2013 Juice YP of the Year winner, finalists
November, we asked Juice readers to nominate their friends, co-workers, employees, bosses, spouses and themselves for our fifth annual Juice Young Professional of the Year award. The award honors central Iowans younger than 35 who have made an impact in their communities through social, volunteer, charitable, cultural and other efforts.
Stories by Josh Hafner and photos by Zach Boyden-Holmes
An independent panel of judges from the community reviewed every nomination, then chose our five finalists, and a winner. See 50 photos from the YP of the Year. Catch up with past winners. Take a look at all of the past finalists and winners.
Lives in: Des Moines
Hometown: Des Moines
Education: University of Missouri (2007), University of Southern California (2009)
Community contributions in 2013: Co-founder, 100 Chicks for Charity; president, Art Noir; participant, Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute; board director, Junior League of Des Moines; board member, Kappa Alpha Theta National Young Alumnae; advisory board member, Ballet Des Moines; committee member, Department of Cultural Affairs Gala; mentee, Community Connect
2013 Juice Young Professional of the Year Liz Lidgett is a business owner and leader in Des Moines’ arts and culture communities.
It’s been a good year for Liz Lidgett. A couple good years, actually: 2013 marked her second year in a row as a Juice YP of the Year finalist. This year, she won the top recognition.
Many know the 28-year-old Lidgett in central Iowa’s corporate, cultural and philanthropic scenes as an advocate for the arts, a former art manager for Kum & Go who staked out on her own in late 2012 to form Liz Lidgett Fine Art, a one-woman art advisory firm.”
I was just starting out at the end of 2012. Now I’ve been a year into this job and have my own business,” she said. “It’s an incredible intersection of where my passions lie and being constantly able to do new things and work with amazing people. I have no complaints.”
Her business’ clients last year varied from small startups needing a single painting to vast private collections.
She’s particularly excited about an assignment she took on to place artwork in Malo, Orchestrate Hospitality’s new restaurant at the Des Moines Social Club. Lidgett kept volunteer involvements in 2013 with several organizations and events, including Art Noir, Ballet Des Moines, the Department of Cultural Affairs Gala and 100 Chicks for Charity.
The Des Moines native returned in 2009 after earning her master’s degree in public art at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Sure, L.A. has more museums and deeper pockets in need of art expertise, but Lidgett knew she could make a bigger impact sooner in Des Moines. She was probably right.
“She’s got the undefinable ‘IT.’ You know that immediately,” said Des Moines Art Center Director Jeff Fleming, who noted that the center’s Art Noir group doubled in membership during Lidgett’s presidency in 2012 and 2013.
As with Art Noir, most of Lidgett’s involvements have a cultural bent. That’s intentional, she said.
“I am who I am because I attended art classes at age 5 at the Art Center. I am who I am because of the University of Missouri and so I help with their alumni organization,” Lidgett said. “I want to help organizations take the next step and give what I can so the next five-year-old girl can fall in love with art at the Art Center.”
Picking the right involvements and saying “no” to the rest proved key for Lidgett last year as she learned the ins and outs of running a full-time business on her own. Lidgett knew she was passionate about art and art history and wanted to work with corporate collections. What she didn’t know was how to handle a business’ books, acquire health insurance and other administrative work. Building the right team around her — including a good accountant and the right lawyer — proved key, she said.
Lidgett was Juice’s youngest finalist this year, but she’s already thinking about the lasting impact she wants to leave on Des Moines. Part of that is thanks to her involvement in the current class of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, a twice-per-month meeting of up-and-comers from all different backgrounds in Des Moines. As a project co-chair for her class, Lidgett is leading a group of leaders to acquire a high-tech play center for the nonprofit Courage League Sports, an area athletics facility for challenged youth.
One of the institute’s sessions asked attendees to think about their legacy, Lidgett said. What did they want to be known for at the end of their time in Des Moines?
