living your purpose

Living Her Passion, Chloe Tran, The Bánh Mì Shop

Chloe Tran

Chloe Tran

While growing up in Saigon, Vietnam, little Chloe Tran was already nurturing her passion for entrepreneurship. After her father purchased a color printer, Chloe began printing colorful posters and stickers of her favorite cartoon characters and selling them to her classmates for a lower price than those sold at local bookstores. Soon, Chloe started following recipes to teach herself to bake. She claims she was sneaky at first, but once her parents discovered she wasn’t trying to destroy the kitchen, they were supportive. While relying on her family’s toaster oven to bake her cakes and pastries, Chloe found inspiration within expensive cookbooks and began documenting and practicing new recipes several times a week. By the time she arrived in middle school, Chloe had graduated to not only selling key chains and stuffed animals from wholesale markets but also her baked goods and homemade crafts. It was then that she realized she had a natural talent for entrepreneurship and started dreaming of owning a business one day.

After moving to Nebraska in 2012 at age seventeen, Chloe decided not to attend culinary school and instead enrolled at the University of Nebraska Omaha where she is currently a senior majoring in Business Entrepreneurship and Management. Although she had planned to work for different food companies to gain experience and save money for her future business, an opportunity came her way while she was just a sophomore in college. After her family decided they wanted to invest in a small restaurant, Chloe stepped in to run the shop specializing in her favorite food and drink: Bánh Mì sandwiches and bubble tea. Today, The Bánh Mì Shop is a bustling business located in Bellevue, Nebraska, that employs around 12 and serves a Vietnamese style sandwich made with a light and crispy Vietnamese baguette, fresh mayonnaise, Vietnamese style hams, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, and cilantro. Chloe says, “When I opened the shop, I wanted to make the food and drinks as authentic as possible while serving them in a modern café-style environment. I think my business has attracted many customers because of its inviting set-up.”

Inside The Bánh Mì Shop

Inside The Bánh Mì Shop

As a first-time business owner, Chloe admits that it was very scary at first. “I felt like I was walking through a foggy forest. It was a constant battle to learn what I needed, what I wanted, and what I could afford.” The most frightening aspect of her experience was watching the money her family invested leave her pocket every day, before the doors to the café ever opened. She says the limited financial support motivated her to make the business a success, especially because she didn’t have a backup plan. “Running a business feels like swimming against the current sometimes, especially during our first year,” she adds. Thankfully sound advice to keep moving forward provided her with encouragement during the challenging initial days as an official entrepreneur.

Chloe loves owning a business and the freedom that comes with it. Although the freedom is heavy with responsibilities and hard work, she says that she enjoys choosing how she wants her business to move forward, how she can contribute to the community, how she wants her employees treated, and what kind of leader she wants to be. Her support group includes staff and her boyfriend, Aaron, who has been her left hand because he handles tasks that she considers her weaknesses that allow her to be her own right hand and focus on her strengths.

Chloe has gained much from pursuing her passion. She has overcome her fears and realized that she is capable of contributing much more to the world than she originally believed. Today at age twenty-four, she describes her life as full. Although she knows there is still much to do and learn, she lives every day knowing that she is on the right track to doing her best and fulfilling her purpose.

When asked about the advice she would give someone ready to pursue their passion in life, Chloe quoted Winnie the Pooh, “I always get where I am going by walking away from where I’ve been.” She adds, “The smallest step toward your goal is still a step forward. If you believe in your dream, you can always pursue it. There is no passion better than the other; they simply benefit the world in different ways.”

Well said, Chloe.

For more about The Bánh Mì Shop, visit www.thebanhmis.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/thebanhmis.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living Her Passion – Candy Zollicoffer

Candy Zollicoffer

Candy Zollicoffer

While growing up in Brewton, Alabama, Candy Zollicoffer first learned to serve others from her grandmother. Grandma Lenestine served in her church, in her community, and often hosted others in need in her home. Candy remembers that her grandmother and other female matriarchs in her family were always ready to take a phone call, pray for others, and share what they had (even if it was their last). “The value of serving others is something I have carried with me throughout my life,” says Candy. “You don’t have to be wealthy to serve without expectations.”

