Event Date

October 7, 2016
Minneapolis Convention Center
1301 2nd Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Google Hangout: Connecting with Global Creatives Link


Media Sponsors

Giant Steps 2016


2016 Speakers will be announced in the coming weeks.

Check back for updates regularly to our 2016 speakers and "truth-tellers" lists!



To get an idea of the mix of speakers you'll hear in 2016,

take a look at our speakers from last year, featured below. 


Giant Steps 2015 Keynote Conversation Speaker: Reggie Ossé

(Combat Jack)


Reggie Ossé, known as Combat Jack first rose to prominence in the recording industry as founding partner of the small NYC law firm Ossé and Woods where his clients included such legends as Jay-Z, Damon Dash, DMX, Sean "Diddy" Combs' Hitmen production team, along with producers, songwriters and artists who shaped the "golden era" sound of the 1990s. During his time as an attorney, Ossé managed to build relationships and develop a keen appreciation for the behind the scenes players who were instrumental in shaping what is now a part of today’s mainstream pop culture. In addition, Ossé developed an intimate relationship with many who are considered movers and shakers of today’s music industry.

After closing his practice, Ossé worked briefly as an executive at MTV, after which time he decided to change career paths and began blogging under the name “Combat Jack”. Quickly developing a following attracted to his authenticity and riveting tales from the golden age of hip-hop, Ossé was named the managing editor of The Source Magazine, where he served for a year before dedicating himself full time to The Combat Jack Show podcast and The Loudspeakers Podcast Network.

Ossé is also the author of ‘Bling: A History Hip-Hop Jewelry’ and his writing has appeared in The Source, Complex, XXL and Red Bull Music Academy's ‘The Daily Note’. As an active participant in social media, Billboard Magazine has named Ossé one of the "140 Music Writers To Follow On Twitter". Complex Magazine has named him "Top 25 Writers To Follow On Twitter". Ossé is also the on-air host of Complex TV's ‘The Combat Jack TV Show’ in which he interviews artists in a television talk show format and has been called, by Complex the "Dick Cavett"of rap because of his unique interview skills.

J. Cole, Russell Simmons, Chuck D, Lil Boosie, Common and a slew of influencers and players in today’s culture all agree that Ossé’s interviews are the absolute best in today’s media. Whether the comparison is to Charlie Rose, Howard Stern or Dick Cavett, Combat Jack has made a great impact and will only continue to make his presence felt on all platforms.

Brother Ali

Brother Ali is a highly respected Hip Hop artist, speaker and activist from Minneapolis, MN. His decade long resume includes six critically acclaimed albums, mentorships with Iconic Hip Hop legends Chuck D and Rakim and performances on late night talk shows with Conan O Brien and Jimmy Fallon. He’s been the subject of Al-Jazeera and NPR pieces and was a keynote speaker at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum. He’s landed coveted press features such as Rolling Stone’s 40th anniversary “Artist to Watch” and Source Magazine’s “Hip Hop Quotables”.

Ali has won the hearts and minds of Hip Hop fans world wide with his intimate song writing, captivating live performances and outspoken stance on issues of Justice and Human Dignity. In 2007, Ali was flagged by The US Department of Homeland Security for his controversial critique of America’s human rights violations in his song/video “Uncle Sam Goddamn”. In the summer of 2012, Ali was arrested in an act of civil disobedience as an organizer of Minnesota’s Occupy Homes movement to defend Twin Cities homeowners from unjust foreclosures.

Brother Ali’s latest album, Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color is his manifesto on the political, socioeconomic and cultural suffering in modern American life, as well as a declaration of hope and possibility for a brighter future. The album is introduced by Dr. Cornel West.


Adam Davis-McGee

ADDAM is a Creative Safarist passionate about digital storytelling & multi-media.

He has collaborated with the Minneapolis Institute of Art,  X-Games, Target Corp, will.iam, 4A's, NEFF Headwear and Youthprise.

He's currently a creative partner at PLOT gallery in Minneapolis
and recently named Creative Director with Atlanta based non profit Re-Imagine:ATL.

Allison Bross-White

Allison Bross-White is a small business owner, an activist and a community mama. After spending many years in the retail corporate world, Allison decided to open b. resale, a used clothing store focusing on streetwear & locally made goods. Backed by a degree in Retail Merchandising & Business Administration, Allison was able to turn her love of fashion, hip hop, and the environment into a thriving business.  Now in its sixth year, the shop has cemented itself as a staple in the Minneapolis fashion scene by uniting the ideas of conscious shopping habits with style and community mindedness.  Allison has no regrets about leaving the corporate world to pursue her lifelong dream. She says the best thing about being self-employed is creating the work environment she has always wanted, and being able to connect with the community on a daily basis.




Amber "ACE" Cleveland

Amber ACE Cleveland is a Hip Hop impresario.   For over a decade, through her company ACEntertainment MGMT, ACE has created and cultivated a number of shows, mentored countless artists and promoters and has created and curated the free, annual Hip Hop festival, For the Love, A Community Celebration.  In addition to her varied accomplishments within the music industry ACE is the co-owner of the catering bakery service, Remixin’ Vixens.  She has developed and taught after school programs promoting social justice through a Hip Hop lens.

She is the former C.F.O. of the urban clothing brand, Brims and Tongues.  ACE is also an accomplished writer, and was recently named the Cypher Circuit’s News Section Contributor (www.CypherCircuit.com) as well as being classically trained musician (piano, oboe, saxophone).  She has been conferred with a Bachelor of Individualized Studies and Masters of Liberal Studies from the University of Minnesota, and is currently pursing her Doctorate of Education from Hamline University.