“It’s forced me to think about things that maybe I didn’t have to as a 28-year-old,” Lidgett said. “I want to be someone who can change and grow the arts and culture scene in Des Moines. That’s why it’s important for me to focus.”
Lives in: West Des Moines
Hometown: Des Moines
Education: University of North Carolina (2003)
Community involvement in 2013: board member, Character Counts in Iowa; board member, Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation; board member, Mercy Foundation; member, West Des Moines Plan and Zoning Commission; co-chair, Capital Crossroads; co-chair, Healthiest State Initiative for Lifelong Learning
It was only three years ago that Gov. Terry Branstad chose 29-year-old Mary Cownie to lead Iowa’s department of cultural affairs — one of the youngest appointees to such a position in state history. It feels like it was about 30 years ago in state-government years, she jokes.
Nonetheless, Cownie said she found her groove in leading a state department in 2013. Those three years that felt like three decades finally culminated into the momentum Cownie needed to lead her team to be a catalyst, not just a caretaker, for Iowa culture. The department got on track to translating the state’s momentum around passions like public art and historic preservation into drivers like economic development and tourism, she said.
“It’s been a great ride,” Cownie said of 2013, “but really challenging and really rewarding.”
Cownie counts new exhibits that reintroduced the state’s historical museum to Iowans as one success in 2013, she said. Another, she said, was finding ways to leverage private dollars with a relatively meager slice of state budget. Cownie specifically takes pride in the Celebrate Iowa Gala, her department’s signature annual event that she helped found in 2012. Last December, the gala pulled together nearly 600 attendees and $150,000 for the State Historical Society, she said.
And that’s just Cownie’s day job. Also challenging and rewarding are Cownie’s engagements with several nonprofit boards in the community. She sits on the West Des Moines Plan and Zoning Commission, too, and learns something new every meeting.
Also challenging, but most rewarding of all, is raising her 19-month-old son with her husband, State Rep. Peter Cownie. The baby’s just starting to show glints of personality when hanging out with mom and dad, she said.
If juggling several government and nonprofit engagements on top of raising a child sounds hectic, Cownie said, it was. But the man sitting in Iowa’s highest office had confidence in her the whole way through.
“She’s the youngest department head we have in state government,” Branstad said. “She’s a problem solver who knows how to find the right people. She’s attracted really talented people — young people for the most part — to that agency and a great vision on where she wants to lead the Department of Cultural Affairs.”
The governor praised the Des Moines native’s oversight of Produce Iowa, a multimedia-focused relaunch last year of the state’s film office, closed in scandal years ago, which is now running within her department. Under Cownie’s watch, Produce Iowa is planning its first annual summit program this year. Supporting the state’s film industry, she found, meant not simply looking for the next “Bridges of Madison County” or “Twister” but paying attention to small-screen productions already prevalent here. HGTV’s series about Des Moines’ West End Salvage is a prime example, she said.
Finding ways to not only celebrate and preserve Iowa’s culture but also promote it is an ongoing discussion Cownie has with her team. She hopes her work can not only help connect Iowans to their culture’s past, but also leverage it to attract people, dollars and brighter futures.
Lives in: West Des Moines
Hometown: Daegu, South Korea
College: University of Iowa (2000)
Community involvement in 2013: Committee member, Staples North America Community Relations Council; charitable chairman, Young Professionals Connection; mentor, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa; committee member, Bowl for Kids Sake; volunteer, Community Youth Concepts; member, Habitat Young Professionals; volunteer, Animal Rescue League; coordinator, Korean Cultural Center of Iowa
One of Lincoln Dix’s biggest moments in 2013 came in the form of a fist bump.
Dix was eating sushi early last year with some friends and talking about a business idea, one that involved selling origami paper flowers and giving a portion of the proceeds to charity. A reporter from KCCI-TV was nearby and overheard him. Could she do a story on the business?