As the oldest of five, Candy’s childhood was challenging. She and her family moved to Omaha, Nebraska, during the summer of her fifteenth birthday. The transition was hard on Candy as she had to adapt from a high school of just a few hundred to two thousand students while experiencing a trauma that summer that temporarily silenced her voice and ability to find joy. Thankfully, Candy eventually found her tribe and graduated from high school. From there, she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a scholarship where she majored in biochemistry. After switching her major and campus location, Candy graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in Nonprofit Administration. Since then, she has continued to develop her skills through different programs offered by UNO and The Nonprofit Association of the Midlands.

After stints at several nonprofits and a church, Candy ultimately landed a role as Development Assistant at Abide, a local nonprofit that has been investing in and revitalizing the neighbors and neighborhoods of North Omaha for over thirty years. Today she works as the Partnership Coordinator tasked with connecting with businesses and churches interested in revitalizing the community. She not only engages employees and church members with service projects, but also raises funds for Abide’s programs and projects.

Candy says the most gratifying thing about her work is the opportunity to connect people with opportunities that positively impact her community. She also enjoys helping people change the narrative they hear or tell themselves about North Omaha. “The most important thing everyone in Omaha needs to know about the inner-city is that it is a rich community filled with incredible leaders who are using their gifts to impact the community and city overall. We are proud of our community and love doing life together!” she adds.

Candy with members of Westwood Church and two Abide Lighthouse Leaders after handing out 50 Valentine’s Day boxes for the Love in the Neighborhood campaign.

Candy with members of Westwood Church and two Abide Lighthouse Leaders after handing out 50 Valentine’s Day boxes for the Love in the Neighborhood campaign.

Today Candy describes her life as purposeful. The best piece of advice she ever received related to pursuing her passion in life was to acknowledge the things that break her heart because it is those things that ultimately empower her to take purposeful action to make life-changing impact every day. Candy says that although she has gained much from pursuing her passion, it is gaining her voice back that makes her most proud. “I am passionate about empowering people to speak their truth, especially women and youth. For so long, I allowed myself to be silenced so that others would be more comfortable. Today I am speaking my truth so that I may bring hope and healing to those who are ready to listen.”

Candy advises those wanting to pursue more gratifying work to talk to people who know you well and are willing to be honest with you. She credits her husband, Wes, her best friend, Jennifer, her father, her supervisor, and the entire team at Abide for affirming her endeavors. “These relationships are rooted in honesty, transparency, and love,” Candy states. “I can share anything with them without fear that the relationship will suffer. They see me, listen to me, and are able to speak life into me. When they share what I cannot see, I feel empowered to make clear decisions that change the trajectory of my life for the better.”

John Bunyan once said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Every day, Candy Zollicoffer makes it her mission to fulfill that quote. Yet in hearing her story, it soon becomes evident that in exuberantly serving her community, Candy’s community has given back to her in so many ways, making her rich in life experiences and joy beyond her wildest dreams.

For more about Abide, its mission, and how you can help, visit https://www.abideomaha.org/.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

Living Her Passion – Allison Borji

Allison Borji has always considered herself a “creative.” Despite a challenging childhood that sadly included the traumatic loss of her father to suicide when she was just five and her own battle with severe depression, Allison always had a pen in hand and, as a self-professed hopeless romantic, loved writing poetry. After graduating magna cum laude from college with a degree in history, marrying her college sweetheart, and moving around the country as a military spouse, Allison began searching for a hobby that would help her become more reliant on herself and her abilities as she stepped outside her comfort zone.

By researching various types of art techniques and materials that appealed to her, Allison discovered she had a knack for combining colors to create beautiful artwork. As she began painting on a regular basis, Allison quickly realized the therapeutic benefits of creating art. The way the paint swirled and the ink spread on the canvas helped take her mind to a quiet place. After thoroughly studying a variety of mediums, Allison finally settled on fluid acrylic, watercolors, and alcohol inks.

When she begins painting, Allison rarely has a vision in mind of what she wants to create. Instead, she chooses a color palette that reflects her mood or the seasons and guides her to start the process creating abstract art. After reminding herself to let go of control, Allison lets her medium do the deciding. “That helps take the stress out of deciding what to paint,” she adds. Once she creates a piece, she lets it sit overnight and comes back to it after a day or two. Allison finds that extremely useful in helping her create art pieces that she loves. After about a week of assessing the piece, she adds varnish to ensure its longevity and vibrancy. Because of a harsh inner-critic she is always attempting to tame, Allison generally places one out of five pieces on her Etsy site to sell.

