You arrive at the office, wave a hello to the friendly faces, plug in, and get to work. We get it – we’re entrepreneurs / freelancers / remote workers with more work than time. But what ARE they working on over there?

Once a month, we’ll highlight one of our members and give you a little insight into what makes them tick, what they do and what they’re most likely listening to as they do it.

First up — Tina Rongers, who founded Karnerblue in 2010 as a sustainable development consultancy. What follows is an edited version of our conversation.

What do you do?

As a catalyst, I create a good disruption in the organization. I change the way people are developing the economy, community and culture together by seeing the big picture and the individual strengths within the community and team and how these assets can work together in a new way. Communities that I’m engaged in, a lot of the time, there might be blight or distressed areas that are in need of new investment. Some communities are still urbanized but have available land combined with a vision for creating a stronger sense of place and identity. Non-profit organizations have a direct focus, a specific interest or cause that I support strategically. I work with clients to release the status quo by shifting into a new way of thinking, being, and doing.

How did you find yourself doing this?

My grandmother was a great storyteller and educator. At the holidays, she would sit at the head of the table and after we ate our dinner, she would tell stories of Gary in its heyday, a magical city. During that time, she was a part of an innovative education system, a WWII vet, college-educated, and a pioneer in advancing women and integration schools.   So, when I grew older and went to school at IUN, I realized that Gary doesn’t look the way she described. I asked myself, what can I do to effect change in my hometown? Studying public policy and urban planning, I obtained my Masters, focusing on economic development, where I connected with sustainability from a professor who used Karner blue butterfly as the analogy of sustainable development. This little seed was planted: the image of the blue butterfly in the shadow of industry. When I started my own business, I named it Karnerblue as a symbol of sustainability, showing the best of the human spirit and this opportunity to transform places.

Eric says you are a “total badass”. Tell me about that.

Coming from him, that’s a compliment. He would say that because of my strong interest tapping into human potential and having that realized locally, in communities and economic development, the environment.

Fill in the blank: I would love it if Valpo had ____________.

Nontraditional ways of business networking, such as more mixers, fewer 7am breakfasts.

Editor’s Note: We hear you, Tina, so we’re doing Off the Clock presented by Zoseco on April 4th!

What’s your favorite spot in Valpo?

The Zoseco Coworking space!

Why’d you decide to join Zoseco?

For many years, I had my own office space, but it wasn’t the best for my company since I do so much economic and community work. I can come in to work but also the flexibility to minimize cost but maximize availability for my clients is important. One of the ways I’ve used the space is collaborating with other consultants that are outside the area. Some of my collaborators are from South Bend, so we can use the co-sharing spaces in Valparaiso and South Bend, creating an interconnection throughout the states. When I go to another community, I have a place to land.

Fill in the blank: I unwind by _____________.

With my other business, as a healing arts practice with yoga and meditation, called Manitou out of East Wind Studios in Chesterton. It is cool to have both, community well-being and personal well-being.

What’s been the best part of working for yourself?

For 9 years, I have had the freedom to tap into both analytical and creative expression and the level of flexibility and adaptability that I can co-generate with my clients, as an opportunity to be a primary contractor to communities but also to be a sub-contractor.

On the flip side, what’s been unexpectedly difficult about working for yourself?

When I provided caregiving for my parents, it disrupted my business. Sometimes, it is difficult to manage being the caregiver and owner. Strictly business, it is scaling your business and sustaining. The challenge is doing business development and completing your work.

Your go-to 90s band:


What’s your TV guilty pleasure?

I’m not sure I want to tell you. Okay… when I unplug, I turn on the E! channel. It definitely shuts me down; no change can be affected there.

Want to learn more about Tina? Go for it — you can reach Tina at (219) 616-7147 or [email protected]