UPPER PENINSULA — The Upper Peninsula has an abundance of talented artisans. Virtual company UP Authentic brings some of those artisans together in one place, including Be Inspired UP of Ishpeming.
Be Inspired UP co-owner Jackie Bessner says with art festivals canceled because of the pandemic, it’s been a challenging year.
“We have so many talented artists, and it’s really difficult to get yourself out there now,” said Bessner. “So I think it’s a great opportunity for some of the artisans he’s working with to still be able to get their artwork out there and get their name out there in the midst of this new world that we’re all dealing with.”
Bill Leisenring is the founder of UP Authentic. Raised in Gladstone from the age of 2, he’s grown a passion for the Upper Peninsula—and the people who make it special.
He wants to uplift local artisans, while spreading the talent and beauty of the UP as far as possible.
“The UP, in my opinion, is a brand of its own,” Leisenring said. “And I want someday when people are in Europe on vacation and they’re wearing a UP shirt, and it’s like, ‘Hey, the UP is in France! The UP is all over the world!’ If people share that and we spread that message around the world, that’s what I’d really love to do.”
It’s not just artisans who benefit from UP Authentic. 50% of the profits go right back to local communities. Leisenring is partnering with the Community Foundation of the Upper Peninsula and launching a scholarship fund next spring.
It’s all in the name of what Leisenring says Yoopers do best, which is lending a hand and helping out their neighbors.