Young Professionals Spotlight: Kristen Morrison

There’s a YP event tonight! Spencer Bowl is going to be hoppin’ with youngsters starting at 5:30. You’re more than welcome to join if you’d like a mid-week break. The cost is $6, and that gets you $0.25 games, $2.50 beer & free shoes. There should be another good crowd attending this one, so feel free to head on out.

Back to the Spotlight.. Kristen Morrison, the Store Manager of Maurices in Spencer, had coffee with me a few weeks ago. She’s new to the area and is extremely interested in being involved with a group of young professionals. Well, I have just the thing for her…


Kristen, who started with Maurices 10 years ago, was finally able to relocate in order to be closer to family. Spencer became her new home as of October 2013, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m originally from Ames and lived in Branson, Missouri for 13 years; I grew up in small farm community and have always loved the culture here in Iowa. I’ve traveled all over for Maurices and finally decided that being close to home was important, so I applied for the job here in Spencer and moved this way.”


Kristen was 20 when she got hired by Maurices, and was expected to fulfill a temporary position until the holidays were over. Shortly thereafter, she was asked to stay on full-time as an assistant manager. Since then, Kristen has been promoted from within the company and has relocated all over the country.

“Most recently, I was a district manager in St. Louis. I covered territory that included Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Texas and Louisiana. I was traveling all the time and focusing mostly on new store openings. Now I’m 30 and am ready to stay in one place for awhile. When I heard about the position in Spencer, I couldn’t apply fast enough.”

kristen maurices

Spencer wasn’t a hard sell, Kristen shared with me. Her family was excited for her to move to northwest Iowa.

“My family raved about Spencer. They said over and over how they would love to live here if they were to ever move. That really confirmed my desire to move back to Iowa.”

After spending a lot of time in Branson and then in St. Louis, Kristen was ready for a little less hustle and bustle. The atmosphere in the Corridor region is much different than that of large cities.

“It would take me an hour to get from one side of the city to the other in St. Louis – no thank you. I’ve always heard wonderful things about Spencer, from the community outreach to the friendly people that live here.”

kristen at work

Kristen explained that she immediately fell in love with the company after a few short months. The culture of Maurices is something she takes pride in and is happy to be a part of.

“We definitely have a unique family feel. I am doing the complete opposite of what I have my degree in; I’m a certified Nutritional Counselor. Strange thing is, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not many people can say that.”

So far, Kristen has only lived in Spencer for six months. She has high hopes of getting out and about this summer season.

“I’m really looking forward to the lakes this summer because I’ve heard so much about them. I also really enjoy winter sports, but didn’t know many people to partake in them with. Hopefully that will change here soon.”

kristen outside

I asked Kristen what her favorite thing so far was. Her answer shouldn’t surprise you.

“The people and sense of community here is insane. I was telling my family just the other day that I feel more connected to Spencer already than I ever did in Branson. Granted, it’s a tourist town..but still!”

That’s exactly what I’ve been hearing all along – no surprise Kristen already feels a sense of belonging in just a few short months in the region.

“I’ve gotten involved at Hope Lutheran Church and have made some good friends that way. I have had an overwhelming positive response to being young in this town.

kristen at churchKristen, like many others, expressed interest in a Young Professionals Group.

“I was actually surprised to hear there wasn’t one already formed. The group is just another way for us to connect with one another and hopefully give back to the community.”

I think we found another young one that’s going to be with us for quite some time!

“Life can take you in funny places, I’ve learned. That being said, I don’t plan on leaving here. I’m just not into the big city thing. It kinda seems like we have it all here in Spencer.”

If anyone is interested in our YP events, email me at, or message me on Facebook letting me know you’d like to be added to the YP Facebook group. Bowling should be fun tonight!

- Alexa Guessford



Young Professionals Spotlight: Brad Veit

Our first Young Professionals event took place last Friday..and it was a HIT! YPs came out of the woodwork for a chance to meet others similar in age. Who knew so many of us lived in the region? Not I. It was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. :)

Anywho, one of the YPs that made an appearance was Brad Veit of Iowa Lakes Regional Water (ILRW). He attended with fiance in hand (you might remember her from a few posts back..) and socializing on his mind. Brad is different than others I have spoken with; he’s originally from Spencer, went to college out of the state and then came back to his hometown.


At only 24 years old, Brad is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for ILRW – what an accomplishment!

“I was originally hired to work with payroll, accounts payable and some HR. Shortly after I started, the current CFO was terminated and I was promoted. There is absolutely a lot of stress that comes with the job; don’t let anyone tell you different.”