Art Allen

Art is the proprietor of Modern Antics, a novelty event company in Minneapolis, which he officially founded in 2013. He has created multiple events in the Twin Cities, including the Minnesota Beard-Off, the multi-city pun contest Pundamonium, the novelty covers concert GOOFDA!, and the starship themed live room escape game Riddle Room. His list of failed/retired projects include a drinking talk show called Buzzedwords (2013-2014, RIP), the bar video game tournament Tipsy Pixels (2012-2014, RIP), a Twin Cities-oriented comedy website called Guffaw (2011-2011, RIP), starting up a centrist third party in Massachusetts (2006-2007, RIP), and multiple 50 page drafts of novels (2003-present, RIP).

Beth Franklin

Beth is an accountant & tax-elf at Fox Tax in Northeast Minneapolis.  Beth discovered her love for taxes after volunteering for Prepare & Prosper (formally AccountAbility Minnesota) which offers free tax preparation to low income individuals and families in college.  Since graduating in 2009, Beth has earned her CPA and MBT and has worked with nonprofit organizations.  She's been with Fox Tax for three years (plus a tax season working as an intern back in the day).  Beth races track bicycles at the NSC Velodrome and also spends a lot of time outside, drinking beer, riding bikes and researching for upcoming travel!



Brian Karoff

I began my career in the entertainment industry producing & performing in over 60 Broadway, Hollywood, and international productions (working with celebrities such as Will Smith, Wayne Brady, Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, and media outlets such as Disney, NBC, and Warner Bros.).  I enhanced by production background as an executive producer for Kerner (formerly Industrial Light and Magic), a Lucasfilm associate company where I lead the development of stereoscopic 3D technologies for live action and CGI capture and acquisition for the commercial media division. 

From then, I nurtured my expertise on achieving extraordinary business success and leadership as the executive director of Business Breakthroughs International with Chet Holmes and Tony Robbins.  I was the producer and author of the “Ultimate Business Mastery System,” a renowned training platform for business owners, executives and CEO’s.  My professional journey lead me to establishing my own business where I founded a digital marketing agency to continue to serve clients and business executives in accelerating and transforming their success in the digital, online, and interconnected world.

Collin Sekajugo

Born in Masaka, Uganda, Collin Sekajugo, following artistic study tours to over 15 countries around the world, returned to Rwanda in early 2007 with a mission to “USE ART TO CHANGE LIVES.”
Over the last 5 years, these words have become more than a credo for the self-taught artist, who dedicated himself to founding and directing Ivuka Arts. An ambitious arts organization, Ivuka is committed to building community through the arts by providing promising young artists the skills, platform, and exposure through which they may blossom as Rwanda’s next generation of cultural entrepreneurs and ambassadors.

D.A. Bullock

D.A. Bullock has been an award winning and leading cinematographer, writer and director for over 15 years.
In 2003, his diligence and commitment to excellence was rewarded with the opportunity to write and direct his feature film debut - "dark ". This film was the inaugural project of the State of Illinois' - "Lights, Camera, Illinois" program. The film was a selection of The Toronto International Film Festival, The Chicago International Film Festival, The American Black Film Festival, Winner/Best Film 2003 Urbanworld Film Festival and The Houston International Film Festival where it won Best First Feature.

Utilizing an extensive repertoire of creative and visual styles, D.A Bullock has continued to impact the media landscape as a voice to be reckoned with. Bullock’s stories represent the voiceless, those surviving on the margins of society.

In 2011 Bullock founded BULLY CREATIVE SHOP in Minneapolis, MN. Bullock was named a 2014 McKnight Foundation / IFP Minnesota Media Arts Fellow.

Dara M. Beevas

Dara M. Beevas is a writer, editor, blogger, speaker, and author. She mentors other indie authors as Chief Strategic Officer and Co-Owner of Wise Ink Creative Publishing. Dara’s passion for helping authors become change agents led her to launch Wise Ink in 2012. Wise Ink is a boutique indie publisher providing custom book production, marketing, and distribution services as well as educational tools to help authors publish smartly. Dara has a background in acquisitions, developmental editing, marketing strategy, and writing. She is a board member of the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and is also one of the voices behind the Wise Ink blog for indie authors (www.wiseinkblog.com). She is the co-author of Social Media Secrets for Authors: A Beginner's Guide to Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads and The Indie Author Revolution. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Beevas moved to Minneapolis in 2007. In her spare time she writes poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction. 

Davis Senseman

Davis, the founder of Davis Law Office, has practiced exclusively in the areas of business and intellectual property law for over 9 years, consulting with clients on a wide variety of entity formation, general business, succession planning, trademark and copyright issues. When forming Davis Law Office, it was Davis' goal to banish the phrase "that's the way it's always been" from her vocabulary. With a dedication to innovation and creativity, Davis has implemented transparent pricing, flat fee options, and flexible packages so clients can budget for their legal expenses. In addition to these pricing innovations, Davis also favors a collaborative approach, perhaps most obvious in her choice to office from the CoCo co-working floor of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.




eL Seed

eL Seed is a French-Tunisian street artist whose works incorporate traditional Arabic caligraphy, a style he calls 'calligraffiti. His art was born on the streets of Paris, and now adorns walls across every continent. Incorporating elements of both the graffiti and Arabic calligraphic traditions, eL Seed is known for his unique style of calligraphy, which uses intricate composition to call not only on the words and their meaning, but also on their movement, to lure the viewer into a different state of mind.

el Seed is also a 2015 TED Fellow and has work featured on buildings around the world from the Institute du Monde Arabe in Paris to a mosque in Gabes (Tunisia)  to a favela in Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town to freeway tunnels in Doha to a corner of 5 Pointz in New York and many spots in between.

