint, MI., and being from a city like Flint I was exposed to a lot of different things early on in my life. I grew up with both of my parents working a lot and at times working two jobs to make ends meet, so I learned early on that hard work and sacrifice is mandatory if you want to make it in this life, and that mindset has helped me start and continue with Syndicate Productions. I was also fortunate enough to grow up with a lot of people from all sorts of different ethnical backgrounds, which helped cultivate my love for people and storytelling. But over everything, the greatest impact that helped me become the man I am today has to be my godmother. She pushed me to dream and to go after anything and everything I want and to give it my all!. Read more>>

Mikel Whelan | Illustrator and Graphic Artist

I was born in AZ and grew up in the Southwest, then moved back here about 25 years ago. My parents always instilled a strong work ethic in me and to do my best at everything. That’s transferred over to the work I do. Do quality work and treat the customer well. Read more>>

Melanie Gaines | Medical Professional, Entrepreneur & Lash Artist

I was born in Angeles City, Philippines (a growing province in the Philippines) to a Filipino mother and African American father. I have been in the United States since the age of 6. I am an only child on my Mother’s side and I do have siblings on my Father’s side. I have slight memories of my early childhood up to age 6, but I do remember having a large family dynamic made up of an abundance of cousins and Aunts and Uncles and a lot of love around me. Being a blended child, times weren’t always “easy” per se. I have memories of ridicule and misunderstanding as I would like to call it. “Judging a book by its cover.” for sure. I definitely learned major lessons growing up in the Philippines, truly a humbling experience. My Daddy (who wasn’t my biological father) was in the Air Force branch of the military and he loved it. He met my mother and they married when I was 1 year old. My biological father was also in the military. Needless to say, I had a family that loved me and was determined to provide a great life for me. Read more>>

Ashley Zettler | Sweatshop on Central | Founder & Yoga Teacher

I am a native of Arizona. I grew up between Tempe & Ahwatukee. My parents always encouraged me to work hard and do my best and have always helped me pursue my interests and dreams. I’m the type that when I am interested in something, I want to learn as much as I can about it. I graduated with a degree in Marketing from Arizona State University in 2002. After graduation I really wanted to experience living in another city and doing something creative, so I moved to San Francisco where I earned my second Bachelor’s in 2006 from the Academy of Art in Interior Architecture and Design. While I was living in the city, I began my yoga practice and have been practicing ever since. On the last day of design school our teacher asked us, ‘so what do you want to do now?’ I answered, ‘I want to own a yoga studio.’ I moved back home after graduation and worked in design for several years. During this time, I continued practicing yoga, worked the desk at my favorite studio, and became a yoga teacher. Read more>>