An Allison Borji original

An Allison Borji original

When Allison decided to open a shop on Etsy, she received heartfelt advice to “just do it.” Additionally, she was encouraged to take things at her own pace. “I knew if I opened a shop, I would feel pressure to consistently create more art. I have to remind myself daily that I am doing this because I love it, not because I have to,” says Allison. When a customer purchases a piece because they are going through the same emotional challenges as Allison, she is thrilled that her art is supporting their healing process. Her challenges have included learning how to photograph her art and size it properly to fit Etsy’s standards. “The way I see colors and the sheen on a canvas can greatly affect the photo,” Allison states. Another challenge she has battled is turning down commission work. “Learning to say no to commissions is essential to maintaining my love for making art. Because my whole philosophy revolves around ‘therapy through art’, the pressure and deadlines that come with commission work takes away the love I have for the art process,” adds Allison.

Supported by her family, friends, co-workers, and most of all, her husband Omar, Allison has come to realize that it is a gift to have found a passion that helps heal her soul, bring her peace of mind, and help others realize they are not alone. Today, she is better at motivating herself to take risks, growing comfortable with her identity, and becoming bolder in her decision making. Although each year comes with its own set of obstacles, she is learning how to breathe through them, finding humor in many situations, and adapting easier to change. “I am comfortable calling myself a different person than I was ten years ago,” Allison says, “Creating art has provided me a haven and coping mechanism that allows me to reduce the stigma of mental illness while providing hope to anyone battling personal challenges.”

Allison advises anyone ready to pursue their passion to just do it and don’t look back. “Stay true to yourself. Go with your instincts. Life is fragile and short. We can often get too caught up in what we need to do. Find your passion and make time for it. Life is hard, embracing your passion will only help make it more enjoyable and fulfilling.”

Henri Matisse once said, “Creativity takes courage.” Every day that Allison Borji steps into her art studio and lets inspiration take control, she is proving to herself—and all her customers—that anything is possible if we just trust in the process and believe we can.

An Allison Borji original

An Allison Borji original

To view and/or purchase Allison’s artwork, visit her shop “Ink & Bear It: Abstract Artworks by Allison Borji” at www.etsy.com/shop/inkandbearit.

Living His Passion – Ben Evers

Ben Evers, Farm Focused

Ben Evers, Farm Focused

When Ben Evers was young, his parents purchased property outside Plattsmouth, Nebraska, with the intent of creating a horse farm. Little did he know at the time that the move would be the single most impactful change in his life. As life on the farm presented him with daily opportunities to perform chores, creatively solve problems, work with his hands, and develop a variety of skills, Ben grew up understanding the value of fulfilling work that instills pride. Additionally, he watched his mother walk away from a corporate job to start her own business. As her company developed and grew, Ben was by her side, helping whenever and however he could. Despite his desire to pursue other interests that included playing sports and riding a dirt bike, Ben never forgot the valuable life lessons he learned during his childhood.

After graduating from the University of Nebraska with a degree in Business Management and marrying his wife, Morgan, Ben pursued a career in retail management that took him from big box stores to a family-owned automotive collision repair shop and finally to a major auto parts supplier where he progressively moved up the ladder to become a district manager who oversaw over 200 employees. In 2015 after deciding that fulfillment was more important to him than chasing the dollar, Ben moved with his wife and their three children back to Nebraska with the intent of starting a business and getting back to his roots. A few months later, Farm Focused was founded near the horse farm where Ben first learned to embrace the country life and the value of hard work.

Driven by his love of working with farmers and a respect for agriculture, Ben started the business based on the idea of bringing efficiencies to local growers through soil additives at planting time that ultimately allow the grower to use less inputs (synthetic fertilizers and fungicides) and increase the health of the soil. Additionally, Ben focused his business on improving efficiencies of the diesel engine, the heartbeat of the farm. As the business grew, Ben added another sector to his brand by creating lifestyle apparel items that he originally created as thank you gifts and marketing collateral. Before long, a demand for his apparel helped him discover that there are surprises in every business. Ben states that he eventually realized that Farm Focused is not just a company that helps farmers, but also a relatable brand that people want to be a part of, no matter where they live or work. Since creating a great logo, Ben has built the line from one t-shirt to 10 separate designs in both unisex and female cuts, seven hat designs, and has even branded socks. Ben adds, “The growth of this side of the business has happened very rapidly. Today we are at a point where we are ready to take it to the next level.”