Eleonore Wesserle

Eleonore is a trainer and facilitator with Line Break, building the capacity for organizations and individuals to tell their stories through traditional and digital methods. Coming from an activist background, she helps organizations weave their communications strategy into their movement strategy so that both can become more effective. Eleonore can work with you to build your organizational narrative, frame compelling campaign messages, supercharge your social media engagement, connect with community media outlets, and create transformative video pieces, all in service of the change you are seeking to create in the world.

Greg Mann

Greg is an accountant for the world-famous Fox Tax team. He's been preparing taxes since 2010 and is a self-proclaimed tax nerd that enjoys working closely with his friends, family, and community to ensure they get the most tax benefits possible. Greg also volunteers with Prepare & Prosper, working with low income families and individuals, and sits on the board for the Art Shanty Projects, helping to enrich artist driven community in unregulated public spaces. Greg was born and raised in Minneapolis and, in his free time, you can find him biking around, eating good food, drinking good beer, and having a good time.

Jasmine Brett

Jasmine Brett Stringer is principal of JB Stringer LLC and founder of the internationally recognized lifestyle brand Carpe Diem with Jasmine.  She has more than 15 years of business-to-business sales and customer marketing experience.  She is highly skilled in business development, customer relationship management, and social media.  Jasmine and JB Stringer LLC have worked with several Fortune 500 companies such as Kraft Foods, General Mills, Box Tops for Education, Toyota, Fox Searchlight, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN TV), Publicis Groupe, and Saatchi and Saatchi on various initiatives and campaigns.

As a nationally recognized and sought-after lifestyle expert, Jasmine has been featured on a variety of media outlets.  She is a lifestyle contributor to local CBS television station WCCO-TV, a regular contributor to the nationally syndicated television show The Insider, and featured on OWN TV.  Her southern belle charm is not limited to the screen; Jasmine teaches others to seize their life as a regular contributor for the Huffington Post and within her own lifestyle blog entitled, Carpe Diem with Jasmine.

Oprah Winfrey has called Jasmine a carrier of the light, and Jasmine continually teaches all the mantra of carpe diem, or seize the day.  She guides people in identifying their goals and achieving their definition of success through workshops and seminars.

Jeff Lin

Jeff Lin is the founder of Bust Out Solutions, a company that designs and builds web and mobile apps that combines rock-solid engineering with impeccable user experiences. Over the last decade, Jeff has slowly and steadily assembled a small, elite team of software experts with two simple rules: No assholes, and no dumb-asses. The company has its main office in the hot Northloop neighborhood of Minneapolis, but most of the team members work remotely, a sign of these modern digital times. Location is mostly irrelevant and office hours are an afterthought. Creativity and productivity naturally spike and wane at all times of the day, so team members are encouraged to produce quality work regardless of what the clock says. In 2014 Jeff was recognized by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal with a 40 under 40 award.

In addition to running Bust Out Solutions, Jeff taught web design at Hennepin Technical College, co-founded Smart Factory, a school to teach others about modern software design and development, spent time as a cast member on the PBS reality TV show “Colonial House,” joined the Board of Directors at The Schubert Club, Minnesota’s oldest arts organization, and participated in Theoroi, a group of young professionals that attends arts performances and uses social media as a means to spread the word about the local arts scene in the Twin Cities.

Jill Bernard

Jill Bernard has been performing with ComedySportz-Twin Cities since 1993, and is a founding member of HUGE Theater in Uptown Minneapolis. Her one-woman improv piece, Drum Machine, has been featured in over forty improv festivals. She has taught and performed improv in Norway, Australia, Canada, England, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Italy, Germany and over thirty-five of the United States; and also on an episode of MTV “Made.” She is one-half of the duo SCRAM with Joe Bill of the Annoyance Theater. An Artistic Associate of the Chicago Improv Festival, she has studied at the Annoyance Theater, Improv Olympic, the Brave New Workshop and other organizations; and is the recipient of the 2005 Chicago Improv Festival Avery Schreiber Ambassador of Improv Award, and the 2007 Miami Improv Festival award for Best Solo Show. She was also the winner, in January 2000, of the Executive Vice President Award for outstanding contribution to Human Resources, the highest award in the American Express Human Resources function. She's also the voice of God, the Holy Ghost, the Virgin Mary and other characters in videos for Sparkhouse.

Joe Horton

Joe Horton is a Minneapolis based emcee who has garnered international attention for his powerful live performances and stark, abstract lyrics. In recent years, Horton has applied his surrealist bend to other artistic mediums such as musical composition, video, and dance, culminating in his most ambitious project to date - experimental theater piece A Hill in Natchez. Across mediums, Horton's work echoes from the hallucinatory depths of our symbolic reality, seeming at once new and old, foreign and familiar.





Julia Nekessa Opoti

Julia Nekessa Opoti is a communication and media practitioner working to create voice channels for some of Minnesota's most pressing political issues. Her work in media promotes the articulation by grassroots voices of often unheard perspectives on minority and immigrant life in Minnesota, particularly the Twin Cities.

Her work explores such subjects as class, migration, education, sexuality, identity and belonging from the immigrant and diaspora perspectives.

She currently produces and hosts "Reflections of New Minnesotans" a talk show on AM 950. Her past work includes stints in video production, and work in media as a publisher, editor and writer.

Kevin Beacham

Kevin Beacham is a respected underground Hip Hop educator, writer, DJ and most importantly, fan. He discovered and fell in love with Hip Hop in early 1980 and has continued on a path every since to not only be active in the Culture, but to continually learn more and share that knowledge and his experiences. Thru out this journey he has been a MC, Breakdancer, Producer, Artist Manager, DJ, Promoter, and more. He’s worked at Rhymesayers/Fifth Element for over 11 years holding various management positions in the realms of marketing and retail. He’s been active as a radio show host since 1995, staring on WNUR in Chicago with Time Travel and later transitioning to The Current in the Twin Cities, first with Redefinition Radio and most recently with H2 Radio with co-host Siddiq Sayers (Rhymesayers CEO).

