Monthly Archives: December 2013

meet felicia: iowa fly girl

Felicia Coe on People With Panache

Felicia works three-quarters time. Her day job is really flexible, so that gives her leeway when she has aerial commitments in her life—like perhaps her upcoming cirque-style show “Pandora’s Circus”!

“I keep referring back to that cheesy quote that if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,” says Felicia Coe, the aerialist behind Iowa Fly Girl. (We’ll get to her biggest dream in a couple questions. Do you agree with that quote?)

First, some basics: Felicia runs Des Moines’ first aerial fitness/aerial art business, and it just keeps growing. She’s been doing her aerial magic for four years now, but her greatest passion is teaching it. Felicia and her students use aerial silks (silky columns of loose fabric that hang from the ceiling) as well as similar, silky hammocks to move up and down and through the air, using their entire bodies for beautiful choreography—and having a blast.

People with Panache: This is such a cool practice! Can you describe it for us?

Felicia Coe: Aerial fitness, aerial art—it’s kind of two separate things, and I lean toward aerial fitness. Aerial is still very undefined, but it’s starting to separate. It used to be unreachable for the average person, just something they saw at Cirque du Soleil. Most of my students aren’t looking to be performers, it’s just really fun.

PWP: How did you connect with this community?

FC: I trained in aerial in Salt Lake City—it’s huge out there. Pole fitness is actually huge, too.

But when I moved back here, there was nothing. I was at The Girls Room Fitness for pole, and when they got wind of what I was doing with aerial, I started doing workshops. Now we have this huge group of aerialists! One of our girls actually just carved an aerialist into her Halloween pumpkin. It’s kind of my warm and fuzzy seeing people have that passion for it.

PWP: So you teach classes? Is there a group you perform with?

Felicia Coe on People With Panache

Felicia’s shared studio has a masquerade ball every year, a chance to show off what she and the Goddesses have been doing and learning. (What a cute little cocoon.)

FC: Yes, and this studio has a performing group called the Goddesses. We’ve done performances at 515 Alive, Iowa State Fair and 80/35 music festival.

It’s a different feel, having women just hanging around in the ceiling performing. Students come in because they always thought it was cool and wanted to try it. Some never thought they wanted to perform and caught the bug.

I was terrible and so out of shape when I first started training. I couldn’t even lift myself up. I was 30 pounds heavier and just tried it on a fluke and loved it. It was much better than running on a treadmill.

PWP: Oh my gosh, yes! It looks so hard but seems like such a blast.

FC: Most of my students don’t start out fit. Most come in and can’t do anything, can’t lift themselves up. Half the class I’d say we work on the basics, which is climbing, working on a foot lock. The second half is the easier fun stuff so they’re having fun and not getting discouraged.

People are like “I just…I just got up!” and everyone will cheer; it’s a great atmosphere. I remember the first time I did a foot lock: “YES!” Now, as a teacher, I love seeing that over and over again.

Felicia Coe on People With Panache

“Once you start getting into the dance stuff, it’s all about lots of core strength.” Felicia lost 30 pounds when she took up aerial. (WAY more fun than a treadmill!)

PWP: Do you see your business being more than a side job?

FC: I love it but I don’t want to have to rely on it and take away the joy—but I haven’t decided on that. While I teach, I’m taking on more projects and doing different things, like a cirque-style show called “Pandora’s Circus.”

PWP: How many students do you have?

FC: I have about 20 regulars/die-hard students, and 60 students total. Many people come in by themselves, but it’s neat to see that quiet girl in the corner hanging out and laughing with the other girls a month later. I’ve made a lot of friendships through it.

PWP: Is it challenging to always teach your students something new?

FC: I had a private lesson yesterday and was showing her a gemini move, trying to explain how to get out of it. She was just trying it for the first time and did something else to get out of it. At first I was thinking that’s not how you do it—but that was a new way! They push me and challenge me, and they have big ideas.

PWP: Do people ever fall off the fabric?

FC: No. Once you start going into advanced, there are moments of hang time when you’re transitioning, but once you get to that point you’re pretty strong in your moves.

Felicia Coe on People With Panache

Felicia’s national convention will also host a competition to give participants a reason to prepare and practice hard. We want to go watch!

For me, safety’s huge—the most important. Aerial is very fun but extremely dangerous. I am careful not to just let students go try anything they see on YouTube. And in the beginning I work with them a lot on the hammock. They start to trust it, to understand their body weight in relation to the fabric.

PWP: It’s nice you’re finding places to teach so you don’t have to worry about the overhead.

