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

Stacey Grondahl: Owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa

Stacey Grondhal, owner of We Do Men -- A Male Concept Spa, photographed at her spa in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Grondahl, owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa, photographed at her spa in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Stacey Grondahl
www.wedomen.com

Stacey Grondahl is the self-proclaimed “Boss Lady,” as owner of We Do Men — A Male Concept Spa in Old Town Scottsdale since 2012. The 29-year-old Phoenix resident and her staff “manhandle” clients, beautifying and relaxing them through massage, facial and brow services. Guys instantly feel comfortable in the unique spa environment, which features local art and music by classic artists such as Johnny Cash, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Patrons may take advantage of the spa’s Sake Bomb special during September, which features Pumpkin Sake Bomb and Sake Bomb peels for $50 and $70 each, saving clients up to $21 per treatment. In November, the spa celebrates its three-year anniversary with a party November 12, which includes educational aspects about products and specials throughout the spa. In December, catch Grondahl at the Jackalope Art Fair in Phoenix.

Year-round, the spa offers male-centric eco-friendly beauty and relaxation products in its shop. Grondahl shared her beauty philosophies, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

It was a disability that brought me out here in 2011 to go to the National Laser Institute. I came out here to restart my career and grow as a spa professional. In California, you can’t be a laser tech without being a doctor or a nurse, which is interesting because they have no skincare background. I came out here and have never looked back.

I was born in Williston, North Dakota, and I grew up in Bakersfield, California. Continue reading

Scott Neff: Co-Owner of As You Wish Pottery

Scott Neff, co-owner of As You Wish Pottery, photographed at the Tempe Marketplace location in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Scott Neff, co-owner of As You Wish Pottery, photographed at the Tempe Marketplace location in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Scott Neff
www.asyouwishpottery.com

Scott Neff is thrilled to have left the corporate world to have a more personal touch in his business, as he has co-owned As You Wish pottery painting studios with his wife, Lori, for the past eight years. As You Wish has seven locations throughout the Valley, where patrons may choose items such as mugs and vases, paint them, and have them fired and glazed for home use.

Neff, a 50-year-old Chandler resident, is excited for the business to celebrate its 20th anniversary this September, with various specials leading up to the anniversary weekend September 18 to 20, when the studios offer $2 studio fees (usually $6-$8) and gift card raffles. Learn more about the special deals throughout the month on the As You Wish Facebook page here. In August, visitors to As You Wish can get half-off all glass fusing projects, including bowls, vases, nightlights and jewelry that are fired in the studio kilns.

Neff shared his advice for aspiring business owners and why he’s passionate about As You Wish, and 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 here. I grew up in the Arcadia area and was part of the last graduating class of Scottsdale High School in 1983.

Growing up, I was involved with all old-school Valley of the Sun things. When I was a Cub Scout, I went to The Wallace and Ladmo Show and won a Ladmo bag. When I was a teenager, I worked in the ice cream parlor at Legend City, and I sold T-shirts at Compton Terrace. Continue reading

Katie Flanigan: Co-Owner of Juice Core

Katie Flanigan, co-owner of Juice Core, photographed at Juice Core in Old Town Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Katie Flanigan, co-owner of Juice Core, photographed at Juice Core in Old Town Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Katie Flanigan
www.juicecore.com

Katie Flanigan is helping Valley residents achieve their daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables with Juice Core, a cold-pressed juice business she co-owns with her mom, Patty Flanigan, that serves up delicious liquid concoctions, cleanses and raw vegan foods packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. The 25-year-old Phoenix resident’s fondness for fresh juice coincides with her love of yoga and a healthy lifestyle, and Juice Core offers juice both at its Old Town Scottsdale location, where it’s been open for the past two years, and via deliveries. Juice Core juices can also be found at the Scottsdale Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market and Gilbert Farmers Market every Saturday.

Besides her work at Juice Core, Flanigan also models and teaches yoga at Humble Monkey and at companies throughout the Valley. She talked about passion for juicing and how she started her business, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born here. I went to Horizon High School and ASU for two years. Continue reading

Miguel Ivery: DJ Seduce and Founder of Afro:Baile Records

Miguel Ivery, aka DJ Seduce and founder of Afro:Baile Records and Brazilian Day Arizona, photographed at his home in Gilbert, by Nicki Escudero

Miguel Ivery, aka DJ Seduce and founder of Afro:Baile Records and Brazilian Day Arizona Festival, photographed at his home in Gilbert, by Nicki Escudero

Miguel Ivery
www.afrobaile.com

Miguel Ivery is at the forefront of bringing Brazilian music to the masses, as founder of Brazilian music-focused Afro:Baile Records and the annual Brazilian Day Arizona Festival, whose sixth event will happen at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts September 19. He also spins records as DJ Seduce, specializing in world music that gets crowds dancing.

Ivery, a 37-year-old Gilbert resident, talked about what inspired him to start his own label and what he strives for as a DJ. Keep reading to see him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

Actually, I’m a native, one of barely any left or living here in the Valley. I attended high school at Saguaro High School and continued to community college before leaving to pursue music. Continue reading

Audrey Thacker: Founder and President of Artisan Markets

Audrey Thacker, founder and president of Artisan Markets, photographed at the Scottsdale Waterfront, by Nicki Escudero

Audrey Thacker, founder and president of Artisan Markets, photographed at the Scottsdale Waterfront, by Nicki Escudero

Audrey Thacker
www.artisanmarketsaz.com

Audrey Thacker was a jewelry maker who saw a need for an artist market community in the Valley. She founded Artisan Markets in 2009, which has grown to a twice-weekly Scottsdale market featuring items ranging from metal sculptures to glass art for purchase. The markets are every Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Scottsdale Waterfront, complete with live music to listen to as you peruse the artist offerings.

