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Young local retailer discovers successful work-life balance

Thu, Apr 16, 2015

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IMG_9793CCAshley Gillit, 29, was destined to pursue a career in retail. Gillit, owner of Ashley’s Attic at 829 N. Tejon St., recalls spending weekends while growing up shopping at secondhand stores with her mother. She went on to study retail in college and, in 2013, opened her own secondhand women’s clothing store just south of the Colorado College campus. The Doherty High School graduate discusses with the Business Journal what it’s like to be a small business owner, a mother and curator of the funk.

Where are you from and how did you end up in Colorado Springs?

I’ve lived here since I was 2. My folks moved here [from West Virginia] when I was a toddler and I lived in Colorado Springs through high school. I went to college and then moved to Grand Junction for a little bit. I met my husband, got married and moved back [to Colorado Springs].

Did you go to school for retail?

I graduated from CSU in Fort Collins with a [bachelor of science degree] in apparel and merchandising. After that I had an internship in the Vail area at the [Lodge and Spa at Cordillera], which is a golf and country club. My degree entailed a lot of business classes, math classes. … We focused on the retail aspects of profit and loss, profit margins, growth margins, but all incorporated into retail.

What about retail interested you?

Growing up, it’s what my mom and I did together on the weekends. We’d go to secondhand stores and never shopped at full-price retail shops. [We shopped at] places like Eve’s Revolution or at shops downtown. I really enjoyed that bonding period with her. Then I went to school and got the internship [with Cordillera] and was an assistant buyer. I would pick out [brands] … and golf apparel. I’ve always been into fashion and attribute that to my mother’s influence.

Talk about the process of opening your store.

It was a process! We’re very much a family-oriented store. My mom [Cherie Gorby] and I opened this together in the summer of 2013. I run it because she has a full-time job. I was also working a full-time job at the time while opening the store.

On opening day, I realized I was pregnant. A lot was happening! I was working six days a week for nine months. After my son was born, I did not return to [my full-time job] so I could focus on my store and my son.

How would you describe your merchandise?

Fun to funky to functional and classic. I only take quality and offer it at a good price. I don’t like to elevate prices too high. It is secondhand. I like to get a good deal and so does everybody else. I like to take funky stuff. Being downtown, people like to be different and unique.

Define funky.

It’s so hard to define. You just know it when you see it. I’ve had jackets with elephant appliqué all over them. They sold very fast.

Do you do consignment?

I switched gears from the early days when I was just consignment. I mainly buy items now. We’re pretty basic and like it that way. We don’t use a fancy computer system or register. When you come into my store you get a paper receipt hand-written by me, you get a recycled bag from Target or Terra Verde or Eve’s Revolution — some other place in town. I do like to put my spin on it. I wrap your purchase in turquoise tissue paper so you feel like you’re walking out of my store with a present. By keeping it simple, I started getting a lot of consigners. Too many. So I decided to scale back slowly. Besides, dropping off your things and getting cash right away appeals to the younger crowd. They just want some cash in hand to get a coffee.

Are the majority of your customers from the college?

No. They’re actually pretty diverse. I get working women and stay-at-home moms, retired people and students. It’s a large audience that I’m catering to, which is good because then I can take all types of clothing.

Do you have a five-year plan?

[Laughs.] Stay open. Our biggest plan was to stay conservative. That’s the reason for not having a computer or cash register and using pen and paper. … The other part of the plan is developing relationships, which I think I’ve done so far.

Is Colorado Springs good for small business?

Now that I am a small business owner, I understand how important it is to support small businesses. It keeps the money in Colorado. The more people who support small business, the more it will grow Colorado Springs and its uniqueness. I love Colorado Springs. I love my mountains and Pikes Peak. I always know which direction I’m going. This is home to me.

What do you do in your free time?

I’ve been married to my husband Rick for five years. We had our first child, Mason, who is a year and half old. My folks live here in town … and family is really important to us. We visit my husband’s family in Denver or spend quality time with my family here. … We like our Netflix.

