Shakin’ Shit Up in 2017: Meet 15 People in Lou Who Inspired Kale & Flax

As the new year approaches, we sat down over vegan poptarts from Morel’s and put together a list of some the people and stories that inspired us this year. But not in a boring kinda’ way, in a, “oh, shit, that’s really cool” kinda’ way. We initially were going to include Rick Pitino, but ultimately decide the shit he was shakin’, well, was of the wrong kind. This isn’t based on data or reader’s polls — just us keeping it real with the stories we’re aware of. We’d love to help more folks get their stories out next year.

Toughest part about this list, was not including every single one of our friends, clients, leaders, and startup founders — there’s a ton of great happening in and out of this city. We’re lucky to get to be involved in quite a lot of it.

So here’s to the rabble-rousers. The challengers. The creative class. The rule breakers. Sometimes, axe throwers and ass kickers.

When it comes to the shakin’, we thank you you, kindly.

First up to bat…

James H. Beckett
Qualmet Legal, CEO and Co-Founder
Originally from The Ville

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Highland Coffee

Let’s get weird…
Got tattoos with my mother-in-law BEFORE I got married. They are not matching in case that weird thought was entering anyone’s mind.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
It was a team effort — Qualmet launched its SaaS platform to measure the value of outside counsel. We are going to lead a transformation, an evolution, of the delivery of legal services based on feedback, transparency and candor — not legal expertise. Long overdue and was never a matter of “if”, but “when.” Stay tuned ‘cause 2018 is going to be memorable.

Ryan Rogers
Founder, Chef, Restaurateur of HiCotton Hospitality
Also Know as: Feast BBQ, Royals Hot Chicken, bar Vetti
Originally from NYC

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
La Lupita, Clarksville, Indiana

Let’s get weird…
I have a pet rabbit named Pork Chop Sandwiches

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
In 2017, along with Head Chef Andrew McCabe, we opened up bar Vetti; an all-day neighborhood Italian restaurant in the South Broadway area featuring house made pasta, brick oven pizzas, and a rotating cast of Italian small plates.

Ashley Lamb-Sinclair
Founder & CEO of Curio Learning/Rebel Educator since ’05
Originally from Danville, KY

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Dragon King’s Daughter (Loyal Fan), and recently a Chicken & Mi convert

Let’s get weird…
I can break dance. Well, I used to be able to — it’s been a while.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
Expanding the definition of what it means to be a leader in education. I refuse to accept the status quo when it comes to the urgency of educating kids. If you look around and what you see doesn’t get the job done, then it is your job to start something, try something, or create something that just might. That’s how I live and work, and I want to inspire other educators to do the same.

In regards to Curio, we presented at Goldman Sachs Ventures ASU Summit, Collision Conference in NOLA, and connected with educators and organizations around the U.S. prepping for our launch in 2018.

Ted Smith
Revon Systems, CEO
Originally from Pittsburgh, PA

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Heine Brothers, Chenoweth neighborhood

Let’s get weird…
I’m one of ten people who did graduate work on why astronauts throw up during the first 3 days in 0-G

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
Helped launch the most ambitious neighborhood-scale health project called – the Green Heart Project (can greenery reduce cardiovascular risk?). Met with the FDA to be among the first US companies to show how your smart phone can be medically smart too, and lobbied the Technion to let Louisville be one of their first cities to open a virtual campus.

Sy Safi
UberGreen Spaces & Homes, Founder & Designer
Originally from Union, KY and Cincinnati, OH

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Silver Dollar

Let’s get weird…
I can flip my tongue upside down…is that weird? Yeah, it’s weird.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
We won GLI’s Inc.credible Award in the Health & Wellness category for a sustainable green home we recently designed and built. Most people are shocked at the average energy bill of $12 a month, but that’s what a netzero home is all about.It’s truly like no other — clean, safe indoor air thanks to our non-toxic finishes and HEPA filtered fresh air (rarely need to dust either), a boost in positive energy and endorphins from our circadian rhythm design of natural light, and color changing light fixtures that improve energy levels and sleep, amazing windows and doors with absolutely no drafts, whole home water filtration system that removes all toxins, rainwater collection for irrigation, insulated concrete walls for thermal and natural disaster resistance, and lastly, solar panels to produce all the energy we use with a $400K payback in 30 years.

But the real shakeup is we’re now able to implement these same performance standards in affordable housing and commercial buildings so people can afford their living expenses and businesses can increase their bottom lines/contributions to programs that benefit the community. The health benefits from our homes and buildings increase occupant happiness, productivity, employee retention and minimize sick days. Our mission in everything we do is to be socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative.

Mariah Gratz
Weyland Ventures, CEO
Originally from Louisville

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Mayan Cafe

Let’s get weird…
I played college soccer for my University when I was in graduate school in London… So, I guess I can say I was an international collegiate soccer player. We even traveled to South Africa for a tournament!

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
I took my new role as CEO of Weyland Ventures and ran with it. In the “Age of Trump” and the odd chaos that brought to 2017, I wanted to focus on the positive impact that I could bring to my company and my community. Positive leadership and resilience were my personal goals for the year.

As a company, we completed our first re-development project in Dayton… a $10,000,000 mixed-use, historic revitalization project in an area that hadn’t seen investment in over a decade. There are many more projects to come in Dayton. We also completed our fifth phase of development in Nulu with the opening of a Hilton Home2… more to come in that neighborhood as well. We positioned ourselves to kick-off new projects in Nulu, the Glassworks District, Dayton, OH, Hastings, MN, Jeffersonville, IN, and Paducah, KY in 2018.