Brad started looking in the Corridor region when he found out Amanda, his girlfriend at the time, had been hired at the Clay County Regional Events Center. I’m sure his mother wasn’t upset that he would soon be close to home again..

“After I found out Amanda got her job here, my job search shifted more towards Spencer rather than all of Iowa. I found an ad in the Shopper, applied and landed the job right out of college. Pretty lucky to find something so quick.”


Brad and Amanda both attended Southwest Minnesota State, but not before Brad received his Associates Degree from Alexander Tech College and transferred in. Once in Marshall, MN, he went on to earn his Bachelor’s in accounting.

I think it’s pretty obvious that Amanda working in the area captured Brad’s attention, but what else drew him back to Spencer?

“I’m very familiar with the area and have a lot of friends that still live here. I definitely wasn’t bummed to be moving back; I can’t handle all the big city hustle and bustle.”


Someone who doesn’t like the hustle and bustle of a big city? I just don’t believe it. ;) I’m kidding.. I think everyone I’ve talked with has mentioned something to that extent. There’s just something about the Corridor region that people are attracted to.

“I like knowing everyone. It would have been really hard if I lived elsewhere, particularly in a larger town. This job has been great in helping me network with other people around the area.”

What is Brad’s favorite thing about Spencer?


“Dealing with traffic in a big city is a turn off. When we go to visit Amanda’s family in the Twin Cities, I cannot handle it. Not many things beat driving only 5 minutes to work..”

brad and amanda

Who knew traffic was such a hit? Coming from a larger city, traffic is just something you’re accustomed to; it was interesting to hear that.

“It’s not just the traffic that draws me to Spencer. We’re big enough that I can get what I need at Walmart or the mall, but definitely small enough to have that hometown feel.  It’s the best of both worlds.”

Traffic and friendly people are perks of living here. Anything else, Brad?

“I like to hunt, fish and ride motorcycles. This area is pretty good for that type of thing. I tinker around the house a bit, too, when I have the time.”


The greatest part about my conversation with Brad was learning about his desire to stay in the area for a long time.

“As long as we don’t lose our jobs, we’re here for the long haul,” smiled Brad. “I’d be hard pressed to find an opportunity that will take me out of Spencer. We have no plans of leaving anytime soon.”

Chalk another one up to the Corridor region – we rock!

If anyone is interested, we’ll be having the next YP event on Wednesday, April 16th at 5:30-6(ish) at Spencer Bowl. It costs $6 to get in; that gets you $0.25 games, $2.50 beers and free bowling for the whole night. Not too shabby! Send me an email if you have more questions. :)

- Alexa Guessford (



Young Professionals Spotlight: Elissa Barrick

Young Professionals, round 5. Do fights (or anything) go into the fifth round? My lack of boxing knowledge is just plain embarrassing. Thankfully, this series isn’t a battle, but to continue with the pun…Entering the ring this week is Elissa Barrick of Shine Brothers.

(Sidebar: if you’re a young professional in the area and would like to meet others in that same age group, check out this article! We’re having a small, informal gathering this Friday, April 4th at 5:30 at the Bear in Spencer. We’d love to have you!) :) professional Elissa, a 25 year old Human Resources professional, has lived in Spencer since she graduated from Buena Vista University in 2010. With a degree in Human Resource Management and a minor in Spanish, Elissa had the option of going just about anywhere to pursue her interests. So, why did she choose to come to Spencer? Continue reading to find out.

“I was expecting to have to move to a bigger city in order to find a job that suited my needs and had never considered Spencer. I got a call from Eva Shine, my boss here at Shine Bros., who had found my resume online. She asked me to come in for an interview and the rest is history. This position has really allowed me opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else; I have grown here. The responsibilities I have now would have taken me years to achieve had I been in a larger area.” shines A Pocahontas native, Elissa grew up being used to a rural area, having to drive 45 minutes just to get a tube of mascara. The access to amenities in the town of Spencer has been something she has truly enjoyed about living here.

“I came from a small town, always having to plan out every trip to go anywhere. We have a Walmart and a mall – things I never had close growing up. People take that kind of stuff for granted. I also love to travel; if I needed an airport when I was younger, I knew it would be a 3 hour drive to Des Monies. Now, I’m 2-3 hours from Des Moines, Omaha and Minnesota; that saves me tons of money on airline tickets.” vacation Elissa spoke about the pressure to move to a bigger city in order to be closer to her friends. I’m sure she isn’t the only one in our area feeling that exact same way.