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Maisel finds passion, career with Space Foundation position

Fri, Apr 10, 2015

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DSC00310CCWhen Bernadette Maisel came to Colorado Springs 13 years ago in pursuit of an English degree, her plans didn’t yet include a foray into the aerospace industry. But Maisel, now 31, has found a niche and hatched a passion in her job with the Space Foundation, which she happened upon in 2008. Now customer service manager, Maisel spoke to the Business Journal this week about what she does for the Foundation and how she has seen herself grow alongside the Colorado Springs nonprofit and its annual Space Symposium.

Can you begin by telling us a bit about your background?

I was adopted from Chile in 1987 and grew up on Long Island in New York until I came to Colorado Springs for college in 2002. I graduated with my English degree and decided that I loved Colorado Springs, made it my home and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve worked for the Space Foundation for almost seven years now and was recently promoted (about two years ago) to a manager in customer service and am continuing to grow with the foundation.

Were you interested in space before? What inspired that career choice?

Funny enough, I didn’t have too much focus on space. I started here as a temporary employee to help out with the Space Symposium and worked under our former president. Then I started to develop a love for space, and learning what the Space Foundation’s mission was really helped me to see where I wanted to be in my own life and what I wanted to be doing professionally. The nice thing about working here at the Space Foundation is that I get to work with children and educate the public about space and why it’s important. Now I’m really into space and keep up with all the articles and what’s going on out there.

How have you seen the Foundation grow in that time?

The neat thing about the Space Foundation is that we have grown, especially internationally. That’s really neat for me as a Chilean because I get to interact with people from a lot of different countries, including Chile. In the time that I’ve been here, we’ve opened our facility to the public. The Discovery Center has been here for about three years now and I think that is the biggest thing that has changed for me — we’re open to the public and I really get to interact with our visitors.

The Symposium is this coming week. What is your role in all of that?

I interact with all of the customers and oversee all of the registration areas for the Symposium. I help to implement new technology for badging. I work with all of our internal customers and external customers, making sure that everyone has what they need as we prepare to go to The Broadmoor. A lot of my job has to do with coordinating with things internally that ensures that it’s a smooth process for everybody.

What does work look like when you’re not preparing for the Symposium?

We pretty much work on the Symposium year-round. When we’re not in the thick of it, I get to give Science on a Sphere presentations and work with children on hands-on activities and scavenger hunts through the gallery. I’m also on the planning team for our Summer of Discovery program. So I’m very involved in logistics, planning, themes and what we have to offer the children. Probably the thing I love most is being down in the gallery and educating the public about space, especially with the Sphere — walking around and showing people the wonders of space.

Do you think Colorado Springs is a good town for developing YPs?

Yes, I do. I’ve gotten especially involved with professional development … and I’ve joined the Colorado Springs Rising Professionals. I’m also a merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts. As far as growing professionally, I think Colorado Springs has those niches … it’s just a matter of finding that niche that’s yours. I do think there is a lot of opportunity for young professionals.

What are your professional plans?

Professionally, I’d like to continue to stay with the Space Foundation and continue the outreach that we get to do here.  That’s where I see myself in five years. I love it here.

What do you do in your spare time?

I like to spend time with my husband and my dogs. We like to go hiking, bike riding, camping, and we also like to take road trips to check out different observatories around the country. … I also have my own telescope that I go out with on Saturday nights and we go to star parties here in town at places like Palmer Park.

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Russell finds her purpose as an Air Force attorney

Thu, Apr 2, 2015

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DSC09840CCAir Force Capt. Jazmine Russell was affected by law at a young age. When she was 12, growing up in eastern New Jersey, a compassionate judge listened to her, giving her a voice she didn’t think she had. Now, at 30, Russell is a special victims counsel assigned to Peterson Air Force Base, where finally she is able to give others the same gift of a voice. She spoke to the Business Journal about why she joined the military to become a lawyer, her recent move to the Springs and what she hopes to accomplish through her service.

Can you tell us where you’re from and a bit about your background?

I’m from Elizabeth, N.J. I lived there until I was 18 and grew up with my grandmother … so I’m a grandma’s girl. I went to Penn State for undergrad, where I did ROTC and commissioned in 2006. From there I did something that is uncommon for people in the military — a program called educational delay, which means I commissioned in 2006 with the rest of my classmates but I basically asked for special permission from the Air Force to give me a pass to go to law school. … So I did law school for three years and graduated in 2009 from Indiana University in Bloomington, and from there I entered active duty in 2010. … I was first stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Then, in 2011, I was stationed in Germany for three years and did a six-month tour in Afghanistan while I was there. Now, I’ve been in Colorado Springs since January.