Kevin has also spent the last 15+ years being active as a guest speaker and teacher at various schools (covering Elementary thru High School), colleges, community centers, industry events, music/entrepreneurial conferences, etc… He has also taught his Hip Hop Essentials class at The Institute of Production and Recording since 2006. His primary focus and passions these days are two of his most ambitious projects to date- “Microphone Mathematics” and “Redefine: Hip Hop”. Microphone Mathematics is an ongoing freelance column that he’s been writing since 1994 that analyzes Hip Hop lyrics. It is also the title for his upcoming debut book that takes a detailed and critical look at the evolution of rhyme writing thru out Hip Hop’s history. Redefine: Hip Hop is a massive research project aiming to amass the most diverse and expansive database on Hip Hop history.

Knero Lapaé

Known by his stage name Knero Lapaé or simply kNERO (pronounced knee ro), is a Liberian-born hip hop recording artist, record producer, songwriter, model and author. kNERO was born in Monrovia, Liberia and raised in Brooklyn, New York. kNERO released "Not Drunk Enuff" featuring Norwegian singer Adele Erichsen, a former contestant on The Voice – Norges beste stemme. The single was released under CCAP records. Due to his political ties, he celebrated the Liberian Declaration of Independence by performing his single "A.F.R.I.C.A" at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C. He performed at the Hip Hop of Pioneers event held at the Newark Symphony Hall; the event featured additional performances from MC Lyte, Kool and the Gang, Dana Dane and Slick Rick. In 2014, kNERO closed a deal to release his next single "King" under Universal Music Group.

In 1995, kNERO fell in love with the art of barbering. To avoid street violence and other criminal activities, he learned to master his craft over the years. He then traveled from state to state gaining connections in the hair industry, which helped his music career. His experiences including working with celebrities such as Raekwon from the Wu-Tang Clan, Comedian Kyle Grooms, Fashion Designer Toure Designs, Humanitarian/Motivational speaker George Green, Celebrity Hairstylist Keith Campbell, Middleweight Boxer Peter Quillin, and more. In addition to music and barbering, kNERO has also worked as an actor, model and is about to release his memoir, Homeless With A Record Deal: The Moments Of Luxury (Fall 2015)

Laura Zabel

Laura Zabel is the executive director of Springboard for the Arts, an artist-led economic development agency based in Minnesota. Springboard applies the creative process to reframe conversations, develop unconventional partnerships, and devise simple solutions that create reciprocal relationships between artists and communities. Some of Springboard's programs include: Community Supported Art (CSA), which is based on the Community Supported Agriculture model, connects artists directly with patrons and has been replicated in more than 30 cities across the country; the Artists Access to Healthcare program, which was awarded the 2010 Social Entrepreneur's Cup; and the Irrigate project, a national model for how cities can engage artists to help reframe and address big community challenges. Springboard also provides entrepreneurship training and other resources to help artists make a living and a life. Laura was a speaker at the 2012 Aspen Ideas festival and received the 2012 Visionary Leader award from the Harvard Club and MN Council of Nonprofits. She has been one of Minneapolis Business Journal's 40 Under Forty and Minnesota Monthly’s 12 Minnesotans Who Can See the Future. Laura serves on advisory boards for the Knight Foundation, Twin Cities LISC, Minnesota Theater Alliance and the University of Kansas. Laura is also an actor and lives in Minneapolis with her comedy writer husband and daughter.

Levi Weinhagen

Levi Weinhagen is a writer, performer, theater maker, and educator. He’s the co-founder of the all-ages production company Comedy Suitcase. Levi is the host and producer of the podcast Pratfalls of Parenting, which features conversations with creative folks about the relationship between being creative and being a parent. Levi co-produces and regularly appears in the monthly variety show “The Encyclopedia Show” in Minneapolis. He produces a podcast for mnartists dot org that features interviews with comedians and comedy writers. Levi was the Artist In Residence at the Walker Art Center’s Education Department from the fall of 2014 into the Winter of 2015. He is also a Communications and Media Specialist at the Minnesota Council on Foundations.



Lynn O'Brien

Lynn O’Brien is a masterful vocalist, consultant and dynamic songwriter. She engages audiences everywhere in musical experiences full of energy and depth.  With several instruments and albums up her sleeve, specialized training from Bobby McFerrin and a degree in music therapy, her work harnesses the power of music and creativity to connect people more fully to themselves and each other. Let's collaborate!

May Lee-Yang

May Lee-Yang is a playwright, poet, prose writer, and performance artist. She has been hailed by Twin Cities Metro Magazine as “on the way to becoming one of the most powerful and colorful voices in local theater.” Her theater-based works have been presented at Mu Performing Arts, the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (CHAT), Out North Theater, the 2011 National Asian American Theater Festival, the MN Fringe Festival and others. Her most recent works  include Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman and Ten Reasons Why I’d Be a Bad Porn Star.  She has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Performance Network, the Midwestern Voices and Visions Residency Award, the Playwright Center, the Loft Literary Center, and is a winner of the 2011 Bush Leadership Fellowship. 

Mica Grimm

Mica is an artist, organizer, and a founding member of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis. She utilizes protests, rallies, & dance parties as subverted spaces where people can take a break from the turmoil of reality, begin to feel each other, and find an interstice to freedom. She spends her days influencing public policy, including repealing city ordinances used to target marginalized communities, writing legislation on body cameras and police accountability, and training folks on organizing & social media strategy. Mica works at MPIRG as the Statewide Racial Justice Coordinator, is a board member for the nonprofit, Voices for Racial Justice, and recently became one of two lead facilitators for the SPEAC program. For enjoyment she paints, writes, and manipulates digital photography glitches. All of her work is grounded by the notion that self-love is a revolutionary act, community is not strictly bound by area, and freedom lies within our innate ability to connect with one another.

