As someone who grew up in the lovely, small-town community of Marshall MN, I often get asked, “So Bridget, why don’t you move back?” And, I get it; my parents and five siblings and their families live there. I have a lot of cousins, my grandparents, great friends, fellow professional connections, and even clients there. It’s a great community that has supported me and shaped me from a young age.
But when you talk about thriving and growing communities who have also helped shape who I am… Marshall isn’t the only city on that list – the Greater St. Cloud community is too.
I attended The College of Saint Benedict | Saint John’s University and graduated in December 2012. Since that time, I’ve lived in Sartell and grown as both a young woman and a professional – here, with these people, in this community.
When I was asked to write about my experiences personally and professionally, I found I couldn’t use those two buckets alone – personal and professional. Really, my whole life – with exception to my immediate family – is here. I have so many full buckets! And while having great ‘work and play’ aspects of life is undeniable, it’s the opportunities and connections that Central MN offers to young professionals like me that make it so much more .
After internships and years of marketing experience with businesses here in Central MN, I founded Greenline Marketing. Being part of this community and having a passion for creative marketing helped inspire me to start a company that lends itself to collaborating with businesses of all sizes and budgets on their digital marketing efforts. As you may imagine, starting a business is no small feat and I’m so thankful to have done so in Greater St. Cloud. The connections, answered questions, support, and referrals I’ve been given by countless people and businesses here have contributed to Greenline’s growth and success. It’s so fun to be a business owner alongside other entrepreneurs in this area; I am able to collaborate with local individuals and have seen the sheer amount of talent and passion that surrounds us. St. Cloud has no shortage of professional experiences and if you’re willing to put yourself out there, you’ll be rewarded.
When I was a college student I think one of my biggest misconceptions was that to have a vibrant post-grad social life, I needed to move to the Twin Cities. I was sure the experiences and fun I had in mind for after college could not be found here… and was I very wrong. There is so much to do! I could go on and on about all the great ways to spend free time in Greater St. Cloud, but for both of our sake – I’ll list some of my favorites:
Enjoy Live Music + Authentic Irish Food at Olde Brick House. Since coming to downtown St. Cloud, this place has been one of my favorites! The food + service is amazing and the atmosphere is killer.
See a Show! My alma mater has a phenomenal calendar of shows and experiences from Fine Arts Programming. Between taking in performances they’ve brought to the area or visiting the beautiful, historic Paramount Center for the Arts, greater St. Cloud has a calendar of entertainment that can’t be beat.
Find a Friday afternoon Happy Hour + Meat Raffle: Is there anything more Minnesotan than a meat raffle? There are a lot of fun, hometown watering holes to enjoy an end-of-week beverage and test your luck on winning some homegrown meat. A few favorite spots are Howie’s, The Middy, and The Ultimate – but these are just the beginning!
Stroll down St. Germain Street: Whether you’re wanting a delicious home-cooked lunch (Dolsie’s!) need a morning or afternoon latte that’s out of this world (Jules’ Bistro!), want to browse local shops for gifts and decor (Copper Pony! Fiddlestix! Bumbledees!), or need a local bite + brew (Pickled Loon!) I promise you’ll enjoy plenty of places jam-packed with local gems.
Explore the Outdoors: Maybe you like a sweaty summer jog, a spring bike ride, crunching through the fall leaves, or some blustery snowshoeing… whatever you prefer, there are a number of places to get out and get fresh air. The Quarries will give you the calm, quiet, serene you’re looking for with lots to do! Also take time to visit Munsinger Gardens, Lake George, and the Beaver Island Trail – among others.
Learn the History of the Area: with a rich history of nearly 85 years, the Stearns History Museum has existed to connect people through the power of history and culture. Their current exhibit, Remarkable Women in Stearns County, celebrates the accomplishments of women from the St. Cloud area from the past and the present who were pioneers in their respective fields – it’s a personal favorite!
I’ve lived in Sartell, MN for nearly seven years now. There’s a reason that when I moved, it was to this community. There’s a fresh air about Sartell; people are always out and about, everywhere you look is a friendly face, there are local, supportive businesses, and it’s a safe, charming community. There is always something going on and has many of the same amenities in a little bit of a more relaxed, quiet, residential atmosphere. Like Sartell, our region is blessed with many other unique communities that offer an exceptional quality of life.
As a young professional, establishing yourself in a community isn’t just about finding a job. It’s about finding a group of supportive and like-minded individuals. I find I stray from the word ‘networking’ because it can feel a little stuffy (although valuable) – and I tend to seek connection. Lucky for me, I was introduced to two powerful groups in Central MN.
AAFCM or the American Advertising Federation of Central MN, has been an invaluable group to me – both personally and professionally. Professionally, I found camaraderie among others who have similar interests and experience and was able to learn and grow with a national group represented here in Central MN. I’ve been on the Board of Directors for about five years now and made some of my closest friends thanks to this group.
The second group was one I was honored to help establish and grow with fellow young professionals back in 2015. Young Leaders United is a branch of United Way of Central MN specific for adults ages 18-35. Though now under a fresh wave of local leaders, YLU maintains the strength in their mission of using time, talent, and resources to create positive, lasting change in Central Minnesota through volunteerism, advocacy, and philanthropy. This group allowed me to meet new people, experience new parts of St. Cloud, and give back to the community.
There is a multitude of faith communities here in Central MN. In fact, it can be a bit overwhelming. Lucky for me, as a practicing Catholic, there are a number of parishes in the area with open doors and welcoming arms. Between the beautiful architecture and variety of service times at St. Mary’s Cathedral, the traditional Latin Mass at St. John Cantius, lively music and upbeat feel of St. Francis Xavier, or area campus chapels, it was clear there are many Catholic communities and I was able to find just what I was looking for.
Central MN is a pretty darn creative community – there’s no doubt about that. And the longer I live here, the more opportunity I have to see, appreciate, and contribute to that. Four years ago, I started teaching piano and voice lessons at the St. Cloud Music Academy. Selfishly, it’s time for me to get away from my screens, spend time with music, and meet new people. Over the last several years I have seen the truly artistic and talented people who are part of our community. I’ve taught ages 4 to 64 and enjoy each and every student. It’s amazing to see someone willing to try something new as an adult, make a young interest a hobby and passion, or hone in on talent they have. Tuesday nights aren’t just my night so spend with music, but to create with others I’ve met along the way.
Counting my college years, I’ve ‘officially’ spent ten years in the greater St. Cloud community. Ten years! In that time, I had heard a lot about GREAT Theatre, I’d been to shows, but could never quite talk myself into getting back to the stage to participate in a performance – something I did a great deal of growing up. Well, 2019 changed that; I auditioned and was thrilled to be part of the fall production of Alice in Wonderland. This experience really opened my eyes to the amount of artistic individuals around me! From the support of local businesses and the participation of both children and professionals alike, I felt like I was part of creating an experience for so many. Plus, it was a total blast!
Thanks to the friends, mentors, relationships, connections, and community built around me in greater St. Cloud, I’ve been able to both grow and thrive. There’s a reason I went to college in the community, stayed as a professional, and chose to start my business here. This area offers so much, if you’re willing to look, ask, and give back to it – even a little bit.
So, while I often hear “Why Central MN?”, I ask… why not?!