The proposal urged Dix to kick his idea into high gear. He registered “Origami Floral” and launched it by February. The news story on KCCI aired and he soon had more than 80 orders. When he later met up with the 11-year-old he mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters, the boy said he saw the news segment. “Yeah, what’d you think?” Dix asked.
The boy reached his fist out. They pounded it. The year only got better.
Dix calls 2013 a watermark year, one in which the 34-year-old Staples sales manager got a small business off the ground and oversaw countless hours of volunteer work as a charitable chair for the Young Professionals Connection.
“It’s a little cliche to say it was life-changing, but it definitely was very eye opening to me,” Dix said of his role organizing and managing a variety of volunteer and charity opportunities for the group’s 600 members.
With his day job, Dix oversees a small team of consultants across three Midwest states. When he calls a meeting, his employees know to show up on time. Not so with Des Moines’ YP volunteers, Dix found. His management skills from the business world didn’t always work with volunteers.
Twelve people signed up to help with landscaping work at the Animal Rescue League one blisteringly hot morning last summer, Dix recalls. Only four showed up. It was disheartening, he said, and there were no real repercussions for people who flaked on a Saturday morning gig.
But he learned that instead of worrying about the eight who did not show up, he needed to celebrate those who did.
By the close of his charitable chair role in late 2013, Dix achieved a couple YPC firsts. The group made its first foray into engaging the senior citizens community with its Caroling Crawl, a singing holiday tour of community retirement homes. He also oversaw YPC’s first Thanksgiving dinner for clients of downtown’s Central Iowa Shelter and Services, an event catered by Tacopacolypse that the organization plans to repeat this year.
“He just jumped in right away. He was open and willing to help with anything. That’s his niche,” said LaVerne Greenfield, the co-chair who served with Dix on the group’s charitable committee. “That’s why his name, his personality and persona have taken off so much.”
Lives in: Ankeny
Hometown: Cedar Falls
Education: University of Northern Iowa (2004)
Community involvement in 2013: board member, Ankeny Young Professionals; participant, Leadership Iowa; participant, Ankeny Leadership Institute; founder, Art for Ankeny; board member, Greater Des Moines Integrity Network; member, Rotary Club of Ankeny; member, Uptown Ankeny Association; selection board member, Boy Scouts of America
Gabriel Glynn is all about Ankeny. A lot of people gingerly use the phrase “Greater Des Moines” as a sort of unoffending catch-all to refer to all the great stuff that’s happening from Altoona to Jordan Creek. Gabriel Glynn isn’t one of those people.
Take one look at his resume or sit down and have a conversation about what he’s been up to and it becomes clear: Glynn is all about Ankeny.
More specifically, he’s about Uptown Ankeny. The up-and-coming district was the hub of Glynn’s endeavors in 2013, an area he’s working to move toward what he believes could become the cultural anchor the suburb desperately needs.”
I don’t necessarily feel like we’ve had a big win yet,” Glynn, 31, said of his efforts in the community. “I feel like it’s building.
“If the big win’s still building, consider Glynn’s contributions:
He lead the move to relocate the Web development firm he works for, Slash Web Studios, from Urbandale to a former tattoo shop in Uptown Ankeny in February 2013.
He dove into the Ankeny Rotary Club, served on the board for Ankeny Young Professionals and began promoting the Uptown Ankeny Association.
He graduated from the Ankeny Leadership Institute in May 2013 and helped found Art for Ankeny, a group that aims to bring more public art to the city.
“I think we’ve developed a lot of Ankeny pride,” Glynn said. “I believe in the leadership of our city and where we’re going. I believe there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity yet still.”
Brett Burkhart helped found Slash Web Studios, the Web design firm where Glynn serves as chief marketing officer. The two met through Ankeny Young Professionals shortly after Glynn moved to the suburb in 2010.
“He planted his flag here as a way to affect the radius surrounding our business,” Burkhart said. “He doesn’t get involved for notoriety or to get his name on it, he gets involved in things he actually cares about.”
