How Do You Make It Your Own?

March 5th, 2019

How Vanessa Hurtig Does Life Her Way in Northeast Indiana

Growing up, my mother would always tell me to do things, “the Vanessa way.” This was her way of instilling in me ownership for the person I am and the way I uniquely accomplish things. 

The Regional Partnership recently launched a regional brand for talent attraction–Make It Your Own–that speaks to this very concept and our unique ability in our corner of the world to put ourselves in the driver’s seat of our own life. In Northeast Indiana, I can choose to do life the Vanessa way, making it my own, because of our affordability, accessibility to opportunities to make an impact, and the amazing career opportunities that can be found here.

As I have thought through this blog, I have come to the conclusion that we, myself included, often take our own way of life for granted. What’s so exciting about my life? I tend to love it, but that’s because it’s mine. Will anyone else think it’s interesting or be inspired by it? I have no idea, but I’ve decided to put myself out there as an example of how I Make It My Own in Northeast Indiana. Whether or not it’s interesting…that is for you to decide.

How I Make It My Own

When we were preparing to launch the Make It Your Own campaign, we interviewed several of our task force members to understand what the brand meant to them personally. 

You can watch the compilation video here.

At the end of each interview, they stated their name and a few descriptors of how they make it their own in Northeast Indiana. I’m jumping on that bandwagon here. 

“I’m Vanessa. I’m a Professional, a Homeowner, a Renovator, a Worship Leader, and a Wife/Daughter/Sister/Aunt/Friend, and I do all of that in Northeast Indiana. How do you make it your own?”


In my last semester of college at the University of Saint Francis, I landed an internship at a start-up non-profit called the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. As I learned more about economic development, I truly felt it was my calling in life.  Upon graduation, I was offered a full-time position and have grown in my career here ever since. The opportunity to operate in the background of what makes the region work in order to bring new businesses into the area is exciting and personal to me. When I drive by business locations that wouldn’t be here except for our work and knowing that there are people who have good jobs there and can provide for their families is a rewarding experience. I am one very small piece of that puzzle, but everyone has a role to play and a unique contribution to make.

In our work, we are fortunate to work with many of the top business and community leaders across the 11 counties that we serve. I have been able to work alongside and learn from people much further along in their career path than I am.  They have been generous with their time and talent because that’s who they are.


When my husband and I got married, we both loved our jobs enough that we decided to locate our home in a position of splitting the commute time. We wanted an old farmhouse in the country with land and a few barns. Freedom from the constraints of living in the city and space to breathe in the quiet country air with a great view of stunning sunrises and sunsets.  But still close to the amenities that are offered in a city.

We had both saved up money and were debt-free from college so we were positioned to purchase our first house rather than rent for a time. This is something that isn’t attainable in a lifetime in some areas of the country, let alone in your mid-20’s. But we did that here.

We like to think that our 1900 farmhouse is our forever home. We have two dogs who love to run their little hearts out on our 2 acres. We LOVE home improvement projects–which a home built in 1900 offers. We have added a patio, an attached garage and completely renovated the interior of the home, all with our own blood, sweat and (you guessed it) tears. But it is ours, and we are proud of it.


Which leads me to my next identifier–Renovator. My husband and I both have Achiever as our number one strength according to the CliftonStrengths assessment. This means we enjoy being busy and productive almost 100 percent of the time. 

Two years ago, when we began to run out of projects on our own house, we decided to get involved in the neighborhood development of Fort Wayne by buying and renovating old homes in up-and-coming neighborhoods near downtown.  We have renovated three homes in the past two years and love the opportunity to be part of restoring the beauty of these homes, turning them from run-down, neglected properties into spaces that people can make their homes in. 

We typically spend our Friday nights and all day Saturday on these projects, enjoying the productivity as well as the response of the neighbors. In every single one of our houses, the neighbors have told us that the house went from the worst house on the block to one of the better houses in the neighborhood. That is so rewarding. It gives them a sense of satisfaction as well when they see someone else caring about their neighborhood and seeing its potential.

As a side project, we also renovated a camper into a “glamper.” My husband’s family loves to camp and I much prefer to camp in the comfort of our own pretty space than in a tent that seeps water!  I am now a happy glamper. If you’re interested in checking out the transformation, you can do so here.

Worship Leader

Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to take a leadership role in worship at our small church.  When the church went through a change in pastoral leadership, a void was created for a worship leader. I am not a person who likes to be on stage. I am way more comfortable orchestrating in the background than being the person everyone is watching.  But someone needed to lead so I stepped up. That’s the amazing thing about living here. It is small enough that when there is a void, you have an opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone to serve in new ways and make an impact. This challenges you to grow as a person, and in this case, helped my faith grow deeper.

A year-and-a-half later, we were able to secure a new husband/wife pastor team who cover worship leading as well. I am still on the team and sing every Sunday and lead when they have a week off, but can finally stomach breakfast again at a decent time on Sunday mornings.


The part of my life that is most important to me is the relationships I get to have with family and friends, most of whom live here in the area. If I had moved away, I wouldn’t get to play that role in the day-to-day life of my little nieces and nephews or see my parents and my siblings and in-laws on a routine basis. The life that my husband and I live here, even with everything we have going on, affords us time for each other and the things we love to do with the people we love the most. To me, that is what makes this place home. 

So, how do you make it your own?