Women to Watch 2019

Success is slow
that’s hard to recognize when you see someone striding forward with a career you want, and wonder, “Why them and not me?” But we never see the leaders we admire on day one. We never see the first block they laid to forge the path they worked so hard to build. This year’s Women to Watch represent a culmination of little steps they’ve taken for years, some even decades, to get where they are now. Each of these boot-strapping women started somewhere, and they all shared with us their stories of where their journey began and how difficult it was. 

These inspiring women are speaking at our third annual Women to Watch event on Nov. 7 at the Federal Way Performing Arts Center. Bring your friends, daughters, and sisters, and hear these stories on a live stage. Did we mention there will be a mini market and plenty of bites and sips?

JUMP TO:

LEAH MORGAN

 KD HALL

ERIN GUINUP

MELANNIE DENISE CUNNINGHAM

DANIELLE KARTES


LEAH MORGAN 

Founder of the Tacoma Night Market

All her life, Leah Morgan has seen the effects of a loving and supportive community. An artist herself, she understood how lonely it can be to create in isolation, so she crafted a vibrant space for local artists to be seen and collaborate with one another.


It’s not an accident that the Tacoma and Gig Harbor Night Markets feel different from others. The electric synergy has been carefully orchestrated by the hands of longtime Tacoman Leah Morgan. She gets hundreds of vendor requests for the markets and sifts through each one to consider how all the vendors will flow together. Internally, while curled up on her houseboat on Thea Foss Waterway, Morgan imagines the market on a macro level before swooping into the details, such as which vendors should be situated next to each other. 

“Every little detail is important to me,” she said. “I’m thinking about who gets to be next to one another. How might they interact? What might that feel like? I’m thinking how one (artist) might be inspired by another’s work. … Every month, and at each event, I think about a person’s experience as they come through the space and what that journey looks like. Each step of the planning process (for the market) could probably be done more efficiently, but I don’t want it to be something that’s done by a computer program.” 

Just like a mother bird, Morgan builds the market twig by twig, layer by layer, until she’s crafted an ultimate, one-night experience that has manifested into a heartfelt community for local artisans she hopes feel loved and supported. 

Wherever Morgan plants her feet, she works to facilitate a community filled with all kinds of people woven together by found commonalities. In a lot of ways, this act of knitting people together traces back to before she was born, by her parents. Her mom and dad met in Victoria, B.C. at a L’Arche community where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers, each bringing their own skills and strengths to the table to create a tight-knit environment. 

Morgan and her siblings were born in Canada, where they spent their early years before their family moved to Tacoma and remained heavily involved in community-oriented programs. Morgan’s developmental years were built around huge pots of stew and fresh-baked bread her mom made for potluck dinners in the yard, and working with locals in a shared garden. Her life was filled with music, and love, and people from all walks of life, and as Morgan grew up, she continued to have this need her parents instilled in her — to wrap her arms around people and bring them together. 

In high school, Morgan started glassblowing and working with stained glass, which later led to opportunities to travel the world and blow glass in Italy and Kenya and attend world-renowned glass schools. 

“It’s part of how I started to identify as an artist,” she said. “I was discouraged by my lack of drawing and painting skills, but I found that there were all these other forms of art and expression. I’m an extrovert, and glassblowing is such a team-oriented thing, and communication is key.”

Morgan blew glass regularly in her 20s, until the carpal tunnel she developed became so severe that she had to have surgery on both hands. After that, she became resolved that glassblowing would never be a full-time gig. 

In 2015, she bought the cozy houseboat where she currently lives and outfitted her little space with pillows she handmade with her grandmother’s sewing machine. Morgan’s Pendleton wool pillows started gaining traction, and she launched her small business under the moniker NAP Northwest. 

As she started attending vendor events, she noticed some major holes in the local markets. Most craft fairs start early, like, really early, which meant the artists were waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning to get ready and set up. Oftentimes, there wasn’t any food or music. All these details compounded into an experience that felt a little lackluster. 

In February 2018, Morgan asked her artist friends if they would participate in a night market, even if it was just a little pop-up at a bar. That May, the first Tacoma Night Market sprung up on Pacific Avenue and took flight as one of the most popular monthly events in the area. Morgan is in the process of making the market a nonprofit to better serve the community, as well as offering night markets in other locations. She’s also working with the Museum of Glass to start a new event on Small Business Saturday (Nov. 30), which could become a regular series.

