We had the good fortune of connecting with Teresa Nguyen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Teresa, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risks has definitely played a significant role in the success of my career. It has only been about 5 years since I’ve been working in journalism, capturing the stories of local people, businesses and nonprofits. I reach for those community stories that inspire us to aim higher and dream big. Dreaming big is exactly what I did. But a dream can only go so far. One has to act on it. It’s that action, that stepping out into the unknown, that faith that you will land okay, that makes a difference. The risks I’ve taken are always of the positive type. It’s important not to take those negative risks that could jeopardize your job, your health or future.

For example, one of my first interviews in my earlier position was of a multimillionaire and philanthropist who is from our city. It was a story I really wanted to do, so I thought to myself, “Why not? If I reach out and get a ‘no’ for an answer, then I’m right back where I started. But, if I take that chance and get a ‘yes’, well, that would be amazing!” And I got a yes! This happened again with another famous business woman from our county. Risk taking has become an integral thread in my business tapestry.

Sometimes I take risks with story topics, as well. Unlike newspaper reporting, I’m not out to spin a story or create sensation, but rather to seek the truth and share the point of view of my interviewees. During 2020, there were two tough topics to cover. One was the pandemic. I reached out to healthcare workers to see if they would share what they were experiencing on the frontlines, in their day to day work. There was great hesitation on their part. They were dealing with so many stresses, hospitals and clinics were cracking down on protecting data and the privacy of patients. They didn’t want to risk getting in trouble. But, I persevered and offered to change their identity and not name their workplace in the story, so that they could still help the public understand the gravity of the COVID crisis. It was a deeply moving piece.

The other tough topic of that year was the George Floyd incident and Black Lives Matter protests that followed. I took a risk with a story interviewing several prominent Black leaders of our area for their honest perspectives. They could have said no, maybe even fearing backlash. In the end, they felt honored to be asked and thankful that their voices were heard. They did a fabulous job, bravely opening up! Their interviews were raw and real, inspiring and even heartbreaking. We have to listen to the stories of others and know their truths. I believe its those kind of stories that help bridge the gaps between polarized groups. They help people to see another perspective, one that’s different from their own, but just as important, if not more so.

Besides jumping into owning my own business, purchasing a website package and designing it, which is in itself a big risk, there are always risks along the way. Playing it safe won’t get you very far, so build up that courage to just go for it. If rejection lands you right where you are now, and you have nothing to lose, then take that risk! You might be amazingly surprised.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Janesville Area Stories is an exciting new venture aimed at showcasing the fascinating stories of individuals, businesses and non-profits in the Janesville area. Our mission is to share the inspiring stories of people who have wonderfully contributed in big and small ways to the history, past and present, of this great city of Janesville, Wisconsin and the surrounding area.

Our motto is: “Authentic. Trusted. Your story matters.” I chose this for just what it means. The stories are told from the point of view of the interviewee, without spin. It’s an incredibly authentic process. One of the best compliments I’ve received is “I could hear her voice when I was reading that story.” We are definitely trustworthy and the interviewee’s wishes are entirely respected. That last sentence is key; your story matters. Eeveryone has a unique story to share and I firmly believe that! Each person is inspiring in his or her own way.

The path to where I am today hasn’t always been easy. It began with my resignation from my old workplace in the spring of 2019, under a different boss than the one who hired me. I needed some time off to rid myself of toxic stresses and anxiety I’d been feeling. I refocused on myself and on family. Eventually, with wonderful encouragement from so many in this great community, who were supportive and truly respected my work, I refocused my passion for writing stories. On October 1st, 2019, launched my own freelance writing venture, Janesville Area Stories, complete with a website and social media pages! It has grown so much over the past two and a half years, both in brand and readership!

2020 was going great, and I was hired for a variety of stories in up until March, when the pandemic hit the fan in Wisconsin. People’s priorities changed dramatically, and purchasing a story, even for businesses, was low on the list.

But, I didn’t give up. My love affair with this community and with writing stories was too intense and the thought of quitting didn’t feel like an option. It was definitely a test of patience and perseverance! Thankfully, things have picked back up!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.