“Of course the pressure is out there..they all made the move right out of college. What they’re not getting in Des Monies and Omaha is exactly what I’m fortunate enough to get here. I have this job that allows me to grow, take risks and run with my skills without having to be ‘promoted’ every few years,” she explained. “Plus, many of them are surrounded by the same individuals they’ve known their whole lives. I am part of this community and feel that membership. I am absolutely more than a number here.”

Guess who ran for City Counsel this year? Elissa did.

“I didn’t win, but I wouldn’t have had that same opportunity in a Des Moines type of area. I have very strong hopes of bringing a younger presence to Spencer. There are so many opportunities for young professionals around here; it’s a great place to live and it’s important for people to know that.” yp Those opportunities that Elissa talks about..what are they?

Internships are crucial these days in landing that first job. Professional types of experience are essential for employers looking to hire someone straight out of college.

“Career-wise, the internships around town don’t even compare to ones in bigger towns; they’re so much better. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t interned at Hillshire while at BV. They helped mold me, and I’m convinced I wouldn’t have found a job right out of college without their mentorship and guidance.”

Okay, enough of all this career talk. Let’s discuss what Elissa likes to do for fun.

“Well, I just got married in August..which is a funny story, actually. Chase (her husband) went to BV and we had a class together. We were ‘Facebook friends’ but didn’t really know each other, if that makes sense. He got a job and moved to Spencer after graduation, which is when we started hanging out. Who knew that 3 years later we’d go from not even talking to being married!” weddingThe couple enjoys walking and bike riding on the trails around town. Elissa expressed her love for the community here.

“This is a beautiful place to live and the people here are incredible. What a place to raise a family and launch a career. There’s no way we’re leaving this area; there are definitely good things to be had.”

I hope you all are having a wonderful Spring(ish) week! I’m sure we’re all anxious to have that warm weather on a daily basis.

See ya next week! :)

- Alexa Guessford


Young Professionals Spotlight: Amanda Doar

It’s Wednesday; you know what that means – YP Spotlight time! As many of you heard, the Corridor has started a Young Professionals Spotlight series in order to give attention to adults ages 18-30. This week marks the third YP in the series, Amanda Doar.

image 1Amanda is a 25 year old Marketing/Event Coordinator for the Clay County Regional Events Center in Spencer. Originally from the Twin Cities, Amanda moved to the Corridor region after graduating from Southwest Minnesota State (SMSU) where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Hospitality. By double majoring, she was better able to broaden her horizons during her job search.

So, how did a girl from the Twin Cities end up in Spencer? I spoke with Amanda last week to find out why.

“My future mother-in-law actually found out about the job while reading the Spencer Daily Reporter. I applied, got an interview in December of 2011 & started in January of 2012.”

Amanda’s job is really interesting. The Events Center expects a lot out of her and gives her ample responsibility throughout its office.

“I take care of the client from beginning to end. I’ll reserve the room, set up av equipment, negotiate contracts and follow up with an invoice at the end…that’s just the events side. From the marketing end of things, I will complete the marketing plan. That includes a press release, digital signage, email blasts, website updates and social media. I stay pretty busy.”


Currently, Amanda lives in Spencer with her (recent) fiance. :) He is from the area, so it was an easy sell to get her out of the big city.

“Now that I live here, I couldn’t imagine living back in the cities. It’s way too busy. I think the only thing we have to worry about here is the train going through town,” giggled Amanda.

Brad & Amanda

There seems to be a trend with every person I’ve interviewed; they all like the area for the small town feel with bigger city amenities. It’s like the best of both worlds.

“The small town vibe is the best. How cool is it that I can drive down Main Street and be able to wave to someone I know at a stoplight? Not many places can say that. Plus, we have a movie theater, a mall and a, it’s not like we’re completely in the middle of no where. Getting to know people on a personal level is something that I have really enjoyed during my first two years here.”

I can attest to Amanda’s experience in getting to know people. She works in the perfect industry to form relationships with people of all ages and demographics. I’ve had a similar experience in my short time with the Corridor, as well.


On top of the friendly community, what else does Amanda enjoy about living here?

“I like to workout. I take the Zumba class at the Y. My fiance and I go for walks around town a lot; that’s how I got to know many of the streets in Spencer. Winter is our busy season at the Events Center, so the weekends I do have free are spent doing housework or lounging around.”

Amanda gave me a great insight into the town of Spencer. She and her soon-to-be husband have high hopes of raising a family and retiring in the area. What a great testament to Clay County and the Corridor region!

See everybody next week! We’re switching things up and will be featuring a boy AND he’s from Storm Lake. Stay tuned!