Operating a night market — it’s not a job title you come up with as a kid — but it couldn’t be more fitting for Morgan. She’s spent her whole life building connections, and now she gets to do it on a grander scale. Since the launch of the market, some vendors have even moved from Seattle to Tacoma to become further entrenched in a community that’s supportive of the arts. Through the market, vendors are finding their people, a connection that transcends their small businesses. Vendors and lovers of the market are talking on Instagram about other things, like the struggles of being a parent, body positivity, and depression. Morgan’s market has become a thriving ecosystem of people who lean on each other. 

“Ever since I was young, I just knew that we were here on this Earth — and I’m not religious or anything like that — for our relationship with people and the Earth,” she said. “Again, starting so young and being an extrovert, I wanted to meet people and find ways we related and constantly cultivate that sense of togetherness — that you’re not alone.”

She understands that finding your people isn’t always easy, especially for those living with depression or other social anxieties. It takes self-propulsion to get out there and connect with people but, Morgan said, it’s worth the temporary discomfort. 

“It’s starting with one person, opening up and challenging yourself to be a little exposed and vulnerable, which I know can be so hard for people, but what comes of that is so powerful,” she said.


KD HALL

Founder of the KD Hall Foundation and KD Hall Communications 

When KD Hall was on the verge of graduating college, she made a life-changing mistake that has haunted her personally and professionally. It was the graciousness of a few people that made her realize she was worth a second chance, and now she’s spreading that message of hope and empowerment to
young women.


In some ways, KD Hall’s whole life has been about second chances. 

Growing up in Detroit, Hall, her five siblings, and her classmates weren’t expected to amount to much — teen pregnancy; jail; a low-paying job, if you’re lucky. But not college, Hall said. So even though Hall didn’t have a blueprint of what college success looked like when she went off to Oakland University in the suburbs of the Motor City, she was eager to stomp out the oppressive stereotypes and make a future for herself and for people just like her.   

Hall was exactly what you’d call a high achiever. In high school, she was a well-rounded student with success both in the classroom and activities, as well as a star athlete in track and cross-country. On paper, she was on the brink of a powerhouse rocket launch, but once she got to college, she realized how little the failing Detroit school district prepared her for the rigor of higher education. 

Her first semester, she nearly flunked out and had to study overtime to bring her GPA back up from a 1.2. Unpaid internships had to be offset with full-time jobs, since her family was unable to help support her financially, and she borrowed extra money from her student loans for living expenses. It’s likely few really knew how much she was struggling to keep up as she balanced her degree in journalism and communication with work as the vice president of the campus NAACP and founder of a women’s empowerment and leadership group for fellow students. 

 “When I got my college degree, I was a first-generation college graduate, and I was also facing 35 years in prison,” Hall said. Due to her cooporation with authorities and owning up to her wrongdoing, Hall was only in jail for a few hours, but was branded with a federal felony. 

Out of respect for Hall’s privacy, we’re leaving out the details of her felony, especially because this is not a story about the end of a successful life; it’s about the start of a new one. 

After graduating college, Hall battled with depression and was working and living in unstable conditions until she married her high school sweetheart and the Air Force moved them to Spokane. It was a fresh start for Hall, but it was also the beginning of her hardest years following her conviction. She hid her degree, fearing people would see her maiden name and look her up. Her court order required she keep a job, but employers vehemently rejected her applications. 

 “I applied at a Walmart, and I remember because I was being honest, and so I put the felony and the reason why I had the felony on the application,” Hall said. “The (hiring manager) looked at it; she saw that and put down my application and pushed it back toward me, and she said, ‘We would never hire a person like you.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, this is going to be a real barrier for me.’”

The first company to hire her in Washington was Macy’s. Knowing she would likely never work in journalism, Hall turned to education and set her sights on the University of Phoenix. After applying for a job there, she followed up every week for three months until they hired her. 

“University of Phoenix truly gave me a second chance, and I still advocate for University of Phoenix, because they didn’t have to hire me,” she said. “They could have done the same thing that everyone else did, but they didn’t. They gave me a second chance. They believed in me, and as a result, I couldn’t help but believe in myself.”

Professionally, Hall was thriving. She rose through the ranks and moved to Bellevue and then to New Jersey, helping the university expand its footprint. But personally, Hall was miserable. The felony felt like a boulder hanging over her. She’d been denied promotions because of it in the past, and she still feared someone would fire her because of it. 

In 2013, at Hall’s request, University of Phoenix moved Hall and her husband to Seattle, and shortly after, she launched KD Hall Communications and the KD Hall Foundation. Her communications business didn’t start making money until several years in, but once 2017 hit, a flood of opportunities flowed in. 

