We asked some of the city’s rising stars to reflect on what made a difference in their journey. We asked them to tell us about what they think the most important factor has been behind their success.

Sydney Elise Russell | Author & Actress

There are three factors that have impacted my success. I know I would not have achieved as much as I have in my 9 years of life without each of these components. Having supportive parents and family is a tremendous blessing. My parents always listen to me and help me bring my ideas to life. My family cheers me on and encourages me to be my best. Since I’m only 9 years old, I need the help of my family as I pursue my creative dreams. Always being myself has been a huge factor in my success. I am inspired by other artists and creatives, but I never try to copy them. Being myself allows me to connect with people and share the real me with the world. Lastly, my determination has been very instrumental. When I have a goal, I don’t give up – even when something seems hard to achieve. I know there’s always a way to “make it happen”, and I just have to find the right path. Read more>>

Russell Willis | Vocals, Guitar & Pedal Steel for Western Bling

We formed Western Bling to pay tribute to and preserve the genre of western swing music. We also play jazz/swing standards and classic country. People today might not be directly familiar with these songs, but it really resonates when we play live. These genres all thrived in dancehalls and clubs in the 1930s through the 1950s. The music is meant for live entertainment and dancing. People are drawn in and it creates a nostalgia of sorts. People often comment on how we sound like a movie soundtrack. It’s fun to introduce people to these classic tunes and to do our part to keep them alive. Our success is unique because it’s not about creating new music or fitting into a current trend. By doing the exact opposite, people find it refreshing and unique. Read more>>

Benjamin Johnston | Founder & Creative Director

We listen to what our clients need and live by the mantra that ‘form follows function.’ I came to design by way of architecture and that journey was quite effective in drilling that mantra into my head! I have a deep and abiding love of the maximalist nature of luxury, texture, and history, but an equal respect for the minimalist notion that everything must have a reason. When we, as a firm, embark on a new project with a client, I invite the home and clients to speak first – do they have a crazy and chaotic home or is the pace slower? What do their daily activities necessitate and what are they looking for in their home? These facets of everyday living inform how we approach design for every client. Read more>>

Mark Dong | Owner & Head Instructor

There isn’t just one factor for me. It is a combination of having a positive attitude, perseverance and being consistent. You do those three and it will take you far. Read more>>

Christine Green | Academic Coach and Test Preparation

The most important factor for my success has been that I love helping people, and I am doing what I love. Every day I can help my students get one step closer to the secondary school, college, or the career they want. With my 27 years of career experience, I am also able to help groom my tutors, mostly graduate college students, for their upcoming careers and furthering their professional development. Read more>>

Larry Barrett | CEO, Musician & Mentor

Persistence, I believe is the most important element in the success of my brand. There was many times I gave up with just as many times as I decided I couldn’t let go. First it was a dream and I played with my ideas. But as time went on things became more serious. Without much finances, I just kept doing little things that I could, and amazing things began to happen. I began to believe again. I learned that although money is important in the fulfillment of your business goals, it is not as important as Persistence. I have lost money serveral times to the point I never thought I would survive but my beliefs and desire to proceed kept me going. As I grew mentally, spiritually and of course financially, I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Along with persistence, I learned discipline. Read more>>

Shannon (nickname “Shan”) Fannin | Realist Vehicle Painter

Realizing that there will be a lot of rejection, and to not take it personally. Creatives often take rejection to heart, and it stings. Not setting my life on hold waiting for a reply has helped. I throw my hat in, and see what happens. Artists usually don’t know why a venue or exhibition didn’t choose our work. We may feel it is our best work to date, but it might not fit with the overall theme that other submissions convey. Not taking that rejection personally keeps us from getting discouraged. I have been a professional artist for 5yrs now, and I have a digital file full of rejection letters. I keep them as a reminder that I don’t give up. Pushing past a No tells ourselves and the world that we are stronger than that. I like to think of it as proving the world wrong about me and what I create. When I do get those acceptances, they are far more sweet because I didn’t give up in the past. Read more>>

Ana Coeur | Creator, Luxury Furniture Designer, Energy Healer & Spiritual Teacher

There are two and they are more personal and spiritual in nature: the first is learning how to work with myself/the universe and the second is healing all the fears and blocks that keep me from having my dreams come true. I used to be ego–centric and after deciding what I wanted to accomplish, I would push myself and force my way there. “Making things happen” and “go big or go home” was my approach, as if who I was and where I was wasn’t okay. I’d try to hardwire outcomes by writing business plans, telling myself what things should be like a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now. When I look back at everything I’d written during those days, I cringe, because while the ambitions were grand, I didn’t take into account two things: my personal fulfillment and also the universe. Read more>>