- Alexa Guessford


Young Professionals Spotlight: Tara Lehner

Thank you to those who read the first post in the Young Professionals Spotlight. This series is going to be fun (especially for me)! Getting to speak with a bunch of people similar to my age is a great way to connect and form new friends. Pretty soon you’ll be seeing young professionals everywhere! Next up on the docket is Tara Lehner.

Tara, a 23 year old Le Mars native, is the graphic designer for Lakes Print in Spirit Lake. She thrives on all the opportunities that exists in the Corridor area. I spoke with Tara last week to get a better feel for her experience thus far upon graduation.


“I applied for many jobs around here; I wanted to stay fairly close to home,” Tara explained. “I was able to travel all over for basketball during college, but there wasn’t anything quite like coming home.”

Tara attended Buena Vista University and graduated in May 2013. She began her journey as a Math Education major, but quickly changed her mind.

“I was always really artsy growing up. I realized that I had to step away from what everyone else wanted and pursue what I wanted to do. Graphic Design became my major shortly thereafter.” 


During our conversation, Tara and I were able to relate, largely in part because we graduated together. Job searching while still in college was one of the things that came up. She explained to me why Lakes Print was the right choice for her.

“Lakes Print let me do the most of what I wanted when I envisioned my ideal career. They have also pushed me out of my comfort zone, which is important to my success.” 


BV’s professors are known for encouraging and aiding their students in finding careers.

“One of my teachers sent me an email about this job and suggested I apply. I was lucky enough to have an interview right away and got offered the job 3 days later. It was an extremely quick turn around…and it hasn’t stopped since,” she giggled.

So, what exactly does Tara do on a day-to-day basis, you ask? Keep reading.

“I do all the design for the company; I’m actually the only designer. Envelopes, business cards, newspaper name it. I make sure everything gets from my computer to the client for their approval. Once that’s done, I will print it.”

save the date

Designing flyers vs. teaching youngsters 2+2…quite the artistic difference. Other than spending her days in the company shop, what else does she do for fun?

“I actually go to BV a lot; it seems to be the central meeting point for all of us that have graduated. I also really enjoyed the Winter Games this year. I think the summer will be so much fun; I can’t wait to try out the Boji Pavilion and the drive-in movie theater.”


Tara also explained about all the opportunities to meet other individuals in the area. There are sand volleyball and indoor volleyball leagues, along with indoor basketball leagues at the Y. These are all great avenues for networking with similar-aged individuals.

It was very clear to me that Tara enjoys the area and the opportunities available here.

“I’m not a big town person; that’s not even on my radar. I am able to do exactly what I love in a smaller town. I don’t have to live in Des Moines or a bigger city to get what I want out of life. I love it here and definitely don’t plan on leaving.”

tara working

Well, folks, that about does it for this week’s YP Spotlight. Tara’s designs are really cool (she let me see a sneak peak of a few). If you or your business needs some creative assistance or has printing needs, check out Lakes Print’s website here.

Until next week..

- Alexa Guessford


Young Professionals Spotlight: Studio.1328

Young professionals in the Corridor region are on the rise. Being one of these individuals, myself, the Corridor believes it is important to highlight all the awesome, successful people living in the area. So, without further ado, I present you with Jennifer Moeller.


Jen is the owner of Studio.1328 and MoneySaver Magazine. At only 24 years old, she has really made a name for herself up in the Spirit Lake area. Photography and design have been her creative outlets ever since she made the big move up north last year.

“I worked at an architecture firm in Ames for a year after I graduated from UNI. It didn’t give me the creativity that I was craving. I finally got sick of it, packed up and headed out this way.”


Jen, a Grundy Center native, claims she has always loved the area ever since her family began vacationing up there during the summers. Her parents own a home on East Lake Okoboji and currently allow Jen to live there full time, coming to visit from time to time.

“We rented a place one summer and I fell in love with the area. The next summer I just had to be up here full time, so I got a job at the Gardens and then at Captain’s & Oak Hill Marina the following summer.”

When Jen would spend her summers in Spirit Lake, she always had her eye on the building she currently rents out for her photography studio.

“I always loved this building. I did photography on the side all throughout college, so I decided to give it a try full time. It has really taken off; I can hardly keep up at times.”

The studio is located at 1703 Hill Avenue in Spirit Lake.


Jen is also the owner of MoneySaver Magazine. She was planning on advertising in the publication during the first few months of business before she was asked to purchase it.

“Shannon Dunham called me the day after we spoke about running an ad and asked if I did design. We talked back and forth for a bit, and then she asked me if I wanted to buy the magazine from her,” Jen smiled. “I thought about it for a few days and ultimately said yes. I have revamped the whole thing; it’s really cool and something I love.”