Hall was invited to the White House for a women’s conference with Michelle Obama because of the work the foundation was doing to facilitate personal and professional growth among young women. Within her business, she started snagging big-name clients for public relations campaigns, and colleges started approaching her with teaching positions. 

Hall has thrown her heart into young women. The foundation offers resources, scholarships, and workshops, and in the last four years, has graduated 60 college students through a program that connects students to mentors in their desired field and gets them in a classroom with Hall for 12 weeks of development. This year was the first year the foundation was able to pay all its students for their work, an accomplishment that was extremely important to her. 

She remembers her college years as such a difficult time, taking on way too much in order to afford to live and attend classes. 

“That’s part of the reason why I think I’m so dedicated to young ladies at that pivotal time when they could go either way,” she said. “A lot of times, people think there’s a track to get into trouble, which is true, like the school-to-prison pipeline. But I was in the school-to-prison pipeline in a different way. It was the financial stress that I had on my shoulders.”

In the last year, Hall also has been doing work with incarcerated youth. She attended a speaker series for incarcerated youth at Echo Glen Children’s Center in Snoqualmie. A 14-year-old girl facing at least seven more years approached her, asking whether Hall would be her mentor.

“I want them to see someone who was like them, and say, ‘Look at me now,’” Hall said. “‘Look what you’re able to accomplish when you put focus and dedication toward your work.’”

Hall never thought she’d arrive at the success she’s had, not with a felony seemingly stamped across her body. It’s been over a decade of grueling work, but Hall said she was never going to give up on herself. 

For others like her who have a record, Hall said getting an education is imperative. It takes a master’s degree or more for employers to hold you up at the same level as someone with a bachelor’s degree, Hall said. Change the circles you hang out in, change your mindset, and have a plan for your life. 

To employers, Hall asks to give people a chance. Look into their criminal background to identify whether their record would impact the work they’d be doing. The offenders who have reformed can sometimes be the most loyal employees with the most integrity. 

Only a few people gave Hall a second chance, and that’s all it took for her to rebuild her life.


ERIN GUINUP

Founder of the Tacoma Refugee Choir

A lifelong singer and performer, Erin Guinup founded the Tacoma Refugee Choir as a way to give a voice to local immigrants, second-generation Americans, and other community members. The nonauditioned choir is proof that though we may feel small as individuals, we are powerful together.


The church where the Tacoma Refugee Choir practices sits quietly on the corner lot of a street in South Tacoma among a smattering of modest homes and brick commercial buildings. It doesn’t command the eyes of onlookers like some churches do with their gothic architecture. Its countenance is nearly colorless, but within its body is an invigorating vibrancy.

On a recent Tuesday night, the choir members stretched in a semi-circle before rehearsal as director and founder Erin Guinup noodled around, hugging members, prepping song lyrics, and going over sheet music with the piano player. First-timers were intermixed with choir veterans. Each practice ebbs and flows with the diversity in faces and accents, but each person radiates kindness, extending a handshake and friendly banter. If you remove the barriers of social judgement, that’s what it feels like to be with them. No one is an outsider. When you’re there, you’re family. 

Guinup founded the choir as a welcoming space where anyone could come and have a voice. The typical power dynamics don’t exist here. Other members jump up and lead songs, write and edit lyrics, and help dictate what music they’ll be performing. The practice is democratic, a little freeform, and unlike any choir most would experience. 

Guinup said the idea for a refugee choir crashed into her like a boulder. She was at a church conference in 2016, when she started thinking about how she could reach out and offer a hand to incoming refugees. She considered teaching English, but that didn’t resonate with her like music did. The University of Puget Sound graduate had spent the last 20-plus years doing vocal coaching. Music is so healing. Singing releases rivers of endorphins and oxytocin that course through the body — chemicals that invigorate joy, boost motivation, and make people feel bonded. After praying about it, she knew she needed to form a choir, which would bring people from all over the community and world together. 

“So often, I think we try to make change in the way that seems obvious, but when we look at what our strengths are, that’s where our greatest power is,” Guinup said. “That’s where we can really impact people. When you embrace that instead of doing what everyone else is doing, that’s when magic happens.”  

 The choir started as a six-week program through Tacoma Community House, with a mix of refugees, immigrants, and community members. In August 2017, the choir became a nonprofit, just a few months after the choir officially organized and President Donald Trump signed the executive order that laid out a refugee and travel ban. 