The farmers that Ben deals directly with on a daily basis all primarily grow corn and soybeans. He states that one of their biggest challenges is the current state of the commodity market. Unfortunately as smaller acre farmers start to fall off and massive yield farmers continue to produce higher yields than ever before, an increase in supply is outrunning the demand. Because of this, there are many progressive growers who are looking for better ways. That is where Farm Focused steps in to help.

A typical day at Farm Focused involves office business as well as time working on a diesel engine, walking fields conducting comparison analyses between treated and untreated soil, or staffing a booth or space at a county fair or other event. The company continues to evolve and change as Ben learns more about the industry and identifies opportunities to bring further products and services under its umbrella.

Ben openly welcomes the personal growth he has experienced over the last few years. “I have seen a different side of life and I am a happier and more content person today. Professionally, I have gained new perspectives that have allowed me to look at things a little differently.” He advises those who want to pursue their passion to build self-confidence first and then decide that you are going to make it, no matter what unexpected obstacles pop up on the path to living a dream.

John D. Rockefeller once said, Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great." Three years ago, Ben Evers did just that when he stepped outside his comfort zone, listened to his heart, walked away from a corporate job, and jumped into building a business that would not only provide him with fulfillment, but also support his family. As he walks the fields and searches for innovative ways to help those who provide the world with food, there is no question that Ben is putting his all into going for the great. Rockefeller would be proud.

For more about Ben and his business, visit http://www.farmfocused.com/.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Living Her Passion – Hannah Olson Nodskov

Hannah Olson Nodskov

Hannah Olson Nodskov

Hannah Olson Nodskov has been passionate about fashion and entrepreneurship ever since she was a little girl who loved sketching outfits, drawing realistic figures, and creating a small flip-flop business with her mother. But it wasn’t until she was a junior in high school that Hannah decided to stop complaining about a lack of trendy clothes that fit her curvy body and taught herself to sew using Pinterest, YouTube, and Google. It wasn’t long before she was designing outfits that caught the attention of other plus-size teenagers and women.

Boosted by encouragement from friends and family, she debuted Hannah Caroline Couture a year later with a self-produced show in her high school auditorium. After twenty-five friends modeled outfits and other friends stepped in to DJ, emcee, and photograph the event, orders for her custom garments began pouring in. As her interest in business and fashion led her to pursue a business degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Hannah began to feel the love from Omaha’s vibrant, helpful startup community. In 2014, Hannah won a business plan competition at her college that she says pushed her out of her comfort zone to create a unique business plan, present it to a large audience, and then manage the subsequent press coverage.

After attending Full Figured Fashion Week in 2015 where she showcased her designs in the same runway show as such mega brands as Lane Bryant, the door opened for Hannah to transform her hobby business into a sustainable business that grew from a few local orders throughout the year to multiple orders per month from women nationwide as well as in other countries.

Hannah on the runway with one of her models at Full Figured Fashion Week, 2018

Hannah on the runway with one of her models at Full Figured Fashion Week, 2018

Although she currently designs for women of all sizes, Hannah especially focuses her designs and ready-made collections for plus-size women using a larger standard production size than the industry uses. She is passionate about serving a niche of women who struggle with shopping for fashionable clothes that fit well, are comfortable, and take into consideration factors like bigger arms, large busts, nonstandard hourglass shapes, and differently proportioned shapes. “I believe my ability to understand these factors is crucial to the success of my business,” Hannah adds. She draws inspiration for her designs from architecture, interesting juxtapositions, and most often, the fabrics and materials themselves. Her business role model is Christian Siriano, one of the most successful winners of the television show, Project Runway and a vocal supporter of and designer for plus-size women.

