Chillwaukee

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On a calm sunny afternoon, I walk through the open door of MKE Kitchen in Riverwest to meet Danielle Dahl and Collin Wallace, owners of Chillwaukee.  I find them chopping rhubarb and juicing buckets of fresh vibrant lemons in the welcoming commercial kitchen that they rent from Kathy Papineau.  This was definitely not what I was expecting when meeting a couple that makes local popsicles.  But what do I know about making popsicles?  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Dahl and Wallace hand-make all of their pops from scratch using fresh ingredients and once the growing season starts, they plan to work with local farmers and use all local produce.  Some of their flavors include Strawberry Rhubarb, Lavender Lemonade, Chocolate Covered Coconut, Arnold Palmer and my personal favorite Bananas Foster.  Trust me, they taste even better than they sound.

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Chillwaukee is all leg power.  Once Dahl and Wallace prepare all their popsicles, they load them into their bicycle/freezer and ride their business to the next event.  “That’s what we’re committed to, we can’t flake out. We gotta prove to people that biking is a viable means to getting where you need to go, even if you run a business,” declares Danielle.  They mentioned that one of the hardest parts of running their business is when you reach a large hill and have to get the fully-loaded bicycle up that hill.  Sometimes it takes two people to push it over.  But the benefits far outweigh the struggles.

Danielle and Collin officially launched their business in May of this year.  The idea dawned on them when they were walking through a festival last fall looking at the vendors and thought, “we can do that.”  The two of them were tired of working inside so they quit their jobs in hopes of spending the summer outside, “hanging out with people and connecting,” says Collin.  Previously a Milwaukee chef, Collin brings a professional food perspective to the business and fixes the bikes, while Danielle’s history in photography and graphic design allows her to do outreach and run the website and social media.  Together they create the recipes. Can you say power couple?

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Although it’s been a steep learning curve, these two have a solid business plan and are already taking on Milwaukee.  They are passionate about the local food movement and dedicated to their sustainable practices. “Keep it really really simple. Keep it local as much as possible. Be good role models for composting. Bike as much as possible. If you want to be in the food scenes, you don’t need to buy a $40,000 food truck and have a generator running all day long…You can keep it small and simple,” explains Collin.  If you want to see where they will be this summer or want to get in touch with them about catering, take a look at their website: www.chillwaukee.com

Jacob Bach & Good Land Guides

Meet Jacob Bach.  He’s one of the most outgoing, encouraging, eccentric and caring people I know.  One of his main goals in life is to always make the people around him laugh.  Just a few months ago in February 2017, Jacob incorporated Good Land Guides, “a Wisconsin-based tourism company that focuses on getting people out into the good land,” explains Jacob.   Not only does he take people on backpacking and rafting adventures in nature, but he also leads trips into cities or interesting places around Wisconsin in order to show people what Wisconsin really has to offer.  On top of that, he tries to schedule one volunteer day per month like the Devil’s Lake clean-up event last month that brought about 300 people to the state park to clean up trash and maintain the trails.

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So how did Bach get here?  Yes, he does spend most of his time outdoors, but no, that’s not necessarily his professional background.  He actually started as a dancer, actor and then a comedian.  Bach grew up in Milwaukee learning dance and acting, then started doing comedy through the ComedySportz High School League, which he now teaches. In 2010 he started The Improvised Musical, a theater company he ran with co-producer Mary Baird that was a traveling improvised musical which he calls “the gypsy company.”  The group would travel around the country headlining improv festivals in New York, performing at universities and other venues.  During the company’s five-year run, the company won best theater company in Milwaukee by the Shepard Express.

2017_04_01_DevilsLake_213_1EOnce the company ended in 2015, Jacob began to focus on his solo career.  He started a podcast called “Yeah, Bro!” which Jacob describes as “the show where straight guys talk about gay things.” Little did he know, he would gain thousands of listeners in the first year and get asked to do photo shoots for Milwaukee Magazine and Quest.  “I was getting a reputation for being me… I was notorious for being myself, like having a personality,” says Bach.  He has also been working at ComedySportz for 10 years, making a living from coaching comedy, performing, independent contracting and leading team building work shops for corporate companies.

His life was running smooth until his father had a massive heart attack in 2014 and Jacob was the first responder on the scene.  Luckily his father was fine, but the event changed both Jacob’s and his family’s perspective.  It “opened my family’s eyes to doing things” and not worrying about money, he mentions.  Skip ahead to 2016: Jacob made it his goal to see every state park in Wisconsin in one year.  “I finished up that tour and completely fell in love… I didn’t know how badly I wanted to share things with people.”

After completing his 2016 goal, Jacob took the NOLS Southwest Outdoor Educator course to become a trained outdoor guide.  Once he got back from that trip, he realized that he wanted to work in the outdoors and show people this “crazy awesome” state. That’s when the idea for Good Land Guides first popped into his head.

