5 Grand Rapids bloggers to start following now

5 Grand Rapids bloggers to start following now

Blogging is an amazing way to connect with people, share important stories, and inspire people to act.

But actually doing it is difficult.

It takes discipline. Creativity. Effort.

Consequently, a lot of people start a blog and quickly stop updating it a few weeks later.

However, these Grand Rapids-based bloggers have bucked the trend. The bloggers produce stellar, actually incredible, content on a regular basis.

I haven’t met them all, but I am proud of them, proud of them for representing the blogging world, right here in West Michigan.

So… start following!

#health / #nutrition / #realfood


1. Kelly – Kelly the Kitchen Kop

I first encountered Kelly when she was a guest speaker for my grad school class on entrepreneurship. She talked about how cool it was to be a full-time blogger. Hard, but cool. Kelly has been doing this for 10 YEARS. That’s a long time in the blogging world. She has hundreds of recipes, tips, information and resources you can, uh, digest.


#grandrapids / #parenting / #travel / #family

mid city love

2. Nichole Kladder – Mid City Love

I have been following this blog for awhile and, like Grand Rapids has, it keeps getting cooler. The design is crazy professional. So are the photos. West Michigan is a wonderful place to raise a family and this blog offers a unique lens… snapshot… viewpoint of what’s happening at the ground level. Here’s great line from the most recent post:

 I’m an even bigger fan of the unconditional love marriage has brought to our lives. I personally think marriage unfairly gets a bad reputation and if I can step on my soapbox for a moment, I completely disagree! Marriage rocks and Valentines Day is a solid excuse to shout it from the rooftops!

Wow. As Rob Bell would say, “So good!” Do yourself a favor and fall in love with Mid City Love.


#business / #publishing / #art / #creativity


3. Chad R. Allen – Chad R. Allen.com

Chad entered my world after I heard him on The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins, a podcast with a strong audience across the country. When he mentioned he lived in Grand Rapids, I was like “must. reach. out.” I did and we connected over some crafts. Chad is full of ideas and super experienced, learning from and rolling with some of the most successful online entrepreneurs today. His blog helps creatives discover how to share their work with the world and, if they want to, get published. Chad’s online community comments regularly so that’s a nice element to follow as well. Connect with this guy before he gets too big!



#nightlife/ #events / #culture / #grandrapids


4. Sara Visser – The GR Guide

Before fall of 2016, I considered myself fairly in the know when it came to Grand Rapids activities. Then I stumbled across The GR Guide. This blog ninja-kicked me in the face. Sara not only writes about amazing events and places in Grand Rapids, she experiences them, offering photos of her at Griffins’ games or restaurants or coffee shops or wherever. What’s different about her blog is it’s organized into short sentences under sections labeled events, local links and “my latest obsessions this week” (best heading ever). If you are looking for something to do this week, and your default isn’t dinner and a movie, check out Sara’s outstanding work.


#self-improvement / #habits / #women / #business / #grandrapids


5. Kristin Jones – KristinJones.co

I am a huge fan of intentional living and self-improvement and taking control of your life. I consume that content regularly through books, podcasts, and blogs. So I was intrigued when I discovered Kristen was covering this topic locally with posts like “How to have more happiness & ease throughout your day.” Yes, please. Now her audience is more “empowered babes” but even if you’re not, she has posts like “Favorite coffee shops in Grand Rapids MI,” an extremely practical post for a professional obsessed with coffee, such as myself. Now, go, improve your life!

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Creating the time: The Beauty Synonymous Tour raises thousands with inspiring message of adventure

Creating the time: The Beauty Synonymous Tour raises thousands with inspiring message of adventure


I met Ben Lemmen, owner of Holland-based Emblem Cinema, nearly 10 years ago and could tell he was a creative guy from day one.

Now he is taking that creativity to the next level.

As in national. As in a documentary. As in shattering Kickstarter goals.

I had to find out more about his upcoming collaborative project, The Beauty Synonymous Tour, before he, well, left.

So enjoy my Q&A with Ben Lemmen. You WILL be ready for an adventure after you finish reading it.

Tell me about how this trip was born. Was it a sudden, ‘aha’ moment or more of a ‘man I am getting older so I have to do this now because I keep talking about it’ idea? In other words, why now?