Since inception, Hannah Caroline Couture has matured into offering what brings her the most joy: designing evening and bridal wear for the plus-size woman. During the day, Hannah works full-time in her dream role as Marketing Manager at a local sports technology startup, ScoreVision. At night and on weekends, she sews orders, plans social media posts, manages business finances, orders materials, and packs and ships orders to her loyal clientele.

Hannah says her favorite part about owning a business is the opportunity to make a difference in her customers’ lives and the opportunities that have opened up to her because of her business that include learning new skills and traveling to exciting places. Her challenges include balancing her perfectionism tendencies with personal relationships, a social life, and a solid self-care routine. Hannah states that the best piece of advice she ever received is to continuously gather feedback and never stop doing so. “Every time I want to expand or pivot my business, I make sure to ask for feedback from my target market(s) before investing time and resources in the idea,” she adds. “Paying customers guide businesses down the paths they’re supposed to follow.”

Being an entrepreneur has allowed Hannah to gain confidence in herself and her purpose. She advises other entrepreneurs to work on finding the balance between passion, ideas, and solving the problems of a target market. Hannah states, “Passion for something is great, but when things get tough, it isn’t always enough. Having a sustainable market is the best way to enable yourself to continue pursuing your passion.”

Renowned fashion photographer Bill Cunningham once said, “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life.” Every time Hannah Olson Nodskov sits in front of her sketch pad or sewing machine, she focuses on bringing light, hope, and love through creative designs that help her customers remember that we are all beautiful, no matter what our size or shape.

For more about Hannah Caroline Couture, visit https://hccdesign.co/.

Living Her Passion - Cheryl Wagner

Cheryl designs jewelry while sitting on the floor where she feels most grounded and creative.

Cheryl designs jewelry while sitting on the floor where she feels most grounded and creative.

Cheryl Wagner has always been a self-starter. At age twelve, she created her first piece of jewelry and was inspired to pursue her passion full-time after witnessing the metaphysical healing powers of stones.

Since 1979, Cheryl and her husband, Roger, have owned two barbeque restaurants (Thee Pitts Again): one in Glendale, Arizona, and a seasonal version in Silverton, Colorado, that they share ownership with their son, Chris, and daughter, Megan. Their journey as successful restaurant owners has led them to appear on The Food Network’s show Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives as well as to be featured in many magazines, books, radio, and on other television shows.

Today, Cheryl is focused on leading a more balanced life. Now that her children are grown, she has cut back on long hours spent at her restaurants and is busily creating jewelry that she says makes not only her happy, but also makes her customers smile. It is obvious she loves what she is doing. “When I am creating my jewelry, the day goes by very quickly,” adds Cheryl. There are no typical days when creating wearable art. Some days Cheryl is filling orders; other days she is working in her shop perfecting Search Engine Optimization, uploading new items, tracking stock, and deciding on best prices.

There are many benefits to owning a small business. Cheryl loves working at home, when she wants and how often she wants. She finds support through a variety of community groups on Facebook and Etsy. Her jewelry creating process is unique and includes reading the stones, blessing the jewelry, and performing Reiki (hands-on healing) on all pieces before shipping them to customers. She says, “All stones have esoteric properties and customers often request a certain type of stone to help them attain healing. For example, rose quartz symbolizes, among other things, unconditional love or self-love.” Cheryl includes the Reiki symbol, Cho Ku Rei, on all her jewelry that works for the highest good of all.

In addition to owning her restaurants and jewelry business, Cheryl stays busy as a hospice volunteer. “I love it!” she states. “I’ve met so many people and learned so much about life and living. Life is very precious.” In the busy life she has created for herself, she wears many other hats that include serving as an ordained minister, analyzing handwriting, and performing angel readings.

By enthusiastically pursuing her passion, Cheryl has gained confidence in herself and found a balance that has allowed her to be creative and help others at the same time. She advises others who want to do the same to just “Go for it! Know that you have to work at it. But if it is really your passion, then it shouldn’t feel like work anyway.”

Henri Matisse once said, “Creativity takes courage,” In her pursuit of a simpler, quieter life, Cheryl Wagner has proven that finding the courage within to bravely blaze her own creative path is the secret to finding true happiness.

To view and/or order Cheryl’s fabulous jewelry, click here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/makemesmilejewelry

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Living His Passion - Robert Lopez

Robert Lopez in front of In front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (Rome).