Glynn cares about bringing a piece of iconic public art to his city. He wants a sculpture that can symbolize Ankeny the way Jaume Plensa’s “Nomad” sculpture symbolizes Des Moines. He wants it to serve as a gateway to the High Trestle Trail at the Ankeny Market Pavilion planned for Uptown.
“Right now the only piece of public art in Ankeny is at DMACC,” Glynn told a city council meeting last fall. “There’s no iconic piece of art in Ankeny, no beacon.”
Tacking on a public art component to the city’s much-anticipated pavilion project took considerable lobbying, Glynn said, but it was worth it.
“I see their park and this project being a catalyst for the entire Uptown area,” Glynn said of the pavilion.
Lives in: Des Moines
Hometown: Cedar Falls
Education: University of Northern Iowa (2009), Drake University (2013)
Community involvement in 2013: Co-chairwoman, Des Moines Sweethearts Charity Date Auction; mentee, Community Connect; Board member; Young Variety; board member Des Moines “I Have a Dream” Foundation; co-founder, Lead Like a Lady; executive board member, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Des Moines; volunteer coordinator, Devour Des Moines; co-chair, YP Leaders Symposium
Sunni Swarbrick remembers 2013 as the year she learned to lean.
She leaned out of her comfort zone to help raise $150,000 for grieving families. She leaned into the young professional community to organize a metro-wide summit. She leaned on her closest friends during the weekly flurries of work, grad school and so many volunteer endeavors. Swarbrick, 29, works by day in corporate and donor relations at Simpson College. She’s a professional fundraiser. But more than that, she’s a support raiser.
“Fundraising isn’t just about asking for money — it’s about building relationships,” Swarbrick said.
Swarbrick built new relationships last year through her time at the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute, a program designed to be a pipeline for the community’s up-and-coming leaders. During her 2012-2013 class she co-chaired a fundraising campaign that amassed $150,000 in aid for the Amanda the Panda Grief Center for mourning families.
Raising a small fortune for a highly-regarded organization came with a lot of pressure, Swarbrick said. She had to learn how to lead a group of leaders, people with broadly different experiences and backgrounds and ideas. It took balance. It took confidence. It took a thick skin when necessary.Swarbrick believes the real beauty of fundraising lies in connecting people with the biggest ways they can make an impact, even if they don’t know of it yet. But sometimes people say no, she learned, and that’s just part of the process: “You have to remain resilient.”
Resilience was a daily necessity in Swarbrick’s busy 2013. On top of working at Simpson and finishing her master’s degree in public administration at Drake, Swarbrick held volunteer roles with the Des Moines Sweethearts Charity Date Auction, the “I Have A Dream” Foundation, the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and Young Variety, among others.
Throughout all the worthy engagements, Swarbrick learned to turn to close friends and mentors. It helped to ask for help, she found.
“I think sometimes people are afraid to acknowledge that. You don’t ever want to make other people question your accountability,” Swarbrick said. “I struggled with that, to find that balance.”
Helping her along the way were friends like Megan Ruble, an account manager who met Swarbrick through the Young Professionals Connection. Ruble saw a special spark in Swarbrick’s drive and personality, she said. She tried her best to bring it out.
“She gets along well and connects well with people — that’s a characteristic you can’t teach. It’s innate,” Ruble said. “When I see that in people, I want to do what I can to push that along.”
Part of that pushing came through Lead Like A Lady, a club for young professional women in Des Monies. Swarbrick helped found the group to fill a professional development void for millennial women in Des Moines, she said, calling it her most exciting involvement of 2013. Over coffee, breakfast and drinks, Swarbrick and a small group of like-minded young women like Ruble bonded over big topics from job interviews to work-life balance.
Whether working to support friends and peers or corporations and nonprofits, Swarbrick said she hopes she’ll be known in Des Moines not only for giving but also for getting others to give, too.
“I want people to be able to resonate with me as someone who inspired others to engage in their community by giving their time, talent or treasure in the best way they could.”