Oh, where do we begin! Come visit Janesville, Wisconsin, known as the City of Parks! I’m going to insert a quote here from our Janesville Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau:

“Recharge your spirit as you explore hundreds of acres of tranquil parkland and miles of peaceful trails. Take in the breathtaking beauty of our award-winning botanical garden and discover our 13 historic districts, more than 50 pieces of public art and charming downtown. Explore our variety of shopping and dining, savor a craft beer or locally made wine and relax at one of our welcoming and affordable lodging options. Sit back and immerse yourself in live theater or feel the exhilaration as you watch the most successful water-ski show team in the world perform.”

Seriously, Janesville is so beautiful that I would take visitors on our cool hiking trails along the Rock River, for walks or bike rides on our lovely Ice Age Trail. We have an award-winning Rotary Botanical Gardens, where one can easily escape for hours in a world of beautiful blossoms, plants and ponds.

If you have children, we have two public wading pools/splash pad areas, plus a fun interactive water feature in our downtown Town Square. Janesville is filled with weekly entertainment! You can find terrific theater, music and comedy productions at our Janesville Performing Arts Center or see Music at the Marv – a live, free music concert every Tuesday night from June through September at our downtown courthouse park. Every Wednesday and Sunday, one can enjoy a free and amazing waterski show on the Rock River by the Rock Aqua Jays. And if you’re into tennis, golf, or catching a hockey game, there are a lot of fun sporting activities to choose from.

Visiting downtown is a must! We’re proud to show off our new, eye-catching murals all around the downtown buildings, plus the tranquility of our town square, perfect for a lunch picnic or stroll on the pedestrian bridge. We have unique retail shops lining our downtown streets, and restaurants that range from your fun pub and grill to fine dining, even a beautiful new wine bar! In several of these eateries, one can enjoy live music, especially on the weekends.

For a morning stop, Janesville has some of the best coffee shops around, including one that feels like a cozy cabin in the woods, one that’s contemporary and chic along the riverfront and other cozy spots to meet friends and grab a bite to eat.

If you’re into history, there’s plenty to explore, including locations where Abraham Lincoln visited in this area, plus the fascinating Milton House Museum, just up the road. Milton House is officially registered as one of the Underground Railroad stops. The Milton House museum tours are so interesting! They also host several events throughout the year, such as the Civil War Days and an annual Christmas production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”.

There’s really so much to see and do here in Janesville, in nearby Milton and in Beloit, really all over southern Wisconsin. You’ll be amazed!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
As far as role models go, both my grandmother and mother were instrumental in shaping who I am. Grandma was widowed at age 47, went back to school and earned two doctorates, one in psychology and one in psychiatry, became a college professor and helped found a home for runaway teens & at risk children. She lived independently until age 94! My mother endured a divorce, battled cancer and also went back to school, earning a history degree. She taught for a while then, after relapse with her cancer, so she opened a nursery school for children. She always followed her dreams and taught me what true inner strength really is. Both of them taught me how to think independently, to value education and to aim even higher.

I’m also thankful for my former boss, Mike Reuter, who first hired me to write stories for our local historical society. He was so encouraging, truly appreciated my work and valued my creativity. If everyone had a boss like Mike, there’d be no grumbling in break rooms! He helped me to value my own writing skills. With that encouragement, I realized that, though I’d been writing all my life, creative journalism was really ‘my thing’! I also give credit to my friends and to everyone who has said “yes” to being interviewed. Their courage, their willingness to share and their stories have all inspire me.

Last but not least, my husband has been my role model, my biggest fan and strongest supporter. In any endeavor I’ve chosen, he has been there to cheer me on. He always has my back. I’m so very grateful.

Website: JanesvilleAreaStories.com

Instagram: @janesvilleareastories

Linkedin: Teresa A. Nguyen

Facebook: Janesville Area Stories

Image Credits
Downtown Janesville: Kim Hoholek Photography Tess Interviewing Lea and McGuire: by Pat Sparling

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutMiami is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.