Robert Lopez in front of In front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (Rome).

Robert Lopez’s dream to become a travel agent first took flight when he was just twelve. While walking to school in Los Angeles, Robert’s path took him around a corner and past the travel agency, Ships N’ Trips. Enthralled with the possibility of traveling to all the places advertised in the agency’s window, Robert eventually met an agent who showed him how to use a computer and told him all about life as a travel agent. Although he also considered a career as a chef, it seemed Robert’s destiny was already laid out for him when he decided to attend travel school and eventually accepted a job in reservations at United Airlines. Even as Robert began what would become a lengthy and successful career in the travel industry, he dreamed of opening his own business.

Robert says it was his father who ultimately inspired him to work for himself, rather than for someone else. The right opportunity finally presented itself twenty years after Robert started his first job at United Airlines. Although Robert was hesitant at first, he decided to take the plunge in memory of his father who always encouraged him to persevere through his challenges.

Today, Robert proudly owns Freedom Travel agency—a place where he connects travelers with unforgettable experiences. A typical day begins at around 6:00 a.m. when Robert checks the weather forecast and news around the country to see if there are any delays ahead for his clients. Then he responds to emails, answers questions through his social media accounts, plans vacations and business trips, and handles all the other aspects of running a busy office such as balancing books, creating email blasts, and networking with potential clients. Before calling it a day, he once again checks news and weather. Robert, who has traveled to nearly twenty-five countries that include Amsterdam, Jamaica, El Salvador, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Hong Kong, relies on his own experiences to counsel his clients on the best places to visit and stay.

When Robert took the leap of faith to start his own business, he received one piece of advice he never forgot: to always be himself. It’s a goal he pledges to achieve daily. Since becoming an entrepreneur, Robert has worked hard to build his clientele, gained insight into all he is capable of accomplishing, brought balance into his life, and discovered his own sense of spirituality.

Robert advises anyone wanting to pursue their passion in life to make it a reality. “If it’s something you love to do and makes you happy inside—like it almost completes you—then don’t ever let the fire burn out. It may not happen early in life, but be sure to keep stoking the fire and seeking fulfillment.” Robert adds that owning a successful business is not just for him, but created and built upon every day in celebration of his father who taught him that all things are possible through hard work and a belief in himself.

All these years after he first walked past a travel agency in Los Angeles as a curious twelve-year-old boy, Robert is living proof that finding our passion in life is not as hard as we think. Sometimes it is just right around the corner. We just have to be intuitive enough to recognize it.

To learn more about Freedom Travel or to book your next travel adventure, visit http://www.freedomtravel.biz/.

 

Living Her Passion – Allie Mulberry

Allie Mulberry with her sisters, Bo and Rachel, as they interview a guest on their radio show, Mulberry Lane.

Allie Mulberry with her sisters, Bo and Rachel, as they interview a guest on their radio show, Mulberry Lane.

Allie Mulberry grew up in a house filled with music, believing that everyone else in the world broke out into song at random moments of the day just as she did. Her mother was a jazz vocalist who supported an artistic upbringing. Her father’s continual message to Allie and her three older sisters as they matured was simple but impactful: “You can do anything in life if you work hard for it.”

While she was in middle school, Allie wrote her first song, “Am I Forever Forgotten?” about a love gone wrong. Soon after, she and her sisters formed the group Mulberry Lane and began singing at coffeehouses, recording their own music, and creating their first album, “Don’t Cry ‘til You Get to the Car.” After the album landed a coveted spot on a national chart, the phone rang at their house one day. On the other end was an executive from MCA Records who asked the sisters to fly out to Los Angeles so he could hear them perform. After a bidding war ensued between MCA, Interscope, Atlantic Records, and Hollywood Records, Allie and her sisters ultimately signed with MCA, moved to Los Angeles to record their debut album, “Run Your Own Race,” and achieved a top 25 Billboard hit with their song, “Harmless.” As a subsequent tour led them through the United States, Europe, and Japan, and to appearances on such television shows as Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, and Regis Live, Allie says that they all learned a great deal. But just as their song, “Just One Breath” landed on a Kevin Costner film soundtrack, MCA folded into Geffen and canceled the release of their next album.