The Beauty Synonymous tour was really born both out of a long process of conversations and a sudden, impulsive moment of action. Travis, Alex and myself have been talking about doing a content-gathering road trip since we all met in 2014. At first it was just a trip out to Yosemite. I think at one point it was a documentary road-trip of Bobo (Alex) riding his motorcycle out to Los Angeles to find love. The realities of life (i.e. paying rent, student loans, running small businesses) became excuses for these conversations to end with nothing more than, “That’d be so cool to do.” Early this year, maybe March or April, we started to realize  that we could pull off a trip like this, but it needed to happen in the next few years. Conversations began again, and didn’t fizzle out. Finally, one day, we just asked each other if we were in. We all went around and said yes, and have been working hard on planning and funding since. 

Why now? Good question. Yes, we’re younger guys, all doing freelance, but this is definitely not the perfect timing to do it. We’re all saying no to a lot of projects that would be coming in this fall. I don’t think I’ve ever been more stressed trying to get ready for this thing. The timing, however, never seems to be perfect. As freelancers, we sell our services to others. What people don’t often realize is that it can be extremely draining, creatively. Even if the work is exciting and new. I think we feel a need to check ourselves; to make sure we’re still able to create work that we can own, and enjoy doing it. It’s less about finding the timing and more about creating the time.

How did you select the locations you are visiting?

Well, we knew we wanted to get all the way out to Yosemite and back, so I think the trip route really created itself around that. We’re starting by going all the way through the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan, because we all really love our home state, and want to show it some love on our trip. All three of us have different places that we really wanted on the route. Travis loves night photography, so he recommended Arches National Park in Utah, and we strategically timed that stay during a new moon. Bobes is the most excited about Los Angeles, so he can fall in love (just kidding. maybe). I’ve always wanted to explore northern California, and see the Redwoods, so I’m stoked for that leg of the trip. There are seriously no “filler” locations. We’re even looking forward to the tiny towns we’ll be crashing in for a night here-and-there. It’s all part of the adventure


What type of work do you expect to accomplish?

We are really trying to exercise what the three of us have learned these past three years doing freelance work. We’ll have a car full of cinema, DSLR and film cameras. Our primary objective is to actually document the adventure (and even the boring parts) of road-tripping. We want to put the environments, events and people we find along the way into a short film. If there’s a narrative in there (which we think there will be), we want to find that. 
Another way we’ll let that narrative speak is through our still photography. We’re hoping to find a way to show and sell prints after the trip
We’ll also be shooting stock footage along the way for a company that sells footage for film and commercial use, as well as shooting some product shots for sponsors along the way. We’re really happy to be teaming up with Braincell Camera, who is providing some of the equipment necessary to make the production end of this trip happen. 

Describe your Kickstarter campaign.

When we started planning for the trip, we really were not anticipating any sort of social media, or crowdsourcing. We thought we’d find a few projects along the way to cover the costs, and figure out what we’d do with the footage. “Beauty Synonymous” began developing after we started recognizing that people (other than our dear mothers) were interested in the trip. The thought was, “hey, maybe we could provide some inspiration for others to do that same type of thing by finding a way to share the trip with people.” In talking about how to do that, we came up with the idea of an Instagram account, and selling T-shirts. We started our Instagram account in mid-July, and were really surprised at the response to it. 
The Kickstarter really just felt like the best way to sell shirts. We could set a modest goal, get exact quantity, sizes and colors and maybe make enough to cover gas. Right before the launch a friend of mine texted me and asked if he could buy a canvas print from the trip. That was something we hadn’t thought about selling, but we added it to the options. There’s a few more options that we added in, but the primary objective was to sell a few t-shirts. I was legitimately anxious hitting “launch” on the campaign a few weeks ago. I mean, we were all sort of expecting family and close friends to back it. An hour after launching we had $200. I just sat there hitting refresh until about 12:30 a.m., when we had over $700. I woke up to a text from Travis that was something like, “Holy s*** guys. Check the Kickstarter.” We were about to break $2,000. We met our goal in about 15 hours. That was truly an incredible feeling. As artists, to see that type of support– that’s the type of stuff that keeps you going. We’re blessed and thankful to have people who believe in our crazy ideas and I’m looking forward to seeing some Beauty Synonymous shirts worn by others on their own adventures.

What are you biggest fears about the adventure and what are you most excited about concerning the adventure?

I think all three of us have some of the same fears, but also unique fears to us. I can’t speak for Travis and Bobes, but for me, It was pretty scary committing to a month out of the regular routine. Because production is such a time-consuming process, projects are often weeks or months of work. I’ve had to say no to a lot of work this year in preparation of the trip, while still being able to have jobs lined up when we return. That’s really challenged me, because it can seem really stupid to walk away from consistent work in an effort to do work that, while meaningful, is not exactly profit-oriented. As the trip gets closer, and honestly with the success of the Kickstarter, that fear has been beginning to subside. I don’t have any fears about the trip, really. Our van breaks down? Sounds like a funny memory to capture. We get lost? Again, those are the best memories. I am a little worried about bears. I hear they don’t like to pose nicely for the camera. 
Yes, I’m excited to film and photograph beautiful landscapes and wildlife on this trip. There’s no doubt about that. For me, though, I’m more excited for the change of pace and the idea of journey. There is so much pressure, no matter what you do for a living, to have laser vision on end products and achieving goals, especially as twenty-somethings. It sounds cliche, but the process and journey seems to be the thing we’re going to look back on in the end, not the product. You don’t have to physically go somewhere– to travel places– necessarily, but sometimes that’s the best way to be reminded that the journeys we’re on are important. I’m excited about that. I’m excited to share it with Travis and Bobes, and I’m excited to maybe convince others to make time to do the same
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Quit your job and hit the road: Andy and Jen Holt living the Millenial dream

Quit your job and hit the road: Andy and Jen Holt living the Millenial dream


When you’re a trained reporter and you hear college friends of yours are traveling the country in a RV, you have to investigate. No matter the cost.

Turns out Andy and Jen Holt are embracing a movement, known simply as “roadschooling.” Instead of education from a distance, they are giving their two children a firsthand look at Aaah-merica (think the George W. Bush pronunciation). 

It’s brilliant. Edgy. Risky. But, most of all, fun.

In my school, teachers hated textbooks so much they organized mass textbook throwdowns in protest. Roadschooling makes textbooks a resource, not the only option.

The added bonus is they have blogged about their roadschooling adventures. 

Without further a due, Andy and Jen Holt of Free2Breathe:

Describe your current lifestyle and how you achieved it.

We are currently living “on the road” and have been since April of 2014.  We have the flexibility in our schedules to follow the warm weather or our friends whenever we would like.  We made the decision to sell our home and most of our Earthly possessions 18 months ago and it has allowed us to be debt free and let go of a lot of daily stressors.  We have two kids that we are schooling at home or “roadschooling” as many people who travel call it.  We feel that we are giving them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but more on that later.


What and who inspired you to make the change?

We went through some personal battles and knew we needed a professional and lifestyle change.  It may be a little extreme to some but we wanted a fresh start so we hit the road to really experience life.  We have endless family time, nights together and time with our kids and we really know we are impressing upon them family values during these early years.

How long do you plan to be on the road? Where’s next?

We are currently in Denver, CO for the month of October and will be heading down to Texas for about 6 weeks before spending time with family in Michigan over the holidays.  After that we will migrate southwest and stay warm this winter.  We plan to go back to Michigan next summer and see what doors open up there.

What are some lessons your children have learned that you know traditional schooling couldn’t offer?

Our children are 4 and 7 so they are just at the beginning of traditional schooling.  They have never been in the public school system so it is hard to make comparisons but the biggest thing at this early age is that we feel we can accomplish an eight hour day in about an hour because we are able to give our kids that one-on-one, uninterrupted attention.  We also feel there is SO much value in actually seeing, feeling and sometimes tasting history.  We, as adults, have learned so much more than we ever did sitting in a History classroom.  There is something that can’t be described to someone unless they are also standing on the grounds of Gettysburg or standing in front of the Liberty Bell themselves.

Anything else you would like to add?

We know we are living out of the box and it has been hard on our extended family that we left in Michigan, but we know we made the right decision at the time and believe our kids will forever have these memories of the incredible sights we have seen and the close knit family bond we have made.

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