“I was caught off-guard by that,” said Guinup, who had just built family-like relationships with several people who would have been banned from entering the country. “I was rather naïve to the xenophobia in our country and the undercurrents I hadn’t felt because of my privilege, but then all of a sudden, these policies are directed toward people that I’ve come to know and love.”

For Guinup, this was a point of no return. But the operations of the choir also came with a lot of challenges.

Guinup said she underestimated how difficult it would be to recruit immigrants, but she’s now resolved in the understanding that members will come and go, and some weeks will be more diverse than others. She also changed the format in which she conducts the choir. After the first year or so, Guinup did away with the sheet music she used to teach the songs, and now the lyrics are projected on a screen or using call and response. Music is international, Guinup said, but choral culture isn’t, so she’s made a lot of little adjustments to help make the environment feel more welcoming. 

But even as the choir grew and she saw little victories, Guinup felt like she wouldn’t be able to sustain the operations, and last fall, she reached a near breaking point. 

“I was really discouraged, and I was thinking about quitting when one of the members said, ‘Erin, this is not hard. Being shot at is hard. We need this. You can’t quit,’” she said. “I was exhausted, we had little funding, and I couldn’t pay my bills, so I felt like my own security was challenged by that. I still feel it all the time. I’m not going to quit, but those challenges are ever-present.”

She paused for a second, sitting in her living room, and said she’s been thinking a lot about The Dairy of Anne Frank.

“I think when you read that, you think, ‘Of course I would hide someone,’” she said. “I would do my part. I would take those risks, of course. I feel like we’re living in similar times in history. We don’t need to hide people in our closets, but metaphorically, we need to be supporting people who are feeling real danger.”

More funding from grants and sponsorships has rolled in, which has helped the choir perform for more than 23,000 people now, including TEDx Seattle and The Race and Pedagogy Conference at the University of Puget Sound. At least 500 people from 47 countries have been part of the choir throughout its three-year history, with many originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ukraine. Guinup has big dreams for the choir and wants to one day record a CD and perform for the United Nations and Congress. She’s proud of all they’ve accomplished so far, but the true magic remains in the rehearsals, when people really connect and share their stories. 

Recently, Guinup and the rest of their team said goodbye to a regular choral member who became an American citizen and then signed up for the Air Force. Before he left, he said the choir healed his mistrust and helped him believe in people again. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight, she said, not with us and not with any cause. She thinks one of the reasons she struggled so much was her need to hurry up and get to where the choir is impacting people. You have to spend time on the infrastructure, she said. You have to lay the building blocks. There are days when the administrative side to the choir is overwhelming, but those are the things that support the change-making. Most overestimate what can be done in the short term and underestimate what can be done in the long term, she said. Progress is slow, and you don’t necessarily see it in the day-to-day. Plus, nothing happens in isolation. 

“I’m not going to change the world,” she said. “What I do, in all honesty, is probably fairly insignificant. However, when I have my brothers and sisters standing by me and we’re in this together, that’s when something powerful can happen. I’m not going to change anything, but we can change something.”

Everyone has something to offer. 

“Find your strength, and do something with it,” she said. “Start small, but do something. It is not insignificant.”


MELANNIE DENISE CUNNINGHAM

Tacoma’s 253 Peace Queen

From a young age, Melannie Denise Cunningham felt the effects of oppression and has made it her life’s work to bring people of all races and backgrounds together to facilitate racial reconciliation and understanding. She offers a poignant and approachable definition of peace that allows any individual to take action and create change.


We sat on wooden rocking chairs with bare feet and talked about what it means to have peace. Melannie Denise Cunningham’s definition is simple — a way of life more so than a dictionary understanding. 

“You do it,” she said, rocking gently back and forth in the living room of her waterfront Lakewood home, just a few blocks from where she grew up in the house her parents still live in. “You make it. You be it, wherever you are.” 

Cunningham attended the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway as Greater Tacoma’s Peace Prize recipient, which she immediately rebranded with her own moniker — the 253 Peace Queen. It could have been a relatively straightforward trip: Attend the ceremony, and fly home. But that’s not Cunningham’s style, so she instead brought along a documentary film crew with the intention of understanding what peace looks like in the “most peaceful place on Earth.” 

“I was curious as to what life is like for black people in Norway,” she said. “Do they experience the same type of racial strife from white people as we do in America? What are the similarities and differences?” 

In short, Norway was not what she expected. In fact, its reality of peace is not unlike what can be found in the U.S. — wrought relationships with the Indigenous people and a superficial tolerance of people of color. 