Nadine Angel Cloete

Nadine Angel Cloete is a 28 year old female from South Africa, Cape Town. She won her first film award at the age of 17 from the Afrikaans-Taal-en-Kuns-Vereeniging for a fiction film called Roses. Nadine is passionate about documentary filmmaking and is working on her first independent feature film called Action Kommandant, which is an intimate portrayal of slain liberation hero, Ashley Kriel. Her work focuses on identity, heritage and history. Nadine is currently the chairperson of the Documentary Filmmakers Association, SA.

Robert Karimi

At root a comedic storyteller and community engagement specialist, Robert Farid Karimi mixes humor, rasquatche aesthetics and performance to communicate poems and stories that feed audiences an interactive cross-cultural collision of joy, pop culture & personal history in theatres, grocery stores, backyards, and off-Broadway. He has played over 40 characters in his 3 solo shows, from Chicano hipsters, to Disco Jesus, to Iranian women who told him how to be a man to pop star Freddie Mercury.Nominated for a Pushcart Prize last year, his writings have appeared in newspapers, NPR, literary journals, and anthologies, most recently Asian American Literary Review. A national poetry slam champion, he has featured throughout the country at venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Café, Def Poetry Jam, The Chicago Theater, and SXSW. 

Roger Grothe

Roger is President of Aloha Landscaping.  He received his Master of Science degree in Industrial Psychology from San Jose State University and worked for Lockheed Martin for 15 years before studying green roof technology in Basel, Switzerland and Helsinki, Finland.  As a project manager, he has led projects ranging from building the first green roof on the island of Guam to managing the creation of a new eco-themed attraction at the Nickelodeon Universe theme park inside the Mall of America.  Roger was also responsible for inventing and marketing a green roof irrigation product specified on the Vancouver Convention Center green roof – the second largest green roof in the world.  Roger is active in research and is currently leading an international team of environmental scientists from the University of Helsinki conducting a series of studies examining green roof soil and the use of green roofs to help bring birds back to Guam.

Saymoukda Vongsay

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay is a Lao American poet, playwright, and artivist. Her literary, theater, and advocacy work is made possible through generous support from organizations such as the Jerome Foundation, Mu Performing Arts, MN State Arts Boards, Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota, Loft Literary Center, Joyce Foundation/Alliance of Artist Communities (IL), Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (DC), Asian Economic Development Association, and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (DC). She currently serves on the Board for Intermedia Arts, Saint Paul Almanac, Saint Paul Foundation's Asian Pacific Endowment, Dispute Resolution Center, and the Asian Economic Development Association's Arts Advisory. She's lent her experience in literary arts and community engagement to the work and programming of organizations such as the Smithsonian Institute, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (DC), Legacies of War (DC), the MN Historical Society, and the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang, Laos. Vongsay holds an English degree from the University of Minnesota and pursuing a Master of Liberal Studies focusing on public policy and arts and cultural leadership at the University of Minnesota. She's the Lead Chair for the National Lao American Writers Summit and Co-Chair of the Twin Cities World Refugee Day Celebration Committee.

Tim Foss

Timothy spent 15 years making ceramic art while teaching at universities, exhibiting in national retail stores, galleries, and museums. In 2010, He received an MFA in Visual Storytelling where he discovered the way stories act as refuge for our fears. 

He founded his visual storytelling company, More Belief, so he could offer graphic recording, live-event illustration, to clients interested in facing fears and changing belief systems.

He lives in Minneapolis with his wife, their six-year old boy (who believes all sketchbooks are flip charts), and their two-year old girl (who tries to eat every scented Mr. Sketch Marker she can find).

Tricia Khutoretsky

Tricia Khutoretsky is a curator, arts organizer and educator living in Minneapolis. Valuing art as a means through which to make positive changes in the world, she works as a change agent in support of iconoclastic individuals and ideas. She is a co-founder and the curator of Public Functionary, a non-profit exhibition and social space dedicated to openness as a means of fostering varying contexts of diversity and a hybrid space for a hybrid audience.

Previous career experiences immersed her in various creative communities and born in Thailand, she spent formidable years in Hawaii, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. As a mixed-race American, the sum of a hybrid identity draws her to relate to diverse people and situations and a belief that by accepting our own complexity, we find depth and common ground with others.

She holds a B.A from Macalester College and an M.A. in Arts and Cultural Management at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. She serves on the board of the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council. In 2015 was recognized for her community work with a Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal “40 under 40” award. She teaches arts leaders in a graduate program at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and frequently speaks at mentorship and professional development conferences in support of artists and creative entrepreneurs.

2015 Truth Tellers

Beth Franklin

Beth is an accountant & tax-elf at Fox Tax in Northeast Minneapolis.  Beth discovered her love for taxes after volunteering for Prepare & Prosper (formally AccountAbility Minnesota) which offers free tax preparation to low income individuals and families in college.  Since graduating in 2009, Beth has earned her CPA and MBT and has worked with nonprofit organizations.  She's been with Fox Tax for three years (plus a tax season working as an intern back in the day).  Beth races track bicycles at the NSC Velodrome and also spends a lot of time outside, drinking beer, riding bikes and researching for upcoming travel!

Bob Gardner

Bob Gardner is the founder of the commercial general contracting firm Gardner Builders which recently celebrated its 2-year anniversary.  He is passionate about the built environment and the design aesthetic that goes into it. He is a champion of doing business in a way that is respectful to those who we interact with each day - employees, subcontractors, vendors, design professionals and clients.

