There are so many factors that affect how our lives turn out, but one of the most interesting is how our backgrounds give us unique strengths and perspectives that affect who we are as adults. We asked rising stars from the community to tell us about their background and upbringing and how they feel it’s impacted who they are today.

Leah Koch | Co-Owner

I am from Chicago, Illinois and proud of it! I didn’t realize until I left how into ‘being from Chicago’ people from Chicago are. The number of Chicago flag tattoos on people is evidence of this. I love that pride that people have in the city and I’ve found that has really shaped my love of LA where I live now. LA gets a bad rap sometimes but I love living here and I think growing up with that pride in my city has really helped me love and thrive in LA. Read more>>

Jesse Nelson | Singer-Songwriter, Musician & Storyteller

I grew up mostly in Crofton, Maryland, USA. Crofton is a suburb of the state’s capital, Annapolis, and is pretty smack in the middle of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.. This would be the short answer of where I’m from. The longer answer is that I’m a Navy brat who lived on all three contiguous American coasts by the time I was ten. “DrifterShapeShifter” is absolutely the culmination of all of the quirks & complexities of who I am and where I come from. A mixed-race, first generation, queer middle child born into a conservative, Christian, military family. Every single slice of the pie has influenced who I am today. “DrifterShapeShifter” was created to help my young adult self explore & move through all of the -isms, to figure out who it is that I truly am. It probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise that who I am & the family dynamic/culture that I was born into were always at odds. Read more>>

Kai Kim | Content Creator

Growing up I moved around California quite a bit and that’s really made me into who I am today. There’s nothing scarier than moving from a school where everyone knew you, to one where absolutely no one knew you. As I bounced around schools, making friends became second nature to me. I had to meet new people constantly and be able to express myself. From this experience, I’ve really become a people person, and hearing about people’s lives and day to day struggles is always very interesting to me. It’s interesting that there are people who may have the most interesting life on earth, and I’ll never meet them. That’s why I love talking to people, most people, surprisingly enough, are willing to tell you their life story if you ask and are genuinely interested. Read more>>

Jessica Franz | Photographer

I’m from Germany, so everything they say about it is true: we are very punctual, organized, matriculate and efficient people. Growing up, I didn’t even know how much so – until I grew older and started traveling. Every culture is beautiful though and it’s so enriching to learn from each other. Since I’ve lived in the U.S., it freed me from much of the rigid and overly planned approach to everything. It came with a lot of pressure I wasn’t aware of… The German in me will always be very reliable. Now, I am more relaxed about everything though. It’s amazing. Moving here, triggered a process to decide who I wanted to be in the end. We’re also very fun, easy going and love adventure. Europeans, in general, have a more “work to live” attitude. It’s interesting how this is finally shifting a little here too now because people have more time and can work from home since the pandemic. It’s a wonderful thing to witness. Read more>>

Bonnie Keith | Video Producer & Creative Director

I was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951. My family moved to “the suburbs” of Bayside, Queens when I was in the 1st grade. My father was a tax attorney, my mom was a “homemaker” stay at home mom. I was a bit rebellious and quite a tom-boy when I was a child. I loved sports and disliked playing with dolls. I have an older brother and we got along quite well. He was the quiet one, I was a bit more boisterous. My parents were supportive of any and all of my childhood desires and goals, even when I exclaimed at the age of 10 that I wanted to be a professional actress. They supported me both emotionally and financially. I basically grew up believing in my own power and that I could be and do anything I so desired if I persevered. I was inspired and cheered on by my parents to be proud of greatness and high achievements. Read more>>

Suzanne Lummis | Poet, Writer & Teacher

My earliest–on the edge of consciousness– memories go back to Palermo, Sicily, which I believe gave me my desire for color and sensory impressions, aromas, flavors, Mediterranean sounds. From there, we moved the the Sierra Nevada Mountains, beautiful but isolated for stretches off the year, the off-seasons, which instilled in me a strong desire to be where the action is — wherever that might be, but probably the big city. Read more>>

Jolene Kraus | Creative Director

I’m from a small farming community in Iowa. And yes, I grew up on a farm. I was the youngest child, therefore the creative one. I was raised by parents who let me have my creative side, but whom also set boundaries. Since my parents had their own business, I watched them work hard every day (weekends included) to provide for the family. As kids we also worked for the family business with no pay. That made me a hard-working person in general and also someone who wanted to have my own business. I was able to combine my love for all things creative with being an entrepreneur. Read more>>