The most puzzling, however, was how many defined peace as the absence of conflict. Responses were vague and varied depending on whom she approached.  

“I don’t know what I expected,” she said. “I expected them to tell me something, like they could just define it, and they couldn’t. The way I look as peace is that it comes from the inner self. It’s a mindset, which guides how I approach any situation.” 

Being in a military family, Cunningham was born in Indiana and moved around the country and the world. Before she had the vocabulary to express it, Cunningham understood the weight of oppression, especially having grown up in the height of the civil rights movement. Prior to settling in Washington as a teenager, she and her sister were among the few students of color that integrated into Catholic school in Florida — they were even interviewed before being officially enrolled “to see if (they) were good enough black children for the kind-hearted white folks to let in,” she said. 

Cunningham was 11 in 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and it was in that moment and through his work in social justice that she was spiritually indoctrinated into civil rights, and it became her life’s work to stand up
for the disenfranchised. 

Shortly after graduating college, Cunningham went to work for the Department of the Navy as an Equal Opportunity Officer investigating and resolving discrimination claims, providing culturally specific programming, and training on how to prevent sexual harassment. On Jan. 15, 1988, Cunningham started working for the City of Tacoma as its Equal Opportunity Officer. She chose the day intentionally — Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, before it was a day off for local government employees. Immediately within her new role, Cunningham spearheaded an MLK celebration for the city, and despite being received with skepticism and resistance, more than 3,000 people filled the Tacoma Dome to honor Dr. King just two years later.  

But here’s the thing, and it’s tough to hear, Cunningham said: The most pervasive reason for taking on the steadfast and daily work of racial reconciliation was because of the pain and frustration she felt from the black Tacoma community leadership at the time. 

“In my era of coming up, the black leaders, it wasn’t their practice to support up-and-coming black women, and I’m even saying black women, because then we were more patriarchal with black men being supported and lifted up.”

When Cunningham was 30, she decided to run for president of the local NAACP chapter, after serving as vice president for several years. Shortly into her campaign, Cunningham was reprimanded for running without asking permission from the hierarchy of the local black community and a swell of resistance rose up against her. 

“That’s what motivated me to say, ‘Oh, is this how politics works?’” she said. “So, maybe what I’m going to do is spend my time working in white communities helping white communities understand black communities. Then, when the white people say that I’m cool, or I’m OK, then they affirm me, and the black people will (think I’m OK).”

Cunningham quit the NACCP and joined a national exchange club. “I became the national field rep for them, traveling around bringing communities together and helping people across cultures. I determined my destiny is to be a black person that sits among the white groups and speak my truth.”

Currently, Cunningham is the director of multicultural outreach and engagement housed in the Campus Ministry Office at Pacific Lutheran University. Most of her mental space revolves around peace and racial reconciliation, and sometimes that can be frustrating, especially when some people don’t see, think, or feel the weight of bias and oppression. 

If we lived in a world that was healed of racial tension — somewhere in the distant future or an alternate universe — Cunningham said she’d be in international trade and teaching black girls in the United States and Africa to be global citizens. In some ways, she said, she’d be doing the same work, wrapping her arms around communities to bring them together. It’s who she is, and who she was born to be, she said. 

 So many people look outward for peace, and it becomes this mystifying thing no one can grasp onto, she said. During her trip to Norway, there was one person, who resonated with her. Cunningham was able to sit down with Olav Njølstad, director of the Nobel Peace Institute, who told her, “Peace is from the ground up. Melannie, the work that you’re doing is what peace is.” 

Peace is inside you, Cunningham said. You just have to find it and live it. 

“Sitting there at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony with my mentor,” she said, “I was being very present and mindful. I got here just for doing me.”


DANIELLE KARTES

Cookbook author and co-founder of Rustic Joyful Food

No one gives us side-splitting laughs like the ever-authentic Danielle Kartes, who boot-strapped her cookbook and culinary brand with sheer will during one of the most difficult periods of her life. Now, she’s featured on shows including Rachael Ray and Pickler and Ben, and recently landed a major book publishing deal.


If you’ve never visited Danielle Kartes’ Instagram account (@rusticjoyfulfood), this is a good opportunity to take a break and scroll through it. It’s OK; we’ll wait. 

Did you do it? Are you full on hyena laughing right now? We love Kartes because she is real. Her feed feels like you’re living life right alongside her, from her highs (Hello; she met Oprah Winfrey!!) to her hilarious mom moments (walking around the grocery store with her son’s peanut butter sandwich stuck to her elbow). 