Studio.1328 has grown immensely over the past year. So much so that Jen has just hired someone to do all of the sales for the company and has an intern ready to go for the summer.

“I would much rather design than sell, so hiring Emily will be a great addition for me. It’s absolutely unreal to think I can actually hire employees now.”


Jen explained how awesome it is for her to be her own boss.

“I call Monday’s “Pajama Monday’s.” I stay in my PJ’s and work from home designing a bunch of ads. It’s great. When summer comes, Emily and I may have to change it to Bikini Monday’s and work from the boat!” ;)

Jen has also found some personal success while living in the Corridor region.

“I just got engaged in January, so we’re here to stay. My fiance has lived here for about 5 years. I actually met him when I worked at Captain’s one summer, and now we’re getting married. Crazy!”


When asked why she chose Spirit Lake to spearhead her storefront, Jen responded with the perfect answer to depict the area.

“I came from a small town. I wanted that small town vibe, but still be able to have all the amenities of a bigger city. I love the water and wake boarding. Every day is literally a vacation up here.”

Check out some of Studio.1328′s stuff here. Jen truly does amazing work and is very versatile in what she does: head shots, weddings, babies, you name it. MoneySaver is also a great place to advertise, so make sure to contact her if you’re interested!

- Alexa Guessford


Little Mavs Reaches its Six Month Milestone

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever get out of these freezing temperatures. On a warmer note, I had a wonderful discussion with Tanya Ecker of Little Mavs Child Care Center on Monday, and am excited to share all of the success it has been having with you.

Little Mavs has recently reached its 6-month milestone. The center, based out of Everly and Royal, provides childcare services for children ranging from ages 6 weeks to 12 years. Each center has three classrooms: infant (6 weeks – 24 months), preschool (24 months – 5/6 years) and school aged (6 – 12 years). Currently, the center has approximately 45 children in attendance.

little mavs pic

I was able to meet with Tanya earlier this week to get some more information and to get her take on the center’s success thus far.

There are two centers available for parents to take their children – Royal and Everly. The center in Royal is located in the elementary school; the one in Everly resides in the high school. Tanya explained the school system is fully on board with the two locations, since the district serves both towns. The centers have been a great addition to the community.


She also explained that the need to bring a daycare facility to both Royal and Everly was in high demand.

“There was a tremendous need for infant care in the area,” Tanya said. “Our centers are only 8 miles from Spencer, so this is a great possibility for those families struggling to find care for their children.”

Kathy Evert of our office also explained the importance of having childcare in the area.

“Quality childcare is important for the entire Corridor region. We cannot grow or retain our younger workforce to meet the increasing demand for more workers in this region if quality childcare is not available. We commend the Little Mavs organization for recognizing the need and investing in these childcare centers and for all of the employers and parents who are supporting them,” Kathy added.


The next topic on our agenda was directed more toward the children and their teachers. According to Tanya, every classroom teacher is required to document their lesson plans throughout the day.

“We’re looking to expand those lessons to include math and science, as well as your typical arts and crafts. We just received a Second Step Curriculum that focuses greatly on social skills.”

For more information on Second Step Curriculum, click here.

second step

Tanya also explained she has been teaching staff members about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) at staff meetings. PBIS is an important concept for Little Mavs teachers to know and understand.

“I have a teaching background and have enjoyed training our staff members. For example, we’d like them to say ‘please use your walking feet’ instead of ‘stop running.’ It makes a big difference in how children respond.”

February 23 marked Little Mavs’ largest fundraiser to date. A live and silent auction took place this past Sunday afternoon. Tanya was so enthused while talking about the event, smiling from ear-to-ear. It was a huge success, raising over $10,000 for the two centers.

“We were set up for 110 people, and at one point during the live auction had standing room only. It was crazy! We served 320 meals throughout that 3 hour period.”

silent auction

Little Mavs has taken full advantage of Facebook to help spread the word of its existence. Events, pictures and testimonials are posted on the page regularly.

“Facebook has been wonderful for us; it’s our main way of communication. It’s great to be able to post updates on there for the parents to see on a daily basis.”

The center is still looking to grow the number of families it serves. PLUS, Little Mavs qualifies for childcare assistance, which allows for acceptance of all families.

So, I say y’all should check ‘em out! I have visited both places; they are clean, extremely friendly and super cute! :)

Little Mavs will be at Family Fest on March 8th at the Clay County Regional Events Center.

If you’d like to get in contact with Tanya about childcare, you can do so at 712.834.2300 or by emailing her at You can also click here to visit Little Mavs’ website.

contact us little mavs

- Alexa Guessford