Was it always your plan to join the Air Force?

I always knew I wanted to go to college — we just couldn’t afford it, so I was going to enlist in the Army. My uncle, who is still a Marine, told me if I wanted to go to college I should look into the ROTC program. Penn State was where I wanted to go; I just had to figure out how to go there and pay for it. So I looked into ROTC, applied, got accepted and got a scholarship … and that’s basically “all she wrote.”

How did you become interested in law as a profession?

My mother had me when she was really young (in high school), so I ended up being raised by my grandmother. When I was about 12, there was a custody battle and I feared that I wasn’t going to have a voice because I was only a child. During one of the hearings, the judge took me into his chambers and talked to me alone. I was sitting there thinking that he wouldn’t listen to me because I was only a child, but he took what I had to say into consideration and ultimately made his ruling as to whom I would stay with. From then on, I really wanted to help people in that realm — people who don’t necessarily feel that they have a voice. At that point I knew I wanted to do something with law, something where I could help people, and I was lucky that I could find that in the Air Force — to get college paid for and still be able to pursue my dream and my passion.

Can you explain what it is you do at Peterson?

I counsel victims of sexual assault … and the Air Force recently expanded that role to include children. Right now I have three child clients, which are the most fulfilling, but also the saddest because these children don’t know what is going on and they’ve just been thrown into the criminal justice process. I feel like I’m finally able to get back and do what that judge did for me … I’m able to give them that voice. It’s pretty cool that it has finally come full circle.

How did you end up in Colorado Springs?

My husband William is also in the military. He was deployed last year and at some point found out he was to be stationed at Peterson. When we found out he was going to be stationed there, I said that I would like to be here, whether it was at Schriever, the Academy or Peterson — we wanted to stay together. So I applied for the special victims advocate job and got it.

How do you like it here?

I love it. I’m a very outdoorsy person. One of the passions that I’ve kind of always had but that I really dove into when I was in Germany is physical fitness. Here there are just so many different ways to be physically fit and enjoy your day. … You can do the Manitou Incline, go hiking, there are lots of 5Ks (I did my first one recently). … I absolutely love it and think it’s great.

I compete in fitness competitions and I’m working on competing in one here in about eight weeks. It’s called the Southern Colorado Armed Forces MPC Competition, which is cool because they’re raising money for the Wounded Warrior program.

Do you think this is a good place for you professionally?

It seems to me like there are a lot of opportunities to grow. We’ve moved to plenty of places, and Colorado is the first place we’ve actually discussed as possibly being our permanent home.

What are your ultimate career goals?

Ultimately, if we decide to stay in, my goal would be to progress with the JAG Corps … and then retire and start my second career, which would be to advocate for children. I really enjoy that type of work, because that’s really when I’m able to give a voice to people that don’t feel they have one.

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DeSutter transitions from Army but continues with public care

Fri, Mar 27, 2015

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DSC09646CCNick DeSutter joined the Army as an 18-year-old Indiana boy and left on a journey that changed his life’s trajectory. DeSutter, now 33, deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan before returning stateside in 2011 to command a company responsible for the care, development and medical administration of 131 soldiers who had returned disabled from their own tours. After he exited the military in 2013, DeSutter looked for a similar job in the civilian world, and he found The Independence Center in Colorado Springs, where he now works as emergency program manager. DeSutter spoke about his roots, his military service and what he’s doing to help people with disabilities in the region.

Can you tell us where you’re from and a bit about yourself?

I grew up in a town called New Castle in central Indiana. When I was 18 I enlisted in the Army for two years as an infantry soldier. After that two-year commitment, I decided to go to college and attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where I did ROTC and majored in business administration. After that, I went back into the Army as a cavalry reconnaissance officer.

What do you do at the Independence Center?

I maintain relationships with both the city of Colorado Springs and El Paso County’s offices of emergency management, and, to some extent, the state’s offices of emergency management. … What we’re doing, as community-based partners, is figuring out how we can capture the needs of people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.

When did you exit the military and come to the Independence Center?