Kartes has spent the last roughly 10 years in the food industry, and as a regular South Sound contributor, while also writing cookbooks, and sharing wholesome recipes on TV, including King 5, the Rachael Ray Show, Hallmark’s Home & Family, and the Pickler and Ben show. She and her husband, Michael, built their Rustic Joyful Food brand on a simple and underrated concept — that life is good right now — and their careers as food stylists and recipe creators are soaring. 

But Kartes will tell you it’s been a slow crescendo toward success, and the foundation of Rustic Joyful Food was built on the most difficult and devastating years of their lives. 

In 2009, a year into their marriage, Kartes opened a new American bistro called Minoela, and it was a huge success. But running the restaurant was draining from the get-go, Kartes said. She was working 18-hour days, some employees were stealing from them, and the stress of it all began to deteriorate their marriage. Two and half years into operating Mineola, they closed its doors in 2011, and in 2012, the couple filed for bankruptcy. 

“It took nine to 10 months for us to really lose everything,” she said of losing their home in Puyallup and having their cars repossessed. “It was a slow burn.” 

But the one thing that kept them afloat was their newborn son, Noah. Kartes gave birth to him just before the restaurant closed, and having this beautiful baby gave them something else to focus on. It wasn’t about them anymore, Kartes said. Everything became about taking care of their new baby. The five years that followed were hard, uncomfortable years. She went back to doing make-up, which was her career prior to opening the restaurant, and the two were barely making it. 

But those were the years when they healed as a couple. “I know that some people might think those are your darkest times and when you come out of it is when you begin to heal, but during that time, I can look back, and I get teary eyed thinking about it. God healed so much of our lives, and our hearts, and our family. Sometimes you have to be stripped of everything to begin to rebuild.”

Kartes started doing food styling for 425 magazine on the side, and in 2014, she self-published her first cookbook, Rustic Joyful Food, in order to preserve the recipes from the restaurant. While doing make-up, she met an executive from Costco, and by sheer willpower, got Rustic Joyful Food onto Costco shelves in 2015. It was her message that convinced Costco to take a very unconventional route and work with the self-publishing company she used to distribute copies of the book. Kartes poured her soul into that book, and she shared some of the struggles she and Michael endured. 

As a brand, Rustic Joyful Food was really taking shape. The food is beautiful, and the recipes are simple and divine, but that’s not what makes it special. During her years living in a little apartment, while enjoying a pot roast she made for friends, she learned that life is good enough right now, and so is yours. 

Kartes was born with this amazing gift of self-worth, so when people told her “no” along the way, she was always looking for a work-around — which is how she got her book into Costco, and started doing TV appearances, and eventually landed herself a segment on the Rachael Ray Show in 2016. Some people give up on their dreams a few years in, or they stop putting in the work, she said. You just have to keep going. Never give up. Keep hustling, and you’ll make it. 

Kartes remembers the first time she returned to New York to do the Rachael Ray Show after being on bedrest with her second son, Milo, for about a year. She and Michael lost their luggage, and it felt like a devastating start to the trip. The two were on their way to buy a new outfit for the show when they stopped at Starbucks for a cup of coffee. In line in front of them was a homeless man who had only a $1.14. He walked up to the front counter with a sandwich in his hand and put it forward. Without missing a beat, the two baristas rung him up for a sandwich and gave him a drip coffee, taking just his $1.14 as payment. 

“I had to step out of line, because I was sobbing,” she said. “This is what our life is all about. Sometimes you may only have $1.14, but it’s so important for you to put it forward, and God will meet you there, every single time. … He didn’t have enough for the sandwich, and I’ve never had enough qualifications. I’ve never been the front-runner. I’ve never had the perfect body. I’ve never been the type of person that says the right things. I’m a mess. I’m a work in progress. But I’ve always put my $1.14 out there, and God has always met me.”

Life is continuing to meet Kartes at her $1.14. In recent months, a publishing company published her third book and re-released her first two cookbooks. She also wrote several kids’ cookbooks. She also has her sights on her own cooking show. But for now, life is good, and she’s happy with where she’s at today. 

“There’s no pinnacle,” she said. “I think that’s very important, and I want women to know that when you tell yourself, ‘I’ll be happy if,’ or, ‘If I can just get here, then I can relax and breathe a little bit.’ If you get rid of those mindsets, you can get back to a place of: Life is good right now.”

Here’s your challenge: Put forward your $1.14, and conquer the world. We know you can do it.

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is an assistant editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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