The Greenville story of Katie Yoder

Creating tiny communities with her big heart

By: Wyatt Edward Stephens

Our story today features Katie Yoder whose family creates + builds tiny house communities.

Wyatt recently had the chance to stay in their newest tiny house, located near the Lake Walk Tiny Community (roughly thirty minutes from Downtown Greenville). You can also experience tiny living by booking a house via their AirBnB link below.

Hurry if you are interested: the opening pricing will only last so long as fall weekend dates are filling up!

Link to AirBnB (tell them ShareGVL sent you)

Name: Katie Yoder

How long have you been in Greenville? Twenty-four years

What is your background? I grew up in a very conservative Christian home out in Vancouver, Washington in a very close family. I have four siblings, and all of us are very close and only a couple of years apart. 

I met my husband Dwayne when I moved here from Vancouver, Washington, we met as our children were friends. Dwayne and I were going through similar situations and were able to connect and our friends enjoyed one another. 

We have two biological children and we also adopted two children from Guatemala via an agency here in Greenville, ‘Nightlight Christian Adoptions.’ My daughter is twenty-four and she is currently getting her Masters in Sweden. My son is currently in his third year at Clemson. 

We adopted from Guatemala, we had an abandonment case which essentially meant that it could take a while for us to adopt, close to five years. With that, we decided to go to Guatemala and take care of the babies we adopted, as you could start doing such when they turned five months old. My dad and first husband were in business at the time, we packed up everything, went to a country that we never went to. We did not speak Spanish, went down there, and spent roughly eight months until we could take our babies home. 

There was a lot that happened in Guatemala, we were bribed, blackmailed, you name it. It got to the point where we were told that we could not leave our house without $15,000 because if the police stopped you, the police could essentially take your babies. The police had a big influence from the drug lords. Every time that we left the house in Guatemala, we were scared. Thankfully, nothing happened but it was a big eye opener. I came back to the United States, much more thankful than I already was for our police force. 

My parents first informed me that they were going to build a tiny house roughly two years ago, in 2017. I was leary of this at first, I kept asking myself if people were going to buy these tiny houses. Sure, they are cute, you see them on TV but for me, they were too small, especially with our children.We got a lot of kicks out of it and my sister eventually put it on Instagram, showcasing the progress that we were making. HGTV found us via way of Instagram, they called and asked if they could come and film. 

The trend of tiny houses is interesting, I believe that a lot of people want both more time and money to simply travel. People want hobbies, they do not want to simply live for their mortgage, they want to get out. However, at the same time, I have had some people tell me that they do not want to cook or have a backyard. When we do tours, some folks have told me that they do not want a dishwasher as it will either be paper plates or hand-washed, it is to that degree that they do not want to cook anymore. 

A tiny front yard for big memories, especially during the fall season.

A view from the driveway, entering the tiny house via front porch.

I hear it time and time again: people are less-stressed, they love living here and are living a full life. The majority of folks living here are women, such women that have been either divorced, never married, widowed and so-forth. We do have bachelors and young families, but the majority of folks are middle-aged women, mainly fifty and above.

At this current time, banks do not necessarily finance tiny houses as a traditional mortgage as they are considered RVs. You have to get an RV loan, a tiny house loan or a personal loan and not everyone has the ability to obtain this, they are hard to get. A lot of people here have sold their 3,000 sq. foot houses and just paid cash as the typical tiny house is anywhere from $60,000 to $90,000. 

Bathroom in the tiny house

The upstairs loft can easily distract you from work

You lease the property for $450.00 and my dad manages the whole community, this is includes all utilities: water, electric, sewer, ground maintenance and so-forth. The houses themselves can cost anywhere from $70,000 to $90,000. We can do the financing and get you started with the process. 

A new fireplace that was installed as of July 22nd, 2019

Another view of the upstairs loft

An overhanging shot of the kitchen which does include a stove, oven and dishwasher.

This particular tiny house model has higher ceilings than the others, making it very comfortable to host guests

The master bedroom, bed faces a brand new barn-door closet (not pictured).

The tiny house was, and I guess still is, my dad’s hobby since retirement. He is very much, ‘go, go, go.’ However, the HGTV process was long and we had to wait until the next stage when they would come and film as the crew was not always onsite, they would fly in from Colorado. Everyone was excited about the whole project, expect me: all I wanted to do was deliver food and so, that is what I did. I did not want to be on TV, but everyone else did. Since our HGTV show, we have had a lot of media come in, from magazines, newspapers, television stations, you name it. 