During the time I was an officer, between 2007 and 2013, I deployed twice to Iraq. … My final job in the Army, at Fort Carson, was to take command of an integrated disability evaluation company. Those companies predominantly have soldiers who were injured in combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and so the Army developed a program that would essentially help them administratively and medically before they left service and try to bridge the gap between the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. … That exposed me to the disability community, and ultimately I decided to leave service in May 2013 and started looking for jobs. The Independence Center was looking for someone to bridge the gap between emergency planning for people with disabilities and our generalized government operations plans and things like that. So it was kind of a perfect fit for me, because I knew a little bit about the disabled community and a lot about organizational planning.

What was your motivation for continuing your work with people with disabilities?

For my generation of soldiers and veterans, the operational tempo has been one of the most aggressive in the U.S. Army’s history — with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, what I’m seeing is that there is a large segment of people who wanted to serve. But that tempo got to the point that they couldn’t have a balanced life because they were deploying so much, and that’s eventually why I decided to leave. I loved my time in the Army … but there were other things I wanted to experience in life. I wanted to go into a career field where I could capitalize on the skills and the leadership traits I learned from Army development. I also wanted to have a more balanced life. So I felt emergency management was a good place to start, and because I did have some level of disability experience through my leadership position in the Army. Mixing those two things really seems to make a special, niche market … that’s what bridged the gap for me.

Do you continue to serve veterans?

There are a lot of veterans who I served with who live with either a visible or invisible disability, and that is something I think about. But I really just wanted a career that serves the community and is not solely a money-making … I wanted to continue my public service.

Do you think this is a good community for those with disabilities? What could be done better for them?

I think Colorado Springs has the potential to be a location of choice for people with disabilities. We have a ways to go, but there have been major indicators recently that are showing that we could be a leader for people with disabilities and community integration. We want to see people with disabilities working, playing, living … within our community, without isolation. We want them in leadership positions, city government, and as a whole part of our community. I think Colorado Springs could be a national leader for that.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in a hybrid program for disasters and emergency management. … I’m also married. My wife Melissa has been very supportive through eight years in the military, lots of deployments. … She works as manager of marketing and communications for Rocky Mountain Health Care Services here in Colorado Springs. We don’t have any kids, but we do have two Maine Coon cats.

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Borkowski gives lifelong lessons in Manitou woodworking classes

Mon, Mar 23, 2015

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DSC09225CCBrad Borkowski has a Midwestern work ethic that seems increasingly uncommon, but he’s committed to passing it along to his students. Borkowski, 26, is nearing the end of his fourth year as an industrial technology instructor at Manitou Springs High School, where he teaches courses on woodworking and is the head wrestling coach. The Sioux City, Iowa, native spoke to the Business Journal this week about his well-rounded upbringing, his love for what he does and what he hopes his students will learn while enrolled in his classes.

Can you tell us about yourself and what you do?

I’m the wood shop teacher here at Manitou Springs High School. We start off each semester with beginning woods. My beginning students are usually freshmen and sophomores who don’t really have any idea what they’re doing in here, so the course is really bare bones when we start off. We show them how to measure, the difference between lumber and plywood … how to use all the different tools, safety measures. … Once we get through that, we start on really basic projects, go through the different types of joinery and then we get to more complicated things, like folding stools. Those are really good projects to start them off and get them used to using the equipment. Once they get used to using the tools, we go into a little bit more complicated projects, like building cabinets … learning different joinery and how to use even more tools.

Then you offer an advanced class?

Yeah, once they pass this class, they can go on to my advanced class. In there, they can pretty much make whatever they choose — large-scale projects like Adirondack chairs, tables, entertainment centers and picnic tables. … I also have a few students who would like to learn how to make money doing this, so I teach them basic stuff, like how to sell stuff and market themselves. I want them to know how to do quality work, so if they ever do try to sell it, it is the best thing they can sell. Students can also come back after that class and take my independent study.

And you’re also a wrestling coach? How do you split your time?

Yes, this is my third year as head wrestling coach. I try to do everything in the fall so that when it comes to wrestling I don’t have to do a whole lot of prep for class. That way I can devote more time to wrestling and still have everything in here set up and ready to go.

How did you become interested in woodworking and teaching it as a career?