FC: Yes, and I’m working on a new aerial project: the Des Moines Social Club just got this firehouse that they’re turning into a restaurant, coffee house, bars, a theater, culinary art space, classrooms and an aerial studio they’re converting from a racquetball court.

My husband and I originally left Des Moines ’cause there was nothing here, but you just have to open your eyes—there’s a ton going on. And I love the collaboration. I’ve talked to aerialists in other places, and it’s just not there. It’s really nice to have that support here. Everyone’s interested!

Felicia Coe on People With Panache

Felicia loves Alice in Wonderland—and has the perfect reason to buy fun leggings!

PWP: We would be if we still lived here!

FC: The other big thing I’m working on now, which still hasn’t rolled out, has been my biggest, scariest project. Aerial is lacking an association, one spot to bring all forms of aerialists together. Safety is hugely important, and there isn’t one place online to understand it or look up questions. I want there to be a centralized spot to do that, have profiles, create forums, read what people are experiencing, dealing with, troubleshooting, hosting.

So this summer, we’re holding a national convention at the firehouse! It’s a great venue, and there aren’t a lot of places where you can work with other aerialists on safety, new routines, everything. For a solo performer, a business owner, it’s a perfect atmosphere.

PWP: That is brilliant! It kind of ties in with one of our goals for 2014: Bring together these amazing women we keep meeting to develop a vibrant network of women entrepreneurs and dream followers in the Midwest. We’ll certainly share when we do—’cause we bet a ton would also love to learn about aerial!

So, it sounds like one of the most fun things we can imagine—flying, basically!—but what are some challenges of doing what you do?

FC: I’ve had to get more organized, which has never been my huge strong area. I was always like, this is fun! But I have this year’s planner, next year’s planner, and the weirdest thing is balancing my friends, my life. I’m working really hard to make it all balance.

PWP: What makes you happiest?

FC: Having that balance. If this was to go away, like if I was to get injured or something, I can’t have this be all me and then one day walk away from it. I have a nephew, about to be 2, the first baby in our family. He just has me around his finger. I also love real downtime with my husband—just doing nothing.

And with the aerial part of my life, I’m my happiest with my beginners and seeing those little victories.

[Photos by Alysse.]

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doodle day: fly fly away

Ever wanted to soar through the sky on a silky cloth? (And when we say that, do you hear Aladdin singing, “I can show you the world, shining, shimmering, splendid”? Neither do we…)

Well Felicia Coe flies almost every day. As a professional aerialist, she gives us a whole new world opinion on the necessity of upper body strength. And we’ll stop here before we make any more Disney jokes. Check back Tuesday for her story!

Felicia Coe, Aerialist

[Doodle by Lucca.]

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meet erin: chicago nanny agency owner

Erin and Steve Krex on People with Panache

Erin celebrated Nanny Recognition Week back in October with a party at the Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview, Ill. More than 100 nannies and children attended! “Nannies sometimes feel very isolated because they’re working in a home, so for them to get together and form friendships is really important,” she says.

I had the best nanny in the whole world growing up. Teresa and I had the best kid/nanny bonding time after school, getting ice cream at Sonic before my mom got home from work, singing Nelly Furtado, feeling like I finally had a big sister. I didn’t realize how lucky I was!

Erin Krex started First Class Care after a scary nanny experience with her son, Parker. She and her husband, Steve, then made it their mission to provide Chicago-area families with reliable, responsible nannies, housekeepers, house managers, personal assistants and chefs. (That last one sounds pretty awesome!)

People with Panache: What exactly happened that spurred you to start First Class Care?

Erin Krex: My son was born in 2004. When we were searching for a nanny, we found that Chicago had a lot of illegal agencies. Even the reputable ones really didn’t want to take on the “new mom who doesn’t know what she wants” situation. It was extremely frustrating to me, being a new mom. I wanted somebody to walk me through the whole process. We ended up hiring a nanny from an agency and later found out that they lied about their whole screening process. She almost burned our house down.

“We specialize in taking those new moms in, completely walking them through it and holding their hands.”

PWP: What? That must have been so scary! I can’t believe the agency got away with that.

EK: As someone who is extremely trusting, I felt that because they’re an agency they were doing everything they said they were doing, and I didn’t ask for proof.

First Class Care on People with Panache

Husband and wife duo Erin and Steve love working together every day to make First Class Care as successful as possible. Does it get any better?!

In 2006, we opened First Class Care on the premise that we knew we could do it better and that nobody would ever have to ask us for anything. We provide everything from references to background checks. You never have to think: Do I have everything that I need to make sure I’m hiring the best possible person?

PWP: That sounds like it would be so useful to have that weight taken off your shoulders. New parents have enough to worry about!