For those exploring a tiny house, we have a row of houses that you can choose to AirBnB in, stay the night and get the feel. People can also buy a tiny house within the AirBnB section and start their own AirBnB. The rest of the community, behind us [coffee shop] is private to the community, we want to ensure that everyone has privacy. 

What are your hobbies? Right now I am in my transitional stage of life. Now, I like to work a lot otherwise I am spending time with my children. Before, I did a lot of mission work and adoption advocacy, this is something that I am still passionate about. Now, I am pouring myself into AirBnBs and bring awareness to the tiny house communities. 

What do you do at Lake Walk tiny community? This is my first job since I was sixteen, I have been married and a stay-at-home mom since. My role here consists of, really with my family, in that of sales for Lake Walk tiny community, hospitality and overseeing our AirBnBs, which we currently have five of. 

What advice would you give to someone that wants to live tiny? First, you need to decide what you want and what you do not want. You are going to live simple which means you are going to be minimalistic, see what you can really get rid of. 

I would suggest, again, that you stay at one of our AirBnBs. Experience it, and see if you really like. 

What are you currently reading and/or watching? I am watching a lot of documentaries. Right now, in particular, there is one on Roku about the world’s most dangerous roads, it is very interesting. I am also watching one on the airline industry, going through the ins-and-outs of an airport. 

What are your hobbies? We like to go kayaking, without a doubt. We really like going to Lake Jocassee. We also like hiking. 

Phrase/motto: Will whatever is happening effect you in five years? 

How would you describe Greenville? Very-friendly. 

How would Greenville describe you? I would say pretty outgoing and friendly. 

What about Greenville makes you proud? There is a lot of Christian value, which is why I like raising my children here. I really appreciate that we have stayed family-friendly. 

What is the happiest moment that you have had in Greenville? When my children were born. 

The Greenville story of: Andrew Oliver

From amateur skater to musician

Exciting: What would you ask an owner of a Tiny House? Let Wyatt know by emailing him.

Starting July 21st, ShareGVL will start a tiny series, ‘Tiny Beginnings,’ showcasing Upstate Tiny Houses and their owners. Stay tuned for a bookmark link tomorrow, allowing you to follow along for all of next week.

Today’s story, the story of Andrew Oliver is below. Enjoy!

By: Wyatt Edward Stephens

Name: Andrew Oliver 

What is the most interesting fact about yourself? I was home-schooled but took one class my junior year at a public school, two classes my senior year. The purpose of doing this was to simply play basketball at that specific high school, Grattan Academy. I was also the Homecoming King my junior year. 

How long have you been in Greenville? I moved to Greenville, South Carolina in 2013. 

What is your background? I grew up in Greenville, Michigan. Yes, I went from a Greenville to a Greenville. I have two siblings: Amanda and Stephen, my brother Stephen is the other half of our band, Brother Oliver. I am the wild middle child with the middle child syndrome. Amanda, my sister, always seemed to do everything right, she never got into much trouble. My brother, Stephen, got away with whatever he wanted because he was the baby. We had a hard brotherly love growing up, I’ll admit that I was hard on him. However, we are business partners in our band now, and I’ll also admit that I am still hard on him. 

Greenville, Michigan is pretty rural, it is a small town. It is about thirty-minutes north of Grand Rapids, Michigan. There was not much to do there [Michigan], it was very rural and there was only one Pizza Hut and an Applebees. Pretty much, those were you two options when it came to food. I remember it was even a big deal when we got a Wal-Mart, it was that kind of small town vibe. There wasn’t really much of a social landscape but we were also homeschooled, we had to make our entertainment. We had to make our own fun. 

In Michigan, I was one of the better skaters in the area. My friends and I were always making skate videos, and my riding a skateboard was one of the first [digital] content adventures I made. My friends and I use to make videos of us acting up and skateboarding. We would film as many days of the week and weekends as we could. Facebook was new at the time, I don't even think that Facebook had the ‘Like Button’ or ‘Views’,[data] it was just Facebook Comments. We posted a video, it would have had a good amount of comments, so it was a nice gauge on how many people were viewing the content. This led to a sponsorship with a skateboarding company for two months, prior to the company going under.

I feel as if Stephen and I were apart of the last generation to play outside a lot. I am grateful for how I grew up, it was the classic, ‘go and ride your bike, kick it with someone that you do not know.’ Eventually, I would move away as I got bored and ancy. 