My dad taught for 33 years and was a jack of all trades — automotive, drafting, wood work, metal work, you name it. I took and enjoyed almost all of his classes. By the time I was a senior in high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I liked what he did and I liked teaching and being able to work with my hands, so I decided to become an industrial tech teacher. So I went to the University of Northern Iowa and got my degree in industrial technology education. Then I happened to find the job here in Manitou and went for it!

Has wrestling also been a longtime part of your life?

My dad was also a wrestling coach, so I was always around it. … I was on the wrestling team from the time I was in fifth grade until my senior year in high school. I always wanted to get into coaching … and it just worked out that when I got here, the head coach had to step into being an administrator. They needed someone to take that job, and I said yes.

I bet your dad’s pretty happy about all of this.

Yes, he is! I’m also very happy to have him for advice, to be able to call and talk to him about my classes or wrestling. … He has been huge to have around for support and for information.

You’re younger than the average teacher. Do you think that’s an advantage?

I think it’s a huge advantage. The kids still look at me as a role model, but someone that’s closer to their age. I know the same music they do, I know the same pop culture as them, I can relate to them more easily and I feel like that helps out a lot.

What do you see in your future?

That’s a good question. I’m not interested in administration, but I would like to continue teaching and maybe even expand our program. Right now all we have is the woodworking, so I’d love to get into drafting, automotive, welding and things like that. We’re currently working on getting this program articulated with Red Rocks Community College, so that my students can get college credit.

What is the primary lesson you’d like your students to learn from you?

My biggest thing is work ethic. … I want these kids to walk away from my class knowing how to work and knowing how to problem-solve.

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After years seeing the nation, Webb insures her Springs now

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

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DSC02764CCColorado Springs native Jill Webb takes a community-oriented approach to her career. Webb is vice president of CB Insurance in downtown Colorado Springs. She began her career at age 19 in the recruiting business and 13 years later recruited herself to go work for Central Bancorp downtown. Despite her lack of experience in finance, Webb soon flourished and became VP of business development before going to work in insurance, with which she has “fallen in love.” Webb spoke this week about her career, her company, her family and what it takes to succeed as a young professional in the Springs.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Colorado Springs. My dad was Army, so we traveled all over the world and spent a few years in Germany when I was much younger. Eventually, we came back to Colorado and I met my husband. We started our life and our careers at an early age and proceeded to move all over the country for his job. I got started in recruiting when I was 19 years old and spent 13 years in that career, in all levels of recruiting and management. That is actually what sent me to Central Bancorp in 2008.

How did you get into recruiting?

I was looking for employment and stumbled upon a job listing in a magazine. I went in for the interview and found out that it was a temporary placement company and I interviewed for the construction company they were hiring for, but then they offered me an internal position. They said I had a great personality and was someone they saw doing the job very well. At the time it provided more benefits and there was more incentive to go work for the temporary service, so that’s where I started my career.

How did you end up at Central Bancorp?

I was doing some recruiting for [CB Insurance President] Steve Schneider when he mentioned that Central Bancorp was starting this amazing group and that I should go check it out. So I began doing recruiting for them. I got a chance to really see what they were doing here, and it was exciting to me. Then Steve asked if I would come over here to work in a sales capacity. At first I told him no, that I had no interest or background in financial services or insurance. He talked me into interviewing and eventually I decided I would never have that opportunity again, so I leaped. I came on board and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.

And when did you transition to the insurance arm of the corporation?

I worked for their title division when I first came on board and actually morphed over into a wealth management position. Then I went into a corporate business development role for the entire organization and ultimately fell in love with insurance. I was licensed in 2011, but I moved to CB Insurance full-time in 2013 and had great success early on. I really love it, and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything different.

What do you like about working for the organization?

I think it is certainly the leadership, and having access to everyone on the leadership team. That certainly is a big draw. Employees want to feel connected to the organization and feel like they can influence the outcome. … I also think Colorado Springs is a little bit of an anomaly for the fact that we can compete with the bigger brokerage firms out of Denver and yet we still have that smaller, family feel. We’re doing all the same great things, we just deliver it in a different way.

What does an average day in the VP role look like for you?