EK: I think that because I’m a mom, I’ve been through it, and I’ve had nannies over the years, it helps other moms feel more comfortable. And we specialize in taking those new moms in, completely walking them through it and holding their hands. Even years later, I’ve had families who have hired nannies from us still call us with questions like: What’s an appropriate raise when I have my second baby?

PWP: What do you love about your job?

EK: The best feeling is helping people find great long-term jobs and making the process a little bit less stressful on the families.

Krex family, First Class Care, PWP

Despite working around the clock keeping track of thousands of nannies and families, Steve and Erin always make time for their nine-year-old son, Parker. He has an awesome swing set under an apple tree in their backyard!

PWP: What’s the screening process like for your nannies?

EK: For all of our candidates—nannies, housekeepers, everybody—we start with a pre-screen over the phone. We go through five simple questions, and we really look for people who want to stay longer than a year. Then they fill out an online application, and if they’re a good fit they come in for an interview. If they pass their interview, we check references. All of their references have to be excellent before they can get matched with one of our families.

PWP: This is a thorough screening process!

EK: The nannies also go through a skills assessment test. It basically tests them on milestones for children, safety, professionalism. It’s a test but also a learning tool. The rules are always changing in the industry, such as no more bumper pads are allowed in cribs for suffocation reasons. The test is to see what they know. What they get wrong, we can educate them on and make sure they know the correct answer.

PWP: There must be a huge need for your services, especially in and around Chicago. How do you feel you’re doing compared to sites like,

Erin on providing the best service and nannies in the biz: “Our families know they’re not getting somebody who just decided they want to be a nanny or a housekeeper, but somebody who has professional experience, who has amazing references and can come in on their first day of work and know what it is to be a nanny.”

EK: I don’t really see as competition. I think that the families who come to us are usually super busy professionals and they don’t have time to search on their own for somebody. You put an ad on and you’re going to get 100 responses. Some of our families just don’t have time to go through that and screen them, background check them, call references, everything. So it’s a super time-consuming process. I would say actually helps our business because many families think they can do it on their own. And then they come to us and say oh my gosh I don’t know what I was thinking. Please help us.

PWP: Do you like owning your own business?

EK: I do. I love owning my own business. I love working with my husband. Even though we work seven days a week, it gives us the freedom to go to my child’s school musicals, for example. We can run out in the middle of the day if we need to. It’s definitely a 24/7 business though. We get calls all day long, and whenever the phone rings we answer it.

PWP: What makes you happiest?

EK: My family. Just being with my family. I think my son seeing his parents owning a business and being entrepreneurs really shows him that whatever he’s passionate about he can pursue. He does exactly that with his lemonade stands, and he has his own website and his own YouTube channel. I think he gets that from us. In fact, I think his YouTube channel has more hits than mine.

When or if you have kids, what do you want to teach them?

[Photos by Kate.]

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doodle day: nanny network

Our next Panachie makes it snappy.


Erin created a business that connects clients with in-home help, like nannies, elder-care companions and more, in relationships that click. We know plenty of people in jobs like these—and we’ve done them ourselves—so Erin’s service strikes us as a needed one that creates happiness all around. Snaps to that!

[Doodle by Lucca.]

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meet melissa: detroit dress designer with a twist

Melissa Kolb on People with Panache

“I started sewing when I got my grandma’s sewing machine after she passed away in 2000. I think she probably got it in the ‘80s. I was 20, and that was when I starting tweaking clothes.”

Melissa Kolb, 33, makes old things new. She started Mended Material in September 2012 to use her creativity and talent to turn what we might see as hopeless old dresses into lovely new ones with unexpected combos. (They’re so fun!)

There’s something magical about seeing Melissa’s pretty creations that exist solely because she saw their potential. Melissa reminds us that life provides so much—unexpected lessons, inspiring stories, people that help us move forward—but it’s up to us to take notice and put our own pieces together to create a wonderful life.

For Melissa, that means some days in the studio, some days waitressing, and every day working toward doing what she loves full time.

People with Panache: Your designs are so unique! How long have you been making clothes and bags?

Melissa Kolb: A little more than 10 years. I always bought secondhand clothing, and I just started changing it myself. I’d find a cute dress, but it was too long or didn’t have any shape, so I would tweak it for myself. About six years ago I began selling dresses for a couple of years. About a year and a half ago I started up again, sewing, doing shows and selling online. The shows are sort of like indie craft fairs—not expensive art shows, but not craft shows either.

PWP: But you went to school for architecture design, right?

MK: I got my degree in architecture in 2005, but I didn’t get my master’s because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something creative, but it wasn’t that. I dragged my feet for a couple years before I started getting into sewing.