In my early high school years, I got into making music. We did grow up taking music lessons, so my brother and I had basic music knowledge. However, I had no idea how to be a songwriter and producer, I just learned through the passion that I had. Stephen, after senior year in high school, we just started falling in love with playing the music live. Stephen and I have both been all in on this. 

I was a Bob Jones University Graduate, I followed the path of my father, now a pastor, and my mother as they both went to Bob Jones. My father has his Bachelors, Masters and a PhD from Bob Jones. My parents obviously love the school and to honor their wishes, I decided to come to Greenville [South Carolina] and go to Bob Jones even though my parents would have been fine with me going elsewhere. 

I am a music producer at the heart, in addition to that of a content creator. I come from a relatively strict religious background, it was a little bit of a transition to go from my religious background to what I am doing now, playing music. There was a lot of pushback at first such as my family life. I went from one world to another. But now, being relatively successful for a twenty-six year old, but there is still a lot to accomplish in the music and entertainment industry. I can say that I am self-made, this is something that I am very proud of. 

What are you currently reading and/or watching? I have been watching old school NBA. Specifically, I have been watching game five of the 2004 Championship with Shaq and Kobe. 

What are your hobbies? I am one of those people that love to work. When I am not working, well, I am still working. That is what I love to do. I am an avid skateboarder, I had a deck sponsor for a time. I like to ride but I also like to play basketball, go fishing and anything with the old American past times. 

Who do you work for? Brother Oliver

What is your day-to-day? I am a music producer and performer, but I am also an entrepreneur and content creator. I really make my money from my music. 

How would you describe Greenville? It is a happening place. I travel all the time for shows and I always say Greenville is the spot. 

How would Greenville describe you? Ahh, hopefully in a good way. I think that they would describe me as an up and coming artist. I am grateful for Greenville, it has been incredibly supportive. They have opened their doors, the people have been wonderful. I hope that Greenville would also say that I am easy to work with, wanting to work hard, do the best that I can within the entertainment realm. 

Where is your favorite Greenville morning hangout? Waffle House

Where is your favorite Greenville evening hangout? The Radio Room 

What about Greenville makes you proud? We have a super healthy economy right now for small businesses. 

What is your happiest Greenville moment? We opened for The Steve Miller Band at the Peace Center, it was a sold out show recently in March.

The Greenville story of Winton Swanson

By: Wyatt Edward Stephens

What is the most interesting fact about yourself? I am the eighth individual named Winton in my family.

How long have you been in Greenville? Since 2005

What is your background? I believe God called me to share portions of my story. One of my purposes in life, to me, is to be open. We have all been wounded, we have all suffered to some degree and some of us have suffered because of our own damages or damages of others. However, things can be restored. We can live in freedom. Trials will still come, they are going to come. However, I am finding it easier to have Joy within the trial of the storm. 

I was born in Alabama and grew up in Augusta, Georgia which is strange because my mother was from San Francisco and my father from St. Louis. At the age of ten, my father would leave our family and over time, I would start to have two sets of parents, a stepmother and stepfather. 

My Dad leaving our family was devastating as I felt responsible for many of the things that happened, even though I know that I should not have felt responsible. This feeling of being responsible, guilt, had a long-lasting impact in my life and enabled me to become a people pleaser, which wasn’t ideal for trying to comprehend certain situations that I went through in my early life. It was troublesome, I tried to find the root issue of everything that happened, I tried to analyze what exactly did happen. I kept putting band-aids on situations while I was continuing to dig and dig. I finally found that it was the Fear of Man that was the root cause, I am not responsible for certain things that happened. 

The Grace of God gave my father and I both a restoration in our relationship but it did take many years. It took a lot of humility but my Dad essentially came to me, showed humility and we have and continue to have deep conversations. He knows the impact that things earlier in life had on me, he claims that those events had the biggest impact in his life. My Dad had to revisit his walk with the Lord and while doing so, he came to the Lord. I am learning that everyone can have restoration if willing. 

I just found out that my Dad now has cancer, which is so hard to tell you [Wyatt of ShareGVL], he has not been given a good prognosis and he also has Parkinson’s Disease. Time is so precious, it really is. I am so thankful that my Dad and I have our relationship, I cannot imagine what it would be like if we did not. With the exception of my husband and family, everything else has been put on the back burner. Nothing else really matters besides the relationship with my father, my Dad. 

My husband, Brett and I, got married when I was young, I was twenty. Brett and I have two children, Rebecca and our son Huston, he is twenty-two. Brett and I have had a roller-coaster ride of a marriage. I frequently say that Brett came into our marriage with very little baggage, almost like a shaving-kit. I, however, brought my closet and all the luggage with it. Brett has been very patient with me. 