Bob completed a 4-year apprenticeship as an Outside Machinist at The Apprentice School at Newport News Shipbuilding where he worked on building aircraft carriers and submarines.  He attended the University of Wisconsin - Madison where he studied Civil Engineering with an emphasis on Construction Engineering and Management.

Bob has lived on both the East and West coasts and many points in between.  He and his wife Mary Jo and their children Adam, Peter, Monica and Joseph live in Savage.

Davis Senseman

Davis, the founder of Davis Law Office, has practiced exclusively in the areas of business and intellectual property law for over 9 years, consulting with clients on a wide variety of entity formation, general business, succession planning, trademark and copyright issues. When forming Davis Law Office, it was Davis' goal to banish the phrase "that's the way it's always been" from her vocabulary. With a dedication to innovation and creativity, Davis has implemented transparent pricing, flat fee options, and flexible packages so clients can budget for their legal expenses. In addition to these pricing innovations, Davis also favors a collaborative approach, perhaps most obvious in her choice to office from the CoCo co-working floor of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.

Jeff Horowitz

Jeff Horowitz has spent over twenty years working in the music industry.  He began his career in 1995 working with Grammy Award winning record producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis who in turn have produced songs for Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Usher, Mariah Carey, etc.  He left Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to spend over 10 years working with record producer, Rick Rubin, in Los Angeles who was President of Columbia Records and has produced songs for Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, Linkin Park, Adele, Jay Z, Kanye West, Beastie Boys, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Justin Timberlake, Metallica, Shakira, Red Hot Chili Peppers etc.  Jeff has since gone on to start his own artist management company and is now the Director of Brand Partnerships and Licensing for Rhymesayers Entertainment and the Soundset Music Festival.

Jon Goodman

Jon Goodman is the founder of the sneaker design and apparel company, JGoods. Jon started the company in 2002 and has had his work featured in worldwide news outlets, music videos, and on the feet of celebrities such as: Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Joe Mauer, Prince Fielder, and Larry Fitzgerald. His products have been bought in over 20 countries and in 2009, Jon teamed with this longtime friend, Kellen Groves, to expand JGoods, LLC, nationally.

Sameh Wadi

At the young age of thirty, Sameh Wadi is already one of the most talked about chefs in the Twin Cities. The cuisine at Saffron Restaurant & Lounge earned him critical acclaim and national recognition.The son of Palestinian immigrants, Wadi began his culinary journey at a young age; his passion for cooking was prevalent from the start.  Wadi shadowed his mother in their home kitchen, that’s where he developed his palate and learned the fundamentals of cuisine.  To hone his skills, Wadi attended The Art Institute International Minnesota, where he graduated with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts.
Saffron opened in February 2007, and quickly became a destination known for its innovative, compelling cuisine. Featuring a menu of skillfully balanced flavors from around the Mediterranean with strong influences from North Africa and the Middle East, later that year it was named “Restaurant of The Year” by several local publications.

In late 2009, Wadi launched his own line of gourmet spices; Spice Trail by Chef Sameh Wadi; which are handcrafted in small batches at his kitchen at Saffron.

Wadi brought his distinct style of cuisine to the streets in 2010 with the debut of the insanely popular World Street Kitchen, a mobile food truck that features redefined global street food.  In late 2012, Wadi expanded his brand by opening World Street Kitchen as a brick and mortar restaurant in Minneapolis.

Sarah White

Sarah White is an eclectic singer, emcee and musician and has played both nationally and internationally, best known in Minneapolis for her previous involvement with Black Blondie and Traditional Methods. While her passion to grow and break molds keeps her sound ever-changing, her love of art keeps it classic. Sarah has independently released 2 solo albums, her voice is featured on record label releases from the Midwest to Tokyo and she won Scion’s Best Electronic Vocalist Competition in 2009.White currently fronts her new band, Shiro Dame, known for its "neon soul" sound. Debuting in 2013, their sound is ever-changing, undefined, electric medicine to music heads seeking new aural experiences.

Shiro Dame is comprised of Sarah White on vocals, Rico Simon Mendez on guitar, synths, & beats, Blayr Alexander on drums, Dameun Strange on keytar and Ry Dill on bass.

Sarah is also a mother, a photographer and a creative with a Minneapolis-based event production company.

Scott Legere

Over the past 15 years, Scott LeGere has played key roles in the ownership and operation of audio recording facilities, independent record labels, media schools, and commercial music production companies. During this time, he has engineered Grammy nominated albums, produced critically acclaimed independent projects, taught courses in economics and business ethics, and foolishly hauled both Yamaha CP-70s and Hammond B3s (concurrently) to gigs. In 2010 he co-founded NoWare Media and has helped produce Clio, Emmy, and Cannes Lion award winning commercial spots for Target, General Mills, PepsiCo, Bauer Hockey, BluDot, and others. Inspired to return to education, Scott currently teaches at Augsburg College and lectures on media trends and "the music business" (although he's not sure what that really means anymore).

Teresa Fox

Teresa Fox is one half of the duo that is Glam Doll Donuts. Before entering the donut business she spent the majority of her career and education in restaurants and music business. After being inspired by donuts her and best friend, Arwyn Birch, decided to combine their personal passions for vintage fashion, music, art and food. The idea for Glam Doll Donuts was born and since has been working to become a mainstay in the Twin Cities scene.

Vikas Narula

Vikas is a "stumble-upon-trepreneur".  He spent 15 years working for two local start-ups and along the way "stumbled upon" his own business idea while completing his MBA.  He nurtured the idea as a "hobby" for a few years before quitting his job in 2009 to pursue it full time.

