In 2011, Anna Lardinois, an English teacher at the time, turned 40 and vowed to learn something new every week for the rest of her life. She probably has a couple of Pinterest-filled projects in her basement, but one of her new endeavors was so successful it is now her full-time livelihood.
Lardinois started a "historical ghost walking tour" business called Gothic Milwaukee. She leads tour groups through the dark streets of Downtown and regales them with spooky, historical tales that live somewhere between fact and lore.
Prior to starting the venture, she spent months researching and compiling information, then gave practice tours to friends before officially offering her historical walking tour to the public. The first year, she pre-sold 1,600 tickets. The response was so positive, she later left her teaching gig to pursue her business full time.
This past winter, Lardinois created a self-guided audio tour of Wisconsin Avenue that works via the GPS in walkers’ phones. It is available here for $2.99.
"I take the walker from the public library to the art museum," says Lardinois. "Along the tour, I make note of interesting buildings and provide some historical background on the street. I think it will really meet the needs of visitors who want a tour at their own pace and at a time that works for them. It’s also great for budget-friendly staycation shoppers."
The tour, according to Lardinois, is also ideal for Milwaukee enthusiasts who want additional insight on the buildings they see everyday, people coming into the city who want to slow down and see the city from a new perspective and anyone with spring fever who wants an outdoor adventure.
Before committing to the business full-time, Lardinois completed the Wisconsin Women's Business Initiative Corporation Start Smart class. She was also one of Milwaukee’s first KIVA Zip loan recipients.
"I love telling stories and helping people find new reasons to fall in love with the city," says Lardinois.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.