What are you currently reading and/or watching?  I like trash tv, Southern Charm, whatever it might be, trash tv makes me feel somewhat normal. 

What are your hobbies? I love to paint, I started painting three years ago. I also have been scrapbooking for the past twenty-five years so it is very neat to say that I have twenty-five years worth of memories. I have also been learning how to take care of myself and with that, I am exercising daily. At my age, it is more about being healthy than that of body image. My passion, however, is being transparent and open to women that are in need. 

Every Wednesday night, my husband and I have a date night. We cannot talk about Chick-fil-a [work], and you do not have to dress up fancy but cannot also be casual. Also, no cellphone! 

What is your favorite phrase and/or motto? Keep it real

How would you describe Greenville? It is home. It is beautiful.

What about Greenville makes you proud? Growing up in Augusta, Georgia, there was a lot of racial tension. We do not have this in Greenville, or at least, I do not feel this way. I am very thankful for that. 

I also feel blessed that my husband and I can serve our community, even if it is in a business realm, this has been a blessing that Chick-fil-A has provided to the both of us.

The Greenville story of Kyle Thompson

Swinging with love as a father

By: Wyatt Edward Stephens

Exciting: ShareGVL is producing an ongoing series, Humanizing 2020. Our first story from the series humanizes Presidential Candidate, Marianne Williamson. Read Marianne’s Story, here.

Kyle Thompson’s story, ShareGVL of today, is below:

What is the most interesting fact about yourself?  I have been a lifelong golfer, I have played golf since I was crawling on the floor. Recently, I just retired from professional golf at the BMW Charity Pro-Am.

How long have you been in Greenville? I grew up in Easley, South Carolina, left in 1997 to go down to Columbia for the University of South Carolina. I moved back to Greenville in 2004.

What is your background? I have two younger sisters, they both played collegiate golf as well, University of South Carolina. My sisters went to Easley High School, and along with T.L. Hanna, those schools started the first women’s programs within the State of South Carolina as far as high school golf. 

When I was a kid, we used to come over to Greenville which I thought was a scary place with some parts of it. To see the transformation, however, of downtown within 25-years is just unbelievable. I credit that a lot to our businesses like BMW and Michelin, and our politicians. They have all made Greenville, and all of South Carolina, very tax friendly. I love it. I have traveled a lot around the world throughout my golf years and there is no better place than Greenville, South Carolina. Greenville is truly home for me. 

My wife, Emmy, and I have three children: Sophie (10), Sam and our son Raleigh turns three in a couple of days. Emmy and I met in Downtown Greenville during the Downtown Alive series that they have in the Spring. Emmy was working at Merrill Lynch, I was meeting a buddy. I started chatting up with her, life comes at you fast. Three kids within the last eleven years of marriage. 

I knew that I wanted to play golf on the PGA TOUR when I was nine years old. It was always a dream of mine. When I first got my TOUR Status, back in 2003, first year on the TOUR, I had a couple of top-tens. I also finished second at the BMW Charity Pro-Am and I won close to $60,000 that weekend. I had good money in the bank, and coming fresh out of college, I felt like the richest guy out of college. I believe I spent $200 a month for rent. I knew that there was a lot of money in golf, especially the PGA TOUR. I pursued it, I don’t regret it as it was a lot of fun. 

What are you currently reading and/or watching? I am cheating, I don’t read as much as I listen. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, ‘How You Measure Your Life,’ by Clayton Christensen. It was recommended to me at a pro-amateur and it is good stuff. I started watching the second season of Big Little Lies with my wife, Emmy.

What are your hobbies? Playing with my kids. We just bought a puppy, we have an eight week-old golden retriever. My free time revolves around my children. They used to be, however, reading, poker and hanging out. Now that has changed. 

What is the motto that you try to live by? Treat people the way that you want to be treated. You never know when you are going to have an interaction when it could be great for them, or great for you. You never know when that magic can happen. 

Who do you work for?  I work for Arthur Gallagher, we are a commercial broker.

What is your day-to-day and title? I am an Account Executive within Business Development. I only have a couple of clients at the moment, however, I am working on clients from all over the nation, New York to California. 

What is your favorite Greenville morning hangout? Any Dunkin’ Donuts. I love it. I also like Waffle House, I take my kids, especially when Emmy is out of town. Ever since Emmy and I had kids ten years ago, I have been a huge coffee buff.

What is your favorite Greenville evening hangout? I would say practice, as I still do, so late night coming off of the range at Thornblade Country Club.

What is your happiest Greenville moment? The birth of my children and my marriage. It is all happened here in Greenville, we were married right downtown and had a reception at Thornblade. 

What about Greenville makes you proud? I am proud of the diversity that we have. We have folks that are not only coming over from different parts of the United States, but really, all over the world. It is great to see, back when I was younger, it was one shade of white. Now it seems like everyone is coming from all over. It makes you proud, people are reading about our hospitality and southern ways. It has made me proud. 

Humanizing 2020: Marianne Williamson

An ongoing series to humanize all 2020 Presidential Candidates

Good Memo [ShareGVL] has set out to humanize political candidates of all types. We have spoken to numerous candidates thus far, with 2020 Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson’s story below.

Want to hear your South Carolina [State] or Federal Candidate’s story? Email us and we will do our best to get it featured.

Running for: United States President
Candidate: Ms. Marianne Williamson

By: Wyatt E. Stephens

There is nothing about me that isn’t true about anybody in my age and time, but if you put it all together, my story, then it does seem interesting. 

I was in a middle-class family. I did have a magical father, he was a cross between William Kunstler and Zorba the Greek. He was an outrageous, charismatic, fiery, magical being. He was an immigration lawyer that grew up in deep poverty and was passionate about social justice. He taught his children to do everything that you can to do to stand for something meaningful. We are doing this in our lives. I got my fight from my father. My father died in 1994 and I am still trying to get his approval. 

I was born and raised in Houston, TX but I have lived most of my adult life, however, in Los Angeles. I have also lived in New York and Michigan. New York was exciting and Los Angeles was home-based. In New York, I was one of many and enjoyed the bakeries, the ones where you could sit, have a good cup of coffee and a wonderful croissant, something very charming with nice people. 

I have a twenty-nine year old daughter, India, who is getting her PhD in History. She also went to law school in England. My proudest moments were giving birth to her and raising her. She is happy, she is well-adjusted and a responsible citizen. As a citizen, I used to watch the news to relax. Now, running as a 2020 Presidential Candidate, it is more likely to make me tight or upset so I am watching it less. I am currently reading a book called, ‘The War on Peace’ by Ronan Farrow. 

Deciding to run for President was a process, it took a year-and-a-half. I do not believe any of us went into with delusions, it is hard. You will get made fun of, especially when you have a good thirty-five year career. You see things about yourself online that are not true, lies. I saw an article the other day and if one sentence within that article were true, well, I wouldn’t like me either. 

It is much like you [Wyatt Stephens of ShareGVL] were talking about with the UK’s, ‘right to be forgotten.’ You see stuff and you say, that is a horrid untrue thing to me. 

But I went into this, knowing that I was going to be publicly humiliated, there was going to be mockery, I knew that. I prayed that I have tough enough skin to take it. It is a psychological and spiritual challenge but I will continue to keep on and keep on. It is a daily effort, sometimes hour by hour. Sometimes minute by minute and that is where meditation comes in. We are able to have passion when we have a calling. My fight is driven by heart. My heart told me to do this and it is not telling me to stop.

I live by the phrase, ‘Tikkun olam,’  which is a Jewish expression that means: ‘repair the world.’ There is an old saying that you are not expected to complete the past, nor obligated to do such. But neither are you permitted to abandon it. When I think of our responsibility as citizens to make the world a better place, I do not have any illusions that individuals are indispensable to the process. I do not have any illusions ourselves that we are going to complete the task. But I do believe that God does not permit us to abandon the effort, I take this very seriously. 

I realized that the influence of money within our political system is the cancer underlying all of the other cancers. When I hear stories, such as here in South Carolina, specifically in Denmark, South Carolina [water], then it is saddening. It is corrupt. It should never be about a short-term profit for the corporations of America, rather, it should be the health and well-being of the people of the United States of America and the people of the World. It can be a challenge to live on this world in which we live but we must rise to the occasion. I think that is a challenge as well, as individuals. We must all do what we can. 

It is bothersome that we have children in the United States of America that go to school with no school supplies. When I see things like the willingness to sacrifice moralities for profit, that is reckless. When you see injustice, it goes against our society. 

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.`These things matter, if they do not matter, then why are we here? Only you will determine what the true answer is and only you can advocate for such. 

You can learn in an age that you understand. You come to understand some things when you are older. You start to see patterns of whatever it might be and that is wisdom, showing those patterns to the younger generations. That is what I will continue to do. 

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