We do a lot of troubleshooting and dealing with workflow from day to day. We’re busy all year round, but we do have peak seasons. The quarters are very busy and incredibly stressful, with a lot of high volume, because everyone’s insurance renews on the quarter. So it’s managing the workflow, managing those peaks, doing some recruiting and bringing on new talent. … Right now we’re focusing a lot on recruiting and bringing new people into the fold, because we are expanding. We have around 30 employees and we anticipate bringing on two or three more this year.

How is the industry changing?

I think our clients are becoming more savvy and need more education. So that is forcing our industry to deliver more information to them in a timely fashion. That’s great because we have always been a very technically strong group. … So we’re having to do a lot more education, which is great because the smarter the client the better the product and the better the relationship we have.

Was the Springs a good place for you to develop professionally?

The experience and community involvement that I had while I was with ADD STAFF was invaluable. I think I was very fortunate to land with an organization that already had that community involvement and philosophy, which allowed me to get out and be a part of the community. Then, coming here, it was magnified. Not just because of my changing responsibilities, but also because it is part of our culture. I truly believe that’s what makes our group so special: We’re ingrained and we’re involved.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to completely disconnect on the weekends, so I do a lot of reading, we bowl, we travel with friends, golf, play poker. My husband and I really just fly by the seats of our pants and do whatever tickles our fancy for the weekend. We also do a lot of stuff with our daughter and her friends, which is nice.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

From a young professional standpoint, you’ve got to get connected, you’ve got to be committed and you have to see things through. Instant gratification just doesn’t fly here in this community.

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Merryman forges tech future with expanding Springs firm

Mon, Feb 23, 2015

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DSC02617There is a percolating industry of small technology firms in Colorado Springs, and Ben Merryman is right there in the thick of them. Merryman, 27, works as a design engineer for KS Technologies, a local company specializing in the integration of hardware and software for Bluetooth applications. Originally from North Carolina, he is married with two daughters and optimistically looks toward a future with his family and the rapidly growing company he has been with for four years. Merryman spoke to the Business Journal this week about what KST does, what he does for KST and what he loves about his industry in the Pikes Peak region.

Can you start off by telling me a bit about yourself?

I went to UCCS and I have a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. I started my career in the test and measurement field working for Agilent Technologies in their logic analyzer department. … I’ve known [KST owner] Bob Kressin via the university. We joke that I was one of his guinea pigs for some of the new classes he was teaching when I was there. He actually worked at Agilent [and Hewlett-Packard] too, where he had spent the majority of his career. We always kept in contact and now I work for KS Technologies as a design engineer. … I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve been in — I love it here and have been here for close to four years now. It’s interesting because I’ve seen the company evolve from three people to eight now (going on nine or 10). It has been a fun trip.

How long have you been in Colorado? How did you get to the Springs?

I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. … My father has lived [off and on] in Colorado for close to 30 years now. He’s from Pittsburgh. Mom’s from New York. Most of my family’s in the East … so it was one of his things to want to move our family out here. I’ve been here for about 14 years now.

What got you interested in tech and engineering?

I’ve always been interested in computers, and I’ve always been one of those guys who likes to take stuff apart. … My dad is a mechanical engineer, and my brother-in-law is in cell phone signal analysis, and I think those guys were pretty big influences — they always got me thinking about things in different ways. I always wanted to take things apart to see how they worked, then in high school I got into computer networking. Even before then I built my own computers … so computer networking and engineering have always fascinated me.

What do you do for the company? How does a typical day look for you?

KST is cool because working for a small business means I’m never stagnant. I’m never locked into a really long, recurring project. … On a day-to-day basis, I’m normally doing raw development for a particular client. So I’ll write code for that client. Some of the companies are more in maintenance mode, so I’ll work on things like bug cleanup for certain big-name clients that we have. I also help bring the new guys up to speed and work with product road map, which entails where we want to take things from our product side. … So, day to day, I’m mostly writing code or doing code reviews or trying to help pioneer the business, which is really split between engineering services and developing our own products. It’s a great place to be!

How would you characterize this business environment for young people?

I think it’s awesome, and it’s really interesting. There are a lot of really good Fortune 500 companies that work here. It’s also cool because I still keep in contact with a lot of the guys that I went to college with. … A lot of them have gone the defense [contractor] route, and I think the opportunity for that is really good here. I love it here. There are a lot of really good companies and a lot of great senior engineers here who have helped me out a lot throughout my career.

