Paul Sebastian Melendez: Founder of The Brand Smith Co., Graphic Designer

Paul Sebastian Melendez, photographed outside Sydney's Cafe & Market at Tempe Marketplace, whose graphic design he created with The Brand Smith Co., by Nicki Escudero

Paul Sebastian Melendez, photographed outside Sydney’s Café & Market at Tempe Marketplace, whose graphic design he created with The Brand Smith Co., by Nicki Escudero

Paul Sebastian Melendez
www.thebrandsmithco.com

Paul Sebastian Melendez is passionate about working with businesses to help them craft the perfect brand, which he helps them share with the masses through expert graphic design, web development, photography, printing, vehicle wraps and more. As founder of The Brand Smith Co., Melendez works with dozens of enterprises around the country to execute effective brand strategy, forming long-term relationships with those he works with so they always stay at top of mind in their fields. You can see his work at Sydney’s Café & Market at Tempe Marketplace and on dozens of food trucks in the Valley, and his clients include Barrett-JacksonBODI gym in Scottsdale, Superstition Springs Lexus, and Rockford Fosgate.

The 29-year-old Mesa resident shared what drives his entrepreneurial spirit and what he hopes to achieve with his clients. You can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in the small town of North Adams in the beautiful Berkshires of western Massachusetts and moved to Arizona when I was 18, shortly after graduating high school. At the time, I wanted to broaden my horizons and go on an adventure, so I randomly picked a design school in Tempe called Collins College, where I got my Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design. Continue reading

Josh Montag: Drummer for Scattered Melodies, The Wiley Ones and Ruca

Josh Montag, drummer for Scattered Melodies, Ruca and The Wiley Ones, photographed in his home studio, by Nicki Escudero

Josh Montag, drummer for Scattered Melodies, Ruca and The Wiley Ones, photographed in his home studio, by Nicki Escudero

Josh Montag
facebook.com/ScatteredMelodies

Josh Montag is one of the busiest guys in the local music scene, as drummer for bands Scattered Melodies, The Wiley Ones and Ruca. The 27-year-old Mesa resident works as a server at Pita Jungle, but his true passion is music, as is evident by the myriad shows you can catch him playing around the Valley.

Montag and his Scattered Melodies collaborator, Jake Johnston, are currently working on their second album, which will feature more than 30 musicians and different singers and guitarists on every track. Learn more about why Montag loves the drums, and watch him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was 6 years old when my family moved here from California. I was born in San Diego and lived in San Jose before coming here. I went to Mesquite High School and studied film at Scottsdale Community College before studying music business at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Continue reading

Kim Haasarud: Founder of Liquid Architecture, Co-Founder of Arizona Cocktail Week

Kim Haasarud, founder of Liquid Architecture and co-founder of Arizona Cocktail Week, photographed at the Hotel Valley Ho, by Nicki Escudero

Kim Haasarud, founder of Liquid Architecture and co-founder of Arizona Cocktail Week, photographed at the Hotel Valley Ho, by Nicki Escudero

Kim Haasarud
twitter.com/MommyMixologist

Kim Haasarud never planned on making a career out of cocktails, but the Fordham University psychology grad and former entertainment industry pro turned what once was a bartending side job into titles such as cocktail author, Arizona Cocktail Week co-founder, and mixology consultant, as founder of Liquid Architecture. The 42-year-old Mesa resident has worked with big-name brands such as Applebee’s and P.F. Chang’s to perfect their cocktail menus and keep drinkers happy.

Haasarud is working on a new book she hopes to be released next year — all she’ll say is, “A blender might be involved” — and she’ll be at Arizona Cocktail Week February 14 through 21 — get details here. Learn what drives Haasarud’s passion for crafting the perfect drink, and check out a video of her naming her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My husband’s family lives in Phoenix. I lived in New York for 10 years and in L.A. for eight. We got married and had two children, and we wanted to be close to grandparents and a major airport so we could be close to L.A., and we moved here in 2010.

I was born in Nacogdoches, Texas. That’s way, way East Texas, and I was mostly raised in Dallas. I also lived in Kansas City, Kansas, where I went to Blue Valley High School, before attending Fordham University in New York City, where I got my Bachelor of Science in psychology. Continue reading

Ron Hoon: FOX 10 Morning Show Anchor, Community Activist

Ron Hoon, anchor for the Phoenix FOX 10 Morning Show, photographed at the FOX 10 Studios in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Ron Hoon, anchor for the FOX 10 Morning Show, photographed at the FOX 10 Studios in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Ron Hoon
twitter.com/RonHoonFox10

Ron Hoon is one of the most prominent Valley media figures, having been on local airwaves on FOX 10 for the past 31 years. The 56-year-old Mesa resident is currently the morning show anchor, where you can watch him Monday through Friday from 4:30-10 a.m., telling Valley viewers about national and local news trends while interviewing world and local stand-outs — all while keeping his cool under the lights during the live show. Read on for where his passion comes from, and keep scrolling for a video of five of his favorite things about living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

When I was in about 6th grade living in Wenatchee, Washington, the apple capital of the work, my very first job was picking apples. I was listening to a broadcast of the Seattle Supersonics one cold, miserable day up there, and the announcer was talking about what a beautiful day it was in Phoenix, since the Supersonics were playing the (Phoenix) Suns. He was talking about being in shirtsleeves all day and how they went out golfing and how it was so beautiful. That planted the seed.

I was born in Washington, went to high school there, and then went to University of Washington to study broadcasting, journalism and business. I got a job at the ABC station in Spokane anchoring the news, and after a couple years, I decided to see what was out there. My wife and I loaded up our little Toyota station wagon with a bunch of videotapes and no air conditioner and drove around the West. We drove to Denver, L.A. and Phoenix, and we really had a connection with this city and this station. I was about 25 years old when I moved here.

Continue reading

Jef Rawls: Jester’Z Owner, Actor

Jef Rawls, Jester'Z owner and actor, photographed at Jester'Z in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Jef Rawls, Jester’Z owner and actor, photographed at Jester’Z in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Jef Rawls
twitter.com/JesterZImprov

Jef Rawls helped create one of the Valley’s longest-running comedy theaters, Jester’Z in Scottsdale, which he co-owns with his wife, Shurlin Rawls. For more than 12 years, Jester’Z improv has been entertaining audiences in their 135-person theater (which they often sell out), as well as in corporate trainings around the country. Rawls, a 39-year-old Mesa resident who attended Thunderbird High School, also teaches more than 200 students throughout the year in courses such as musical improv and teen classes, as well as directs the Jester’Z troupe, which includes almost 20 members. Read on for how he’s become one of the Valley’s most successful comedy business owners, as well as to hear five reasons why he loves calling Arizona home.

What brought you to Arizona?

My mother’s womb. I’m a Phoenix native, but I’ve lived everywhere from Hawaii and California, to Washington and Utah, to Colorado and Washington, D.C. This is where my heart is and where I call home. I’ve been back in Arizona since ’94. Continue reading