After a great deal of soul searching, Mulberry Lane eventually released two holiday albums and a live album, and filmed a PBS holiday special. After turning down an offer to star in a television reality show, Allie reveals that she and her sisters made a mutual decision in 2012 to put privacy and family first, and pursue the idea of hosting a weekly radio show. Allie discloses, “The more we thought about it, the more it morphed into an idea of what it is now: an interactive show that interviews artists about the creative process.”

Today, Allie and two of her sisters own, craft, produce, edit, and choose their guests for The Mulberry Lane Show. The goal of their show is to inspire people to keep their creative passion alive. Their guests comprise an eclectic mix of artists and creative influencers that, to date, have included Melissa Etheridge, Ann Wilson (Heart), Jewel, Jillian Michaels, Larry the Cable Guy, DMC of Run DMC, Counting Crows, The Beach Boys, Salt-N-Pepa, The Property Brothers, and Kenny Loggins. The Mulberry sisters also highlight local and regional guests from the arts community. Allie says that she is always inspired by messages from listeners who enjoy their deep creative questions that address not just the paint colors, but also the framework and foundation of an artist.

Allie’s support group continues to be her sisters who speak with her daily, her parents who provide words of encouragement whenever needed, and her husband, David, who has always generously supported her creative passions. She is the busy mother of a first grader, Luke, and Clover, a preschooler they adopted from China in 2016. Allie lives her days by the mantra that family and love can, and always will, move mountains.

Allie believes that having a passion and following it has always given her an inner sense of self-worth. She advises anyone who wants to pursue their passion in life to be themselves above anything else. It is truly inspiring wisdom from a woman who so loved music as a little girl that she created a life around it.

To read more about Mulberry Lane or to listen to their show, visit http://www.mulberrylane.com/.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Living Her Passion - Pam Rochholz

Pam captures one of her seniors in a charming moment.

Pam captures one of her seniors in a charming moment.

Pam Rochholz was once a busy high school teacher with a big dilemma: she was not happy in her job. Although she had been carrying a camera with her since middle school—photographing friends, family, and street musicians in downtown Omaha—she majored in secondary education in college, just as her parents had. Fueled by the hope that a stable teaching job would allow her the time one day to be a devoted mother to her future children, Pam placed her passion for capturing beauty with one click of the shutter into the background and focused on educating young people. But during her second year of teaching, Pam soon realized that her heart had not followed her head.

Pam, who is not known as being a risk taker, shocked everyone when, shortly after giving birth to her daughter and buying a new house with her husband, she announced she was going to resign from teaching to open a photography business. She remembers the exact date she made her decision and shares that although she felt nervous about financial insecurities, she confidently told her husband, “You know that when I do something, I put everything I have into it. We’ll be fine.” Her always supportive husband took the leap of faith with her and neither has looked back since.

Today, Pam operates Iris Images, a busy senior photography business that allows her to create her own schedule and manage her life on her own terms. She loves that her schedule changes often. Her days are full and consist of answering emails, making phone calls, placing orders, and managing shoots that last several hours. She edits photos after her daughter and husband go to bed, often staying up into the wee hours of the morning to complete projects.

Pam says she has gained much from pursuing her passion in life. “I’ve gained happiness. I no longer dread going to work every day. I absolutely love what I do and it’s such a great feeling to know I have found my calling in life.” Even better yet, Pam’s purpose and work were recently validated when she learned she was chosen as one of Senior Style Guide’s “Hot 100 Senior Photographers of 2016” as well as one of the “Top 25 Up & Coming Senior Photographers of 2016” by The Twelfth Year.

Her advice for anyone wanting to pursue their passion in life is simple. “Just go for it,” she says. “So many people advised me to teach for at least one more year before taking the plunge, but I just knew I had to do it. There was no way I could grow a business while still working as a teacher.” Pam also adds that she did not jump into her new adventure without first conducting research and meeting others working within the photography industry.

To this day, it is more than evident that Pam has kept her promise to her husband. She greets each day as an enthusiastic solo entrepreneur by continuing to put everything she has into capturing her teenage subjects as they prepare to enter a new and sometimes scary chapter in their lives. Without even realizing it, Pam is demonstrating to all her young clients that it is okay to follow your heart because as she already knows, that road leads to finding your passion in life.