Melissa Kolb on People with Panache

“I think being home it’s hard to detach myself from work. I feel like I should always be doing something. I shouldn’t be watching this movie; I should be in my studio making something. So I think that’s why I like to get away.”

But I don’t regret going to school for architecture. I owe my complete creative mind to it. I went into it because I was good at math, and that’s what everybody kind of told me I should do. But when I got into my design studios, it was a completely different world. I didn’t even care about the math classes. I was just all about the design, and it was a lot of fun. I learned a lot, and I feel like I use it in everything that I do. There’s a visual balance to all of it.

PWP: What’s your favorite thing to make?

MK: Definitely clothes. For me in particular, I feel like you can be a lot more expressive. I make bags more fun with a pop in the lining, but for me it’s definitely the clothes. Because they are all very, very different.

PWP: I guess you only meet your customers really at shows, but why do you think they’re into Mended? Because it’s unique or upcycled maybe?

MK: Probably more so the fact that it’s different. I don’t have any two products that are exactly the same. That’s something that was always important to me. I didn’t want anybody else to have the dress or bag I had. It’s why I hated shopping at malls. I feel like that sense of uniqueness is probably what draws people more than anything.

PWP: Who has encouraged you the most?

MK: Probably an equal tie between my husband and my sister. My husband is very, very supportive. I sometimes am apprehensive about things just because I’m putting myself out there. You start to get insecure, and he always really pushes me and is really confident in me. Same with my sister, she always wants to help. She pushes me too.

It’s not that I’m not confident, I am, but when it comes down to certain things, I second guess myself because I haven’t been doing this long enough to really know. Then I get that customer who really appreciates what they’re buying and I see them multiple times—that helps with the confidence.

PWP: What do you see for your future?

MK: Right now I’m trying to learn what sells the best, figure out what I need to be making and try to understand my customer and my market better. I would like to do more shows and figure out which ones attract my market—and do those shows over and over again. I enjoy doing that. You meet a lot of people and other artists. I think eventually I’ll want to sell full-time in the art markets, nontraditional retail. I’m kind of going one year at a time. I would definitely like to be doing this full time though.

“If you’re happy that’s all that matters.”

PWP: Do you have any advice for someone scared to follow their dream?

MK: I mean, I’m still scared. I feel like so many people get lost doing what they feel they need to do and never really completely figure themselves out. When you’re doing the day-to-day thing that everybody else is doing, it feels like that’s what you’re supposed to do. But I think it’s so important to find the littlest thing you enjoy doing—whether it’s a hobby or a full-time job—and stick with it. There are ups and downs to everything and you just have to do it. If you’re happy that’s all that matters.

Melissa Kolb on People with Panache

On her style: “Everything I have is second hand or reused. Simple lines but mixing patterns. Classic shapes trying not to go too crazy but having more fun with the patterns. I like to wear something that’s a timeless look but there’s always got to be a little twist. It’s the same when I’m making clothes and when I’m getting dressed every day.”

PWP: Yeah, even if you just take a class you love in order to grow in some way. I think it makes people more understanding, too, if they’re doing something they love. Otherwise people don’t always understand why you would start making clothes, or start a blog just because you love sharing people’s stories.

MK: I feel like sometimes initially people didn’t take me seriously. Until you really start making some sort of profit or money on it, people don’t really see the point. To me, you have to be happy. Somehow, some way.

PWP: What makes you happiest?

MK: I enjoy working but I don’t think it makes me the happiest. On a day-to-day basis I’m happiest when I’m making a list or organizing something. It’s a really easy sense of productivity. I like feeling a sense of accomplishment.

On a larger scale, my husband and I go up north a lot to northern Michigan. What makes me happy is when we get out of town to be together or be with friends and family and get away from day-to-day stuff. It’s important that what you do every day for your job makes you happy, but it’s just as important that you detach yourself from that and you can be happy away from it. You need other things that keep you going too. I’m glad I do what I love most days—but I’m also grateful that I know I sometimes just need to get away.

[Photos by Alysse.]

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meet liz: des moines art adviser

Liz Lidgett on People with Panache

Liz is president of Art Noir, a 400-plus person organization that raises money (to make sure admission is free to everyone every day) and throws events for the Des Moines Art Center—“events you wouldn’t be able to go to anywhere else,” Liz says.

“We loved L.A. and had a great time, but we knew we could affect change in a more impactful way in Des Moines at such a young age.”

Liz Lidgett, 28, entrepreneur and general make-it-happen person, just described why we love the Midwest so very much. Continue reading