So as I sat on the couch with Jacob at the rock climbing gym listening to his story about his life, the creation of Good Land Guides made perfect sense to me.  But I had one final question: What do both comedy and guiding do for the community and why do you do them?

2017_04_01_DevilsLake_194_1EHis answer was so profound, that I am going to let him take it from here:

“I think that they are both honestly the same. It’s just an escape for people for a while. Both of them should be bringing you happiness in some way.  I do comedy because I need attention, but I also do comedy because I like to give people attention. Specifically, I do improv because it’s so interactive with people and it’s so collaborative.  I love commanding attention from people but it’s because I like to make sure that people are always laughing about something or at least having a decent conversation about something.  Guiding people is my way of sharing what I love with people. It’s a communal thing. You’re getting people out into places that you have chosen for them.  And you’re showing them why you love it and hopefully they are loving it in return.”

Dr. Moe Mukiibi

How clean is the water we are drinking?  Is bottled water really any better for us than tap water?  How can I be sure that the water I am drinking and using in my home is safe?  If it’s not safe, what can I do to fix it?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Moe Mukiibi is asking for us.  As a globally recognized Water Exert and Tech Innovator, Mukiibi has been all over the world trying to solve our water problems and wants to empower the average person by helping them understand what is in their own water.  “We gotta do better, we gotta educate the people,” he proclaims.

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Dr. Mukiibi grew up in Uganda walking miles with his mother every day carrying water back to their village.  They did not have many sources of water, so the only option was to walk to the closest source, and bring it back to their home.  When I asked Mukiibi what motivated him to go into the water field, he replied, “I [went] into the water area to find a solution…I was so determined that I was going to help my mother out to find water…I remember that vision very well when I was 5 years old.”

Since then, he received a PhD in Chemical and Environmental Engineering and has worked around the world with various water technology companies. He now resides in Milwaukee working as the Executive Chief Technology Officer with Stonehouse Water Technologies at the Global Water Council.  But for Dr. Mukiibi, that is not enough.  He has 9 patents out for water technologies that he invented, including a machine that can convert air into water.  Don’t believe me? Ask him yourself.

As part of his “Wise Up on Your Water” initiative, Mukiibi also wants to start a water co-op in Milwaukee for the average person like you and me because most of us don’t really know what is in the water that comes from our tap, bottled water or wells.  Mukiibi points out that he has seen a lot of people looking for solutions but they don’t know how to decide which is right. For instance, people use waters filters at home, but often choose a filter based on advertising, personal bias or simply guessing.  “I want to change that. I want to empower and educate the people. I want to give them the tools.”

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If people joined this co-op, he would teach them how to read the water report they receive in the mail every year, teach them how to test their own water and help them find a filtration system that matches their water supply quality and lifestyle.  Dr. Mukiibi’s idea is to first educate this group of people.  Then once educated, these people can take this information and educate others, make money off their ideas or simply be safe in their own homes if that is what they desire.

Dr. Moe Mukiibi is a strong believer that knowledge is power.  He explains to me that we need to be informed and “together that is how we are going to make a difference in the world.”

To get in touch with Dr. Mukiibi, visit his LinkedIn or email him at dr.moe.m@fwmtech.com

Flying Squirrel Pilates

Jaime Hayden is an outgoing and engaging pilates instructor that runs a small studio in the Third Ward called Flying Squirrel Pilates. Jaime is a busy woman, teaching a wide variety of classes along with running the business on her own.  She first became certified in pilates 12 years ago while working a surprising mix of other jobs.  Originally from Houston Texas, Jaime moved to Milwaukee to be closer to family.  She started her business seven years ago out of her home with a little support from her dad and it has been growing ever since.  She now has bragging rights for winning the best Milwaukee pilates studio in 2013, 2014 and 2016 according to Milwaukee A List.

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When describing her path of how she got here, Jaime described her love of athletics and history as a softball player and gymnast.  Later in life, she had two knee surgeries and consequently found pilates.  She quickly fell in love with the new sport and pursued the idea as a career.   Pilates was “designed to make your body feel good doing everything else you do,” she explains.  “It is meant to strengthen your core and keep your vertebrae decompressed.”

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Jaime sees pilates not just as a sport, but as a healing practice.  She began telling me about her very first client, Terri, who has taken her classes in every location she’s taught for 7 years now.  The two met at the occupational therapy clinic where Jamie was working at the time. Terri has severe rheumatoid arthritis and used to have a very limited range of motion, but has been taking Jaime’s classes twice a week ever since she started the business. Now Terri “can do planks better than anyone. What it’s done for her rheumatoid arthritis is amazing,” says Jaime with a proud smile on her face.