In the community, I serve on six boards of directors. I have a hard time saying no. Write an op-ed? Sure, why not. Chair a board? Of course! Speak at a conference? Hell yes. Advocate for Historic Tax Credits? Sure, no problem. Represent small business on a GLI Tax Reform Task Force? Why not.

Most importantly though, success takes a village. I was able to “shake shit up” because of the incredible support I received both personally and professionally from family, friends, colleagues, my kiddos, and my Weyland Ventures team.

Bryan Warren
Office for Globalization, Director
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, now an official Louisvillian

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Walk in Cherokee Park

Let’s get weird…
I’m a sculptor by training.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
Worked with community partners to coordinate a larger community discussion around welcoming immigrants. One of my favorite projects was The Big Table. We had 1,300 people of all differentbackgrouns sit down together for a big potluck in Iroquois Park.

Attica Scott
State Representative, Kentucky
Originally from Louisville

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Walk in Cherokee Park

Let’s get weird…
I am named after the prison in upstate New York.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
On January 3, 2017, I was sworn into the the Kentucky House of Representatives (D41) — the first Black woman to be in the Kentucky State Legislature in nearly 20 years.

I spoke up and out for my constituents in Frankfort as the state legislature worked to take away good wages from workers, the rights of women to make healthcare decisions for themselves, and to strip dollars from our public school system. I marched with Louisville residents down Broadway in solidarity with Charlottesville ​and with those who are fighting for social and racial justice. I spoke out with many others in our community about LMPD showing up armed with sticks while we marched peacefully.

I called out Kentucky’s governor — A LOT — especially for his Prayer Plan to address violence in Louisville. I guess he’d had enough because, as you may have heard, he recently blocked me on Twitter.

Ben Simmons
EOP Architects, Associate
Originally from Lexington, KY

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Holy Grale

Let’s get weird…
I was a Dungeon Master when my buddies and I played Dungeons and Dragons…in high school.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
It’s all about design at EOP Architects: the context, the ideas, the passion. We believe that well-designed buildings bring people together and challenges their thinking. Just wait for the Kentucky International Convention Center to come online — it’s a significant project for EOP, and a game-changer for the city.

As an architect, this passion for design drives everything I do. In 2017, I met about 75 folks across multiple markets in Louisville who share that passion. I helped expand our project portfolio from two projects in 2016 to 13 projects in 2017. I co-managed a proposal for a $100M development in Frankfort, KY, which was accepted and will begin construction in 2018. Inside our Louisville office space, I hosted an exhibition for the UK College of Design.

I’m proud of what EOP has accomplished this year and am excited to see what else we can design for Louisville in 2018. We look forward to continuing the conversation.

Ricky Santiago
Office for Globalization, Globalization Program Manager
Originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
McNeely Lake Park

Let’s get weird…
I won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award in high school (for football).

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
Our office challenged organizations and employers to be conscious about the growing immigrant community and its potential in Louisville. One of my favorite programs we launched is the Louisville Welcome Academy, where we provide leadership skills and connections to immigrant leaders so they can be more involved in helping their own communities thrive. Thirty local immigrant leaders have graduated from the program and the next session begins in January.

Carla Dearing
Sum180, CEO & Co-Founder
Originally from — Technically? Battle Creek, MI. In my soul? New York City!

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Cycling the Two Bridges

Let’s get weird…
I can’t work from home because I raid the refrigerator during conference calls.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
Championed P3 innovation, diversity and new community leadership to benefit community college education (Jefferson), economic development (GLI), Louisville’s tech infrastructure (TechNLou) and financial wellness for all (Sum180). Left it all out there on the field this year, for sure.

Zack Pennington
Edj Analytics, Sales Manager & Co-Founder of Flying Axes
Originally from Louisville

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Butchertown Social

Let’s get weird…
I’m secretly octuplets that are living one life instead of eight.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
Opened up an axe-throwing venue, sold a chia seed business, released an album, and drank a boat’s worth of bourbon.

Nathan Weaver
FieldTrip, Creative Director
Originally from Louisville

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Please & Thank You

Let’s get weird…
My first 2 CD’s were Luciano Pavarotti’s Greatest Hits and MC Hammer’s Too Legit To Quit.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
2017 taught me that nothing “shakes more shit” than just trying. I’ve seen this quote floating around the internet, “Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying.” Definitely a phrase that every hand letterer in America has painted somewhere, but it’s the only way I know how to make things happen: trying really hard, trying again, trying constantly. If I actually shook up anything this past year it was because I’ve gained a better understanding of how I can use ambition to benefit others. 2017 wasn’t just a year when I tried more, but I made it a focus of mine to encourage others to try. Trying is contagious, trying shakes shit up. When I look back on the year I know that whatever good happened, simply happened because we all tried. (K&F: Psst…Nathan and team also won a lot of awards).

Yamilca Rodriguez
Louisville Bespoke, Owner / Creative Director
Originally from Cincinnati, OH

Favorite go-to spot in Lou…
Highland Coffee

Let’s get weird…
I’m a certified perfect health instructor and studied at Deepika Chopra University.

Tell us in your own words how you shook shit up in 2017…
I started a fashion business where fashion was not the thing the city is known for, and brought our diverse community together.