What are your professional goals? What do you see in your future?

I’d like to think I’ve been an entrepreneur since the very start, and I’ve always flirted with the idea of running my own business. KST is really a great fit for me and where I want to take my professional goals. Seeing the transition from when I first started here to where we’re at now and where we’re forecasted to go, it kind of fits right into what I want to do. So being a core foundational block to a small business, whether it’s me at the helm or someone else, is right where I want to be.

What do you do in your spare time?

I have two awesome daughters and a wife, so I spend a lot of time with them. I love to snowboard, I love to fish, I love to hunt, which are all three great things to do in Colorado. It’s great, when time permits.

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Lee sees potential for life, tech in Springs

Mon, Feb 16, 2015

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DSC02499CCAfter beginning his career in finance and consulting in larger markets, Bryan Lee discovered his niche in the tech industry and a new home in Colorado Springs. Lee, 39, originally from Oklahoma City, and his brother Matt, who still lives there, kickstarted their firm Oscium five years ago. Lee serves as president of the company, which specializes in developing and manufacturing iPhone- and iPad-compatible tools for a variety of engineering and troubleshooting applications. Lee spoke to the Business Journal this week about coming to Colorado Springs, starting a family and meeting an industry need with his company’s ultra-portable oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers, power meters and logic analyzers.

Can you talk a bit about your background — personally and professionally?

At the very core of who I am, I am a very God-fearing, Bible-believing Christian who is also in business with his brother. Matt and I started Oscium a little over five years ago, and we have a unique relationship — it’s a sweet partnership. My brother handles the technical side of the business and does all of the implementation to produce all of our products. … I handle the business side: strategic partnerships, sales channels and paperwork. We’re a small company, so we both wear a lot of hats.

How did you land in Colorado Springs?

My wife and I moved to Colorado Springs about six years ago because we wanted to be here. … My wife and I had visited Colorado together and landed here in the Springs — chose it specifically — and decided to stay. We really love Colorado Springs, and that’s pretty much why we’re here.

How did you begin your career, before starting the company?

Before my brother and I started Oscium, I was a consultant for companies like Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery. … Prior to that I was at the Chicago Board of Trade in Chicago.

How did the company come about?

Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. So my brother and I teamed up and he’s the one that came up with the idea to start this line of products. That’s why I’m here.

Can you explain what Oscium does?

We transform an iPhone or an iPad into a troubleshooting tool. We make an external piece of hardware that plugs into those devices and then transforms that device into either a spectrum analyzer, or an oscilloscope, or a logic analyzer or power meter. As far as practical applications, the spectrum analyzer is how you optimize your Internet network. … The oscilloscope is a tool that an engineer who has to travel from location to location would use to troubleshoot electronics. They fit in your pocket, so our tools are like an ultimate, portable troubleshooting kit.

Are these products meeting a need that wasn’t being met before?

When our business first released the oscilloscope, the test and measurement industry was using buttons and knobs as the standard interface. So we won an R&D 100 Award in 2012 and they labeled our oscilloscope as one of the 100 most significant products of the year of any technology. The reason why it won that award is because we rethought the interface entirely … using capacitive touch-screen technology. … The other aspect of our business that is significant is the portability of the product — this fits in your pocket. When you have the ability to take a troubleshooting tool that you need to use with you anywhere, it provides you opportunities to troubleshoot that you wouldn’t necessarily have had before.

What has your experience been like developing professionally here?

I’ve had other people in town who have walked beside me as we’ve grown Oscium, and to have folks like that, who care about this town and want it to be successful and want me to be successful, means a lot. Those are the things that help create an environment that is successful for entrepreneurs and for tech.

What is appealing about the Springs for you and people like you?

Colorado Springs really is underutilized. If you look around, it won’t take long to realize that this town has so much potential; much of it is unrealized potential. There are people here in the Springs who have a vision for it to be bigger and better than it is today, and that’s exciting to me. I see the Springs as a place that can realize that potential over time. Yes, Denver is an hour north … but just because you’re in a specific location, that isn’t what makes you successful — it’s the