If you talk to Jaime for more than 30 seconds, you can tell that she is passionate about her business and her clients. “My clients are amazing, they’ve become super good friends,” she mentions and adds that she would much rather be doing this than anything else.  So talk to her yourself or better yet, take a pilates class.

You can view her website at http://fspilates.wixsite.com/flyingsquirrel.

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Voyageur Book Shop

One morning on my day off, I was wandering down Kinnickinnic Avenue just after grabbing a cup of coffee from Stone Creek.   I figured I would check to see if there was anything new on the main street when I stumbled across Voyageur Book Shop, a hidden little book store at the end of the block with an impressive collection.  I thought that surely I must have walked by this place a thousand times, but after walking in and talking to co-owner Blaine Wesselowski, I learned that he and Jeremy Mericle just opened the shop in spring of 2016.

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Blaine and Jeremy met while working at Renaissance Book Shop a few years back.  Once the shop closed, they bought a large collection of the books and art (now hanging on Voyageur’s walls) in order to open their own place.  Blaine, originally from Kansas and Jeremy, originally from Wisconsin are a perfect match for going into business together.  They both have a love for rare books and a knack for finding unique copies.

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So how does one acquire books to fill a small book store?  Well, you have to do your homework.  Blaine explains that it’s about knowing the right type of places like certain estate sales or specific library sales.  “Often you get referrals from people that have a library they want to sell out of” and those can be gold mines.  But there’s more to it than simply finding the books, you also have to know your customer base and carry the books that people will buy.  Popular authors like Edgar Allen Poe always sell out.  “The earlier in life people experience the author, the more broadly known they are,” says Blaine.

You might be wondering what book shop owners Blaine and Jeremy are currently reading so lucky enough, I thought to ask.  Jeremy is deep into  The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God by George Bernard Shaw while Blaine just finished a biography of Lewis Carroll and has now moved onto Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick.   And yes, conversations with these two are as unique as their book choices.  So take a stroll over Voyageur and venture through the boundless collection of stories.

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Three Sisters Farm

Three Sisters Community Farm is a young organic farm run by Kelly Kiefer and Jeff Schreiber. They recently started their farm in 2011 using Kelly’s family land where she grew up and additional land nearby.2016_10_15_csaf_066_2e

The name Three Sisters is unique because it has two meanings: Kelly is one of three sisters and there is a group of three crops that support each other when grown together which native groups called the three sisters. These three crops are corn, beans and squash. The corn grows tall providing a trellis for the beans to climb while the beans create nitrogen rich soil, needed to make plants healthy. And finally the squash grows on a vine which provides ground cover for the soil around the other plants. “We liked the picture of this synergistic combination of plants contributing to the greater benefit of the whole system as a metaphor for how we build relationships with our community of supporters,” mentioned Kelly.

I recently visited their farm in the fall while they had volunteers helping plant garlic and prepping the tomato plants for spring. While having the privilege to speak with Kelly and Jeff, I was able to gain some insight on how much work they do both on and off the farm. Working on the land is not easy and farmers often spend 10 or more hours working on their land every day. But owning a farm also means owning a business. Winter is their opportunity to catch up on calculations for the season, taxes and all of the less glamorous pieces of running a business.

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Kelly and Jeff stay connected to their supporters in multiple ways including volunteer opportunities and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). One of their goals is to build community relationships and create a welcoming sanctuary at their farm so if you are interested in volunteering, I hear they pay in vegetables. For those of you who don’t know, becoming part of their CSA means that you subscribe to the farm for the growing season and Kelly and Jeff deliver fresh produce to a location near you every week. The produce you receive every week depends on what is in season so you get a chance to discover all kinds of new vegetables that you never knew existed. Three Sisters Farm is unique because they actually allow you to pick some of the vegetables that go into your box each week on their website.

So you if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, a CSA to join or just two genuinely welcoming farmers to talk to, look up Jeff and Kelly.

www.threesisterscommunityfarm.com

Mobcraft Brewery

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Mobcraft Brewery brings a new business model to small breweries: crowd sourcing.  Anyone can go on their website to submit an idea or recipe for a beer.  Every month, the top ideas go on to the website and anyone can vote for their favorite by pre-ordering their choice.  The voting closes after a month and the brew master Andrew Gierczak perfects the recipe.  Mobcraft has a new beer featured every month that is chosen by their customers.

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Once the new building opened in Milwaukee last year, I met with the founder Henry Schwartz to photograph the brewery. It is a large beautiful building with top-of-line brewing equipment, but the brewery didn’t start this way. Before Mobcraft was even a business, it started as a few friends home brewing in Madison. They would brew beers based on requests from their friends. They soon realized that this would be a great idea for a business and officially started the company in 2012.

Now that they are located in Walker’s Point, I can’t stay away. I subscribe to their monthly beer subscription and frequent the brewery for their bustling atmosphere and local bands that often play. Check out their website and drink up!  www.MobcraftBeer.com