His hobby-turned-business-venture is called Keyhubs - a Minneapolis-based management software and consulting firm, which specializes in helping organizations realize their potential by uncovering and tapping the hidden organization - the informal network of relationships that exist between employees.  Some of Keyhubs' clients include Accenture, Medtronic, Thrivent Financial, Boston Scientific and Bremer Bank.  Their work has been featured in Forbes, Upstart and Twin Cities Business magazine.

Vikas earned his MBA from Duke University and holds a degree in computer science from Maharishi University of Management.  He was listed among 100 leaders to "help you thrive" by Twin Cities Business magazine.  He is also Founder of Neighborhood Forest - a social venture dedicated to giving free trees to school children every Earth Day.

Past Giant Steps Speakers / Contributors (2010-2015)

Aaron Keller -Founding Partner and Managing Principal, Capsule Design; Author
Abdirahman Kahin - Owner/Operator, Afro Deli and Catering
Adam Davis-McGee - Artist / Educator
Alissa Paris - Dancer / Singer
Allison Bross-White - Founder / Owner, b. resale
Amanda Leaveck - Founder and Executive Director of Face Forward
Amber ACE Cleveland - Founder, For The Love Festival / Co-Founder, Re-mixin' Vixens
Ananya Chatterjea - Founder and Creative Director, Ananya Dance Theater
Andrea Swensson - Music Editor (City Pages)
Andy Sturdevant - Artist, Writer and Arts administrator
Art Allen - Founder, Modern Antics / Creator, The Riddle Room
Ashanti Abdullah - Artist Management
Bao Phi - Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, creates and operates programs for the Loft
Ben Morrison - Co-Founder, Handsome Cycles
Ben Shardlow - Community Developer; Co--Founder of Give & Take, Works Progress
Beth Franklin - Accountant, Fox Tax
Betsy Altheimer - Associate Director at Springboard for the Arts
Bianca Rhodes - Photographer
Blake Iverson - Attorney, Friedman Iverson PLLC
Blake Richardson - Sake Brewer, Owner: Moto-I, Herkimer
Bob Gardner - Founder, Gardner Builders
Brendan Kelly (BK-One) - Producer, DJ
Brent Siddiq Sayers - Co-Founder and CEO, Rhymesayers Entertainment
Brooke Michaelson - Photographer, Owner Brooke Michaelson Photography
Brother Ali - Hip Hop Artist / Activist / Speaker
Butch Roy - Executive Director, HUGE
Carl Atiya Swanson - Actor / Co-Founder of Savage Umbrella Theater Co. / Director of Movement Building at Springboard for the Arts
Carrie Shanahan - Teaches Video Storytelling at Miami Ad School, mentor editor for IFP’s Fresh Filmmakers
Catherine Reid Day - Co-Founder, Storyslices™
Chaka Mkali (I Self Devine) - Musician, MC, Visual Artist, Director at Hope Community Center
Chris Cloud - Co-Founder, MPLS.TV; Co-Founder, MPLS Collective
Chris Osgood - VP of Organizational Development, McNally-Smith College of Music
Collin Sekajugo - Artist / Founder, Ivuka Arts (Kigali) / Founder, Weaver Bird (Makere)
Crista Lentsch - Business Banking Officer, USBank
Crystal Grobe - Food Writer, WCCO.com
D. A. Bullock - Filmmaker / Founder at Bully Creative
Damen Johnson - Owner of The Grooming House / Founder of Peerparazzi
Dana Nelson - Executive Director of GiveMN
Danielle Mkali - Program Officer, Nexus Community Partners
Danny Schwartzman - Owner/Founder, Common Roots Café and Common Roots Catering
Dara Moore Beevas - Co-Founder, Wise Ink Publishing
Dara Moskowitz-Grumdahl - Author/Writer, Radio Host on WCCO
David "TC" Ellis MC - Producer, Founder/Executive Director, High School for Recording Arts
David Lewis - Director of Career Services, McNally Smith College of Music
Davis Sensemann - Founder and Attorney at Davis Law Office
Dawn Mikkelson - Filmmaker, Founder of Emergence Pictures
Dena Alspach - Group Publisher, Tiger Oak Publications
Desdamona - Hip Hop and Spoken Word Artist, Co-founder of B Girl Be, Educator
Dr. Jon Hallberg M.D. - Medical Director, Mill City Clinic, U of M Faculty
eL Seed - Visual Artist / Street Artist
Esther Robinson - Filmmaker, Writer, Founder of ArtHome
Francis Ssennoga - Founder, Ssensoft; Founder, President, North American Ugandan Association
Hass Dennaoui - Founder, Re-Volt Magazine / Host, "Laish Hip Hop?"
Jamal Hashi Chef, - Co-Owner Safari and Safari Express
James Faghmous - Co-founded MuslimBuddy and Mode-sty
James Garrett, Jr. - Architect, Co-Founder 4rm+la
Jasmine Brett Stringer - Author / Media Personality
Jason Noer - B-Boy, Educator
Jeff Lin - Founder, Bust Out Solutions
Jennifer Pritchett - Owner, The Smitten Kitten, Inc.
Jessy Greene - Violinist / Multi-instrumentalist / Singer
Jill Bernard - Improv Artist / Co-Founder HUGE Theater
Joan Vorderbruggen - Made Here
Jobie Bakama - Creative Director, Call Back Dreams
Joe Horton - Emcee / Playwright / Educator
Joe Spencer - Director of Arts and Culture, City of St. Paul
John Sweeney - Author; Improvisor; Owner, Brave New Workshop
Jon Goodman - Founder, JGoods LLC / Founder, Range
