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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

So, 99 subjects and their stories has led me to an understanding of people that I think I should have come to right away. It’s that each person is unique, and their story or journey is just as unique. No two people are alike. Maybe that's why I have enjoyed this series more than any other personal creative project I've done. I don’t go in with an agenda, other than to take some photographs and hear someone's story – what they have overcome, or built, or in the case of Megan Effertz, what they have written. I’ve known Megan as a client and a friend for closing in on two decades. She’s a woman with incredible drive, and an entrepreneurial spirit that doesn’t stop. That drive has led her to write  a book titled Maddie + Max. It’s a love story that unfolds in the Excelsior, MN and surrounding Lake Minnetonka area.  – the same area where Megan grew up. It seemed like the perfect place to create the photos for her American Faces story.  Water Street shops, Haskell’s and the Port of Excelsior  in the background to help anchor us in Megan’s experience (Sorry for the nautical theme, but it is the Lake Minnetonka area after all).

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As Megan and I enjoyed our drinks of choice at Dunn Brothers in Excelsior, we caught up on family news, the changes in our business worlds and talked about Megan’s decision to write a book – no easy undertaking (but with Megan’s focus, something she could surely handle). As she talked about her book she shared that the process actually helped her through the grief of her dad’s death. She was able to relive the places, times, sights and sounds of her youth as she wrote about her fictional character’s’ lives. But maybe more than that, she got to think back on her time with her dad and mom, her family’s life around Lake Minnetonka and the person those experiences helped her become.  It was evident as Megan spoke that this book brought healing to her heart. Maybe that's the most profound part about Megan becoming an author –she’s worked through the grief she felt as she wrote the love story of two young people. Megan’s story is unique to her. But like all of us, her story has layers and complexities. It has health and heartache. It has promise and hope. If her story had a cover, it would have  “bright future” written all over it. Megan doesn’t know what the word stagnate means. She’s a “what’s next” kind of person. Check out her LinkedIn profile and you’ll understand.

Wow. How do I end this one? Maybe by first saying “thank you” to Megan for impacting me, my business and my family, as she shared wisdom for my business. Megan was also one of the first people to ask me to create content that emulates the kind of work I’ve created for this American Faces Series. In closing, I encourage you to push into the unknown and uncover who you are yet to become. It helped Megan work through her grief. What’s next for you?

Finally, Megan, I think your dad would be so proud of you! He would also probably say, “What’s next?”

Photos and story by: Nielsen Studios 

Editing by: Scott Whitman

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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

I was introduced to Aaron Glanz, American Faces #98, by Kari Lazzarino of the Bearded Viking (she was American Faces #94). While interviewing Aaron I quickly came to the conclusion that he is a living example of what a second chance looks like. As his story unfolds you'll see what I mean.

Aaron told me his early teenage years were like “Leave it to Beaver.” Then in 1997 his best friend died, his parents divorced and his “traditional” life changed dramatically and started to spin out of control. He began using drugs (eventually, Meth) to numb his hurting heart he got into drugs with meth being his drug of choice from 2001 to 2005. His desire for the drugs to give him the dopamine hit he so badly wanted just to feel “good” overtook him. Chemical dependency and a destructive lifestyle of drug use  altered Aaron’s life, from his late teenage years well into adulthood.A drug-using strained marriage with his previous wife and a couple of children in a drug-using home led to charges against him by the law. 

He knew he needed to start to clean up his life so he went to Hazeldin to get clean from the Meth. Alcohol still was a part of the mix but he started to find pride in getting clean. That pride led him to keep getting better day by day. He was continually striving to be a better person. However Aaron stumbled a bit.  He started to go down a road of prepping should the world go crazy. He decided to grow Marijuana, Aaron was in a relationship at the time with a woman who was into mushrooms (not the edible kind) and Aaron decided he needed to get a gun. Well, Aaron’s previous felony, the fact that he got raided by law enforcement for the growing of marijuana as well as a girlfriend who turned him in led to 27 months of jail time.  

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Ok now we get to the part where Aaron finally rises out of the ashes of his past.  

As his time in prison was coming to a close Aaron found out about a program where he could go to school and make something of his life. So he set his mind to becoming a machinist through a program at Dunwoody Institute.  He drove hard at school, graduated with honors and began a new life. He met Lee, now his wife of 7 years. Aaron says  Lee is his best friend, his counselor, the one who’s made it possible to become the best version of himself – she’s his everything..

As Aaron continued to rise from the ashes one of the jobs that is a foundational part of his story is RMS where he is at to this day.  Troy Olson, Aaron’s manager, popped in on the interview to say how excited he was for Aaron to have me do his story. I took the opportunity to ask Troy why he gave Aaron a chance. Troy said Aaron earned everything he has done at RMS. Troy never asked Aaron about his past. He knew it was more about where Aaron is going, and his future is bright. And like Troy, Aaron now has the opportunity to lead with the heart of a servant and maybe give someone else a chance to prove themself – maybe someone with a backstory like his.

Aaron’s main photo for this story photo looks very much like a photograph I might create for a machine shop client. But this photo is more than that.  It’s a photo that shows a man with endless possibilities in front of a machine that he did all the research on to expand capacity at RMS  As he looks forward, Aaron now sees a life of promise and fulfillment – it's expressed in his precision machining work, and in the heart he has for the people on his RMS team.

Aaron’s life is full of second chances. He may well be the poster child for what second chances look like. He’s determined to be a difference maker. I encourage you to give someone a second chance. You might just be investing in the next Aaron Glanz

Photos and story by: Nielsen Studios 

Editing by: Scott Whitman

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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

This is the story of Tim Shore, founder of Shore Boards, but maybe it’s also a story about Caleb Gregg of Gregg Media. You see, Tim is the master craftsman known for creating paddle boards and longboards for his company called Shore Boards. Caleb is the masterful videographer who applied his amazing ability in creating video content to help tell Tim’s story. I felt blessed to be on set with these two guys creating the first edited video version of American Faces. It was a blessing to hear how a man started a business with the support of his family and to work alongside another content creator with a passion for the outdoor sports market. 

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The quality in Tim’s boards, to me, seems second-to-none.  I thoroughly enjoyed the process of working with Caleb to capture quality footage of Tim sharing a short version of his story of how Shore Boards came to be as he cleaned a newly finished  board in his Ramsey, Minnesota, shop.


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 Take a few moments and watch the video. And if you’re into water sports, give serious consideration to taking your water experience to the next level and investing in one of Tim’s custom, hand-crafted custom boards.


And check out Caleb’s work. He’s a talented guy with a great heart. 


Finally, if you are thinking about starting something new, or helping someone in some way, just do it. You won’t regret your decision!

Photos and story by: Nielsen Studios 

Editing by: Scott Whitman

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