The 37-year-old Phoenix resident talked more about what goes into organizing the Artisan Markets, and you can hear Thacker name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was attracted to the prospect of good weather, opportunity and affordability. I am originally from Connecticut, but moved to Arizona after living in Hawaii, because I wanted a place where I could embark on my career as an artist. Arizona had everything I was looking for. Continue reading

Michael Rumpeltin: Founder of Brick & West Design

Michael Rumpeltin, founder of Brick & West Design, photographed at Postino Annex in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Michael Rumpeltin, founder of Brick & West Design, photographed at Postino Annex in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Michael Rumpeltin
www.brickandwest.com

If you’re a foodie, you’ve probably enjoyed a tasty meal in a project Michael Rumpeltin has designed. As founder of Brick & West Design in 2013, Rumpeltin has helped create welcoming social spaces in the Valley including Postino Annex, Joyride Taco House Central, Taco Guild, Culinary Dropout, The Yard, Dakota, Comoncy, and Little Cleo’s. The 44-year-old Phoenix resident has more than a dozen projects currently in the works, including The Crown on 7th, a 20,000-square foot mixed-use space including three major local restaurants, set to open in September at 7th Street and Palo Verde Drive in Phoenix.

Read on for more of what he’s working on, as well as to learn advice he has for aspiring designers, and to hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I didn’t really have a plan; I was sort of picking it out on a map. I went to school for architecture for a year at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. One day after about a semester-and-a-half there, I got tired of the weather. It was very rainy, and I wanted a place with sunshine.

ASU had a great architecture program, so I got on a plane sight unseen, and moved here. My cousin is an archaeologist here and loves Arizona, and I thought it’d be great. I’ve been here ever since.

I’m originally from Ramsey, New Jersey. Continue reading

Bruce Robert: Co-Owner of MelRuce Salon

Bruce Robert, co-owner of MelRuce makeup and hair salon in Old Town Scottsdale, photographed at his salon, by Nicki Escudero

Bruce Robert, co-owner of MelRuce makeup and hair salon in Old Town Scottsdale, photographed at his salon, by Nicki Escudero

Bruce Robert
Facebook.com/BruceRobertW

Bruce Robert creates magic as a hair stylist and makeup artist for the salon he co-owns in Old Town Scottsdale, MelRuce. Robert not only brings out the best in his clients, he also educates them with home styling tips to keep them looking fabulous. Get to know the 36-year-old Glendale resident, whose services include updos and extensions, as well as special events, better here. Listen to him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was birthed here. I went to Moon Valley High School and took some classes at Glendale Community College, Phoenix College and ASU West in addition to cosmetology school at Artistic in Glendale. Continue reading

Karin Fellman: Founder and Owner of Hot Yoga University

Karin Fellman, founder and owner of Hot Yoga University, photographed at Hot Yoga University in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Karin Fellman, founder and owner of Hot Yoga University, photographed at Hot Yoga University in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Karin Fellman
twitter.com/hotyogau

Every day, Karin Fellman and her Hot Yoga University bring peace, confidence and strength to those who walk through the yoga studio’s doors. The 53-year-old Tempe resident has created a sanctuary for mental, physical and emotional restoration, melding encouraging messages into each challenging workout that increases muscle-building, fat-burning and flexibility. The studio also offers sleep-based meditation, and with 45 classes per week, there’s a yoga offering for anyone, no matter the skill level.

Fellman talked about how yoga has changed her life and why she wanted to open her own studio, and lets readers in on how they should prepare for a class. Hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

My family moved to Arizona in 1961 when I was 6 months old, and I was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts. My dad broke his back in an accident while working at machine shop, and after that couldn’t find work in Massachusetts, so my aunt said, “I hear there’s lots of opportunity for machinists in Arizona. Why don’t you move out there?”

He bought a Rambler station wagon and my mom, dad, brother and two sisters piled in, and we began our journey to the West. I attended Supai Elementary School, Coronado High School and Scottsdale Community College on an athletic scholarship for basketball and softball. Continue reading

Michelina DiSibio: Chef and Owner of Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia

Michelina DiSibio, owner of Michelina's Ristorante Costa Campagnia, photographed at her restaurant in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Michelina DiSibio, owner of Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia, photographed at her restaurant in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Michelina DiSibio
facebook.com/MichelinasRestaurant

Michelina DiSibio runs one of the tastiest Italian restaurants in the Valley, her namesake Michelina’s Ristorante Costa Campagnia. The Italian-born chef, 63, has been cooking since she was a little girl, and now her gorgeous, intimate, fresh flower-filled restaurant is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary this upcoming November.

Learn more about her restaurant by watching KAET 8‘s Check, Please! Arizona this Thursday, February 26 at 7 p.m. Get to know the Phoenix resident, who is in the kitchen every night the restaurant is open, better here. You can watch a video of DiSibio naming her five favorite reasons for loving living here in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I arrived in the United States in1970 and lived in New Jersey for nine years. I was married and had two children. We came to Arizona in 1979 because we had visited and loved it and wanted to get away from the cold and snow. It’s been great.

I was born in Gesualdo, Italy and came to America when I was 18. My sister was married and living in New Jersey at the time. My dad convinced me to come here because he thought I’d have better opportunities here and didn’t want me to go to school in Italy. I worked in a factory in Newark and learned English within a year. Continue reading