Jon Rasmussen - Executive Director, Midway Contemporary Art
Josh Thoma - Chef; Entrepreneur; Owner, Smack Shack
Julia Nekessa Opoti - Producer and host, Reflections of New Minnesotans
Jun-li Wang - Artist Community Organizer, Springboard for the Arts
Justin Schell - Videographer, Filmmaker
K. Raydio - Artist, Educator
Karoline Wells - Founder, The Elixery Cosmetic House
Kate O’Reilly - Founder and CEO of CleverKate
Kenneth Kunkle - Attorney, Kunkle Law PLC
Kevin Beacham - Hip Hop Historian / DJ / Radio Host / Manager at Rhymesayers
kNERO LePae - Hip Hop Artist / Author
Kyle Tran Myhre (Guante) - Artist, Activist, National Poetry Slam Champion
Laura Holway - Dancer / Co-owner of McGinley Motion
Laura Zabel - Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts
Leah Nelson - Dancer, Choreographer, Actor, Educator
Levi Weinhagen - Comedy writer; Actor; Producer and Host, Pratfalls of Parenting
Malik Watkins (Mally) - Hip Hop Artist
Mankwe Ndosi - Vocal Artist, Activist
Marcus Genzlinger - Owner, MegaInteractive
Maren Kloppmann - Ceramist; Public Artist
Maria Isa - Artist, Actor, Founder SotaRico Productions
Mark Fox - Co-Owner, Fox Tax Services
Maurice Blanks - Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Blu Dot
May Lee Yang - Playwright, Author, Performance Artist
Mayda - Artist
Mei Young - Voice-Over Artist
Mica Grimm - Co-Founder, Black Lives Matter MPLS
Michael Anschel - CEO, Verified Green, Inc. Co-Founder, WinterCAMP
Michael Crouser - Photographer
Mohamud Mumin - Photographer/ Visual Storyteller; Owner Hundred Miles Pictures
Nadine Angel Cloete - Filmmaker
Nancy Lyons - Co-Founder and CEO of Clockwork
Nichelle Bell Founder - LITT Magazine, IT Consultant
Nichole Smaglick - Founder and President, Another Land; Founder, Amias Project
Nick Kosevich - Co-Founder, Bittercube
Nick Muhammad - Activist and Artist. Founder/CEO, Titan Administration Records. Founder/ Executive Director,Torch Light Minnesota
Noah Keesecker - Program Manager, Springboard for the Arts
Owen Duckworth - Community Organizer / Music Producer at O-D Music
Patrick Rhone - Writer, Commentator, Technology Consultant
Pete Rhodes - CEO of Urban Mass Media Group / Founder of Minnesota Black Music Awards / Creator and Host of Urban Perspectives
Rachael Kozlowski - VP of Marketing, DemandQuest
Rebecca McDonald - Transmedia Producer and founder, B FRESH Photography and Media
Reggie Ossé (aka Combat Jack) - Creator and host, The Combat Jack Show / Founder, Loud Speaker Network
Robert Karimi - Artist / Activist / Experience Designer
Robyne Robinson - Chief Designer and CEO, Rox Minneapolis, Jewelry
Roger Grothe Founder and CEO, Aloha Landscaping
Sally McGraw Author, Teacher, Communications Professional; Blogger/Owner, Already Pretty
Sameh Wadi Executive Chef/Co-Owner: Saffron Minneapolis, World Street Kitchen, Milkjam
Sarah Von Bargen - Writer, blogger
Sarah White - Musician / Photographer
Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay - Poet, Playwright, and Artivist
Scott Legere - Co-founder, NoWare Media. Chair of Music Business Department at McNally-Smith
Semhar Araia - Founder/Executive Director of the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN) / Founder of Semhai Consulting
Shá Cage - Actor, Playwright, Performance Artist
Shanan Custer - Playwright / Actor / Director
Sherwood Herndon - CEO and Founder, Hennepin Pictures / Partner Wu-Tang Management / Executive Chairman, WU-Radio
Simone Xavier - Creative Director, Sigma Beauty
Skye Rossi CFO / - New Media, Rhymesayers
Stephen Golden - Creator of Sicmats; Owner, SIC Inc.
Steve Cole - Recording Artist / Chair, Music Business, McNally Smith College of Music
T Mychael Rambo - Emmy-Award Winning Actor, Educator, Vocalist, Organizer
Ta-coumba Aiken - Artist, Muralist, Activist, Educator
Ted Kozlowski - Founder and President, Demand Quest Inc.
Terry Gray - Photographer
Theresa Fox - Co-Founder at Glam Doll Donuts
Tina North - Actor; Co-Owner Moss Envy
Toki Wright - Artist, Organizer, Educator
Tom Horgen - Arts and Entertainment Reporter, StarTribune / Vita.mn
Toni Blackman - Artist and Social entrepreneur. Creator of Freestyle Union Cipher Workshop and Rhyme Like A Girl
Tony Simmons - Program Director, High School for Recording Arts
Tricia Khutoretsky - Co-Founder and Executive Director, Public Functionary
True Muse - Owner, True Muse Photography
Uchechukwu Iroegbu - Owner, Uchefotography
Valentina Parenti - CEO, Valentina Communications
Vickie Remoe - Publisher, GoWoman Magazine. Owner, Vickie Remoe and Company
Vikas Narula - Co-Founder and President of KeyHubs
Wally Agboola - Owner, Wally Agboola Photography
Wing Young Huie - Artist at Wing Young Huie Photography & Gallery
Yuti Shah Edward - Founder, UDD Fashion
Zach Bagaason - Producer, Musician, Educator
Zahra Aljabri - Founder, Mode-sty.com; Co-Founder, MuslimBuddy, Inc.

M.anifest - Artist, Speaker, Co-Founder Giant Steps
Susan Campion - Founder of Camponovo Consulting, Educator, Co-Founder Giant Steps