To learn more about Pam and her photography business, visit www.irisimagesomaha.com.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

Living Her Purpose - Dr. Betsy Wickstrom

Dr. Betsy Wickstrom conducts an ultrasound on a patient at Maison de Naissance.

Dr. Betsy Wickstrom conducts an ultrasound on a patient at Maison de Naissance.

Dr. Betsy Wickstrom’s father never knew a stranger. While growing up in a Greek home on the East Coast where everyone was welcome and help was provided to anyone in need, Betsy instinctively embraced a life of service while nurturing a calling to become a physician. After her family moved to the Midwest when Betsy was in high school, she pursued her dream of becoming an OB-GYN and attended college and medical school at the University of Nebraska. Since then, she has not only made it her passion to care for women in high-risk pregnancies in her practice based in Kansas City, but also to teach Haitian women and their health care providers that they too can have healthy pregnancies and babies.

In 2003, Betsy was led to her purpose during her first trip to Port au Prince, Haiti, to teach medical students and residents. As she embarked on a tour of the national hospital, she noticed a ward filled with women suffering from eclampsia—a disorder that is rare in the United States because women are delivered with pre-eclampsia before they endure potentially devastating effects such as seizures, coma, brain damage, blindness, and fetal death. After Betsy noticed the helpless looks on the faces of Haiti’s bright young physicians, she knew she needed to find a way to deliver prenatal care that would prevent such tragedies from occurring again.

With assistance from Dr. Stan Shaffer, Betsy co-founded Maison de Naissance, a birthing center that provides economic opportunities for local women, a community health education service, and runs the busiest family planning program in the entire southern peninsula. Since then, her role has transformed from medical director to providing annual professional development and education, as the 100% Haitian staff now lead the programs at Maison de Naissance. Today, Betsy works from her home in Kansas City as president of the supporting nonprofit organization, Global Birthing Home Foundation, raising money and awareness while nurturing a new dream to plant birthing centers using the same model across Haiti and in other developing countries.

Betsy, the mother of two adult daughters, is clearly devoted to continuing her purpose in life. She jokes that Maison de Naissance is her “third daughter” and says it is wholly gratifying to witness the Haitian staff and community now directing and choosing beneficial programs for patients and families. Betsy follows the advice from Dory in Finding Nemo and just keeps swimming every day. There are days when she is certain the donations will dry up and the latest natural disaster will prompt the end of their work. But then she remembers the moment when she realized that Maison de Naissance was founded under miraculous circumstances. When it was time to find a property for the community birthing center she wished to build, Betsy pulled out a check that was tucked into her passport. It was originally written to support another program near Port au Prince (which the program was unable to cash). The amount on the check happened to be the exact amount needed to pay the back taxes and purchase the property on which Maison de Naissance now resides. “It makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck to think about that moment. It was a clear mandate that this was the work I was meant to do,” Betsy adds.

Betsy has gained much from pursuing her purpose. “It’s impossible to measure the joy I receive when one of our staff sends a photo of a chubby, healthy baby with a beaming mother.” In addition, Betsy has learned patience, faithfulness, to give until it hurts, and then give some more. She offers sound advice for anyone who wants to pursue their passion in life. “Evaluate your strengths. You have been given them for a reason. For me, it was teaching. Who knew I would learn to be a passionate fundraiser? Not me! But if your strengths are leading you in a particular direction and then you feel that tug to take the next step, gather some like-minded people and discuss it. You don’t have to make a blind leap into the dark—research, learn, and talk it out. But when the light bulb comes on and you have that moment where you know this is what you are meant to do, move forward and ‘just keep swimming’.”

Mother Teresa once said, "The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it." Betsy is living proof that relying on faith, love, gratitude, and a passion for helping those in need has led her to realizing a purpose she is more than happy to fulfill because she too believes in miracles.

To learn more about Maison de Naissance and the Global Birthing Foundation, visit their web site at www.globalbirthinghomefoundation.org or find them on Facebook.

Dr. Wickstrom with lab technicians Marthe and Mirlande (in the polo shirts) and Rosena, the director of Maison de Naissance.

Dr. Wickstrom with lab technicians Marthe and Mirlande (in the polo shirts) and Rosena, the director of Maison de Naissance.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.