My name is Natalie (Powell) Siston. I was born and raised in Republic, Ohio, a small farming community with a population of 600 people. My view of life started out very small. I thought there were a finite number of jobs to pursue and places to live. I thought your high school clique had some bearing on future success. After I moved away from this small town, I gradually moved beyond my comfort zone. I understood that my professional choices were broader than being a lawyer or a teacher. I learned that diversity was more than the color of your skin or country of origin. More than anything, I realized that being from a small town was one of the greatest advantages I had. Being from a small town meant I understood what it meant to get to know people, to have meaningful 1:1 interactions, and to trust and count on people in my community. It was the place where I succeeded and failed on a small stage, in order to prepare me for a bigger stage.

That is how Small Town Leadership was born. I had a vision to share stories of my small town upbringing.  As a way to tell high school students that there is a big world waiting for you outside of your town. To encourage first generation students that you can succeed at college and beyond. To motivate corporate employees to make your workplace a welcoming community.

Here are some of the things about me that I will expand on in this blog:

  • I am a first generation college student and later went on to earn an MBA.
  • I was in 4-H for 10 years, but I never raised an animal. It’s where I learned to love public speaking and where I understood that youth have an important voice in the community.
  • I have been working in some form since I was 12 years old. I’ve done things as unglamorous as cleaning college dorm rooms after the students left for the summer to as glamorous as taking a private jet to a black tie dinner where the Vice President spoke.
  • I was the only girl to be cut from the volleyball team my freshman year of high school. Fifteen years later, I’m a veteran endurance athlete who has completed numerous triathlons, half marathons, and one full marathon.
  • The only job I have ever been fired from was at a church. It didn’t stop me from asking for the job back 2 years later – and getting it.
  • By the time I was in high school I had been to nearly 40 states, but I had never flown in an airplane. Now I am a frequent flier for my job.
  • When I was a high school senior, I played Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof, where my solo was “Far from the home I love.” Four years later I lived my own version of that when I moved across the country after marrying my husband.
  • My dad told me never to date an engineer.  I ended up marrying one (so did my sister).
  • I was never on Homecoming Court at my high school, but I stood on the 50 yard line of Ohio Stadium as a member of the Ohio State Homecoming Court.
  • I wanted to be elected president of my senior class in high school so I could give the graduation speech. I lost. Ten years later, I was elected president of the graduate student body during my MBA program and addressed the graduating class.
  • Being a small town girl is a badge of honor I’ll wear my whole life.

You’ll learn about my triumphs, failures, fun times, and hard times. Each of these stories will link to a leadership lesson. I want readers to connect with these Small Town Leadership lessons so that you can reminisce about your own experience in a small town, or to foster a small town feeling in your community or workplace.

Above all, I hope these Big Stories from a Small Town help make our BIG world feel like a smaller place!  



Small Town Leadership Founder; Natalie believes everything she needed to know to succeed in her career she learned by growing up in a town of 600 people. As a Certified Professional Coach and award-winning public speaker, she helps her clients and audiences make wherever they are feel like a small town. She lives in Dublin, Ohio with her husband, Rob, a professor at Ohio State and two little girls.


  • Cynthia Kane says:

    Hi, Natalie,
    My brother-in-law teaches at OSU, and he sent our family the link to your blog. I think the values of small town, rural American life are worthy of consideration, so your blog really caught my eye. I would like to use your blogs to reflect on what I have learned and value from being a part of rural America since 1993.

    Let me tell you where I am coming from. I grew up in Minneapolis in the late 50s/60s, but my mother grew up in a small German community out on the prairie of SW MN during the 20s/30s. I sort of think my draw to rural America is in my DNA. In 1998, my husband, our 2 daughters, and I moved to Milladore, WI pop. 248, and I taught reading for 10 yrs. in Auburndale, WI pop 589. I have been teaching Reading Recovery in Wisconsin Rapids, WI pop. 18,289 since 2008. Reading Recovery is my connection to OSU as I enter data on their website every year. My story is a bit different from yours in that I am a transplant into this community, but we both have experienced the same small town culture so I think it will be very interesting to read about each others insights.

    Thank you to you and your colleague for sharing.

    Cindy Kane

    • Natalie says:

      Cindy – Thanks so much for reading and for being my first commenter to this blog! This is exactly my hope for this site – to connect people who have experienced small town life and to give an appreciation for small town life to those who have only known big cities. If you haven’t already, please subscribe so that you don’t miss any posts. I look forward to future comments from you as well! Best to you and your family!

  • Brooke says:

    Natalie, I shouldn’t be surprised at how much we have in common! You wrote “Being from a small town meant I understood what it meant to get to know people, to have meaningful 1:1 interactions, and to trust and count on people in my community.” I have reflected on this often, and was just discussing the same thing on a 1/2 marathon training run with one of my friends. Growing up in a small town has shaped us in a way that is unique and special. Though I’m glad I moved away, it will forever be “home.” I’m really enjoying your blog posts! Thank you for tagging me!

    • Natalie says:

      Brooke – I’m glad you are enjoying the posts! It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that no matter how “connected” our world becomes, relationships and interaction matter more than ever. We learned that in Republic, Ohio. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any posts – you never know what recess of my memory I’ll draw from next! Take care!

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