Christian Verardi, President
Edward JonesIn his nearly four years as a financial advisor and fourteen years as a construction project manager and estimator, Christian has developed very strong organizational and managerial skills. He has learned that the most valuable of these skills is to empower others to get the job done by fostering an environment of trust and values. He believes that the most important aspects of anything that a business does has to be centered around it’s relationships with its employees and clients. By treating employees as partners instead of employees, we all accomplish more. The same can be said about how clients are treated, which is why he always aims to provide outrageous client service. To develop these kinds of relationships, he takes a systematic approach and plans his business around these as process goals that ultimately drive the business product goals.
Natasha Koss, Vice President
Natasha Koss is a development professional with Northern Initiatives, specializing in securing funding for NI to help small businesses launch and grow in Michigan. Ms. Koss graduated from Northern Michigan University in 1996 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and then a Master’s of Science in Ecology in 2000. In 2010 Ms. Koss received a certification in Fundraising Management from The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. As a seasoned nonprofit volunteer and professional, Ms. Koss has worked with a variety of organizations throughout Michigan and understands the mission-critical attention it requires to serve in a leadership and governing capacity. Having been a resident of Marquette for nearly 20 years, Ms. Koss believes building community through a local chamber of commerce means more than just fueling a robust small business ecosystem, but it also requires enhancing, nurturing, and prioritizing all aspects of life from family, recreation, being creative and finding time and space for personal growth.
Victoria Leonhardt, Secretary
Grow & Lead: Community Youth Development
Victoria Leonhardt is an Associate at Grow & Lead: Community and Youth Development (GLCYD). In her role at Grow & Lead, Victoria works on marketing and capacity building events for the organization. Additionally, she provides technical assistance and facilitation on strategic planning, marketing and nonprofit formation to organizations in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Victoria volunteers with NMU SLFP, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Accelerate UP, STAR Children’s Bereavement Services, the YMCA and the Michigan Iron Industry Museum Advisory Board. She actively serves on the Chamber’s Marquette Fourth of July Celebration Committee and Be Local Buy Local Committee. She is a member of Marquette Twilight Rotary and 40 Below: Marquette County Young Professionals, where she served as President in 2016.
Brice Sturmer, Treasurer
Recently relocated to Marquette, Brice and his wife Teagan moved back home in the summer of 2017 after spending time in Green Bay, WI and Nashville, TN. Teagan grew up in the Marquette area and when the time came to start their own business, Brice and Teagen decided to set up in the best community they could think of – Marquette! Along with founding Velodrome Coffee Company, Brice has worked for a number of other locally minded, independently owned businesses. One of Brice’s biggest passions outside of coffee and biking is event planning. In each of Brice’s former and current roles, he has found a way to build events that interest a wide range of individuals. Being only 22 years of age, Brice brings a new and fresh viewpoint to business and community. Brice has also traveled much of the United States and Central America and carries a multicultural perspective into any project he is involved with.
Andrea Pernsteiner, Board Member
Ore Dock Brewing Company
I still have to pinch myself at the idea that I own a craft brewery; specifically one off the shore of Lake Superior in a place that I love and feel blessed to call home. I grew up in Wisconsin and graduated from UW-LaCrosse/Madison, meeting Wes soon after. We are partners in crime, partners in life, and partners, along with this group of truly wonderful and dedicated people, in building Ore Dock Brewing Company into everything we hope it can be. Outside of the brewery, you can find me enjoying UP life with Wes, our kids August (Gus) and Tess and animals Ringo, Elvis, and Smokey.
Matt Gougeon, Board Member
Marquette Food Cooperative
Matt is a strong believer in the cooperative business model and understands the efficacy and energy of member-based organizations. He says that “Member engagement at the board level is fundamental to the success of the Marquette Chamber of Commerce”. He knows that taking direction and lead from a membership base creates a “bottom up” structure that makes for efficient servant leadership at the board level and ensures that the mission of the Chamber is fulfilled. Matt is honored and excited to be the President of the Marquette Chamber Board and be a part of building the organization from the ground up. “Having this new Chamber serve the Marquette, Chocolay Township, and Marquette Township business community will only serve to improve the quality of life of the citizens of these municipalities. I’m excited to see what an organization made up of people who get up every day and create their work lives can accomplish together.”
Sarah Reynolds, Board Member
Hyde & Swajanen
Sarah grew up in a small town outside of Detroit. She attended Northern Michigan University and received a degree in political science and public administration. She has worked as a paralegal and office manager for Hyde & Swajenen. Besides work, the two best decisions she have ever made was marrying her husband, Anthony, and running for city commission. In both circumstances, she was forced out of her comfort zone and has never been happier. She’s running for the Chamber of Commerce board because in the last year she has seen the great programs and projects that it is undertaking, and believes her experience as city commissioner, a taxpayer, and the manager of a small business can help the chamber grow into something greater.
Jenn Beckman, Board Member
Honor Credit Union
Jenn Beckman is a Business Development Officer for Honor Credit Union whose focus is teaming up with small business owners and helping them find solutions to their financial goals and lending needs. Jenn has over 15 years in the financial and customer service industry, with ten of those years focused primarily on working with small businesses and local municipalities in smaller communities. Jenn is a proud alumnus of Northwood University, in Midland, MI with her BSA and MBA in Business Management. A transplant to the Marquette community, a few years ago, from the farm fields & windmill country of the thumb area in lower Michigan, she understands how powerful small business communities can be when they band together through serving on past chamber boards and community initiative projects. Although still considered new to the area, she is not a stranger to the U.P. where her family has hunting property where she would vacation, hunt, or “hideaway” and appreciates the biking, and winters much more here! Jenn currently is an active participant in many different community organizations in the Marquette community. In her free time, she and her Yooper-native husband, Sean, love to play in our beautiful playground going on hikes with their four fur-babies, mountain biking, kayaking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, and of course having dinners and crafty drinks at our finest Marquette establishments! Jenn is a big “support local” advocate and believes small business success is based on community relationships and support.
Cara Monks, Board MemberBrian M Bloch, PLLC Attorneys & Counselors
My name is Cara Monks. I have lived and worked in Marquette since 2004. I am originally from a small town in the Lower Peninsula and up here to attend NMU. It was during my first two semesters that I fell in love with the area, chose to rent my first apartment and make Marquette my home. In the last 14 ½ years I have worked as an activity coordinator at Norlite Nursing Center, managed Dead River Coffee and currently I am a legal assistant for Brian Bloch’s Law Office. I believe that in holding these various positions I have gained a unique perspective on Marquette life, business and culture. What I have admired about the Chamber of Commerce is the voice it gives to small local businesses with regard to the development of Marquette. I deeply care about this city and its future. Seeing the way that Marquette has progressed since I first moved here has only fueled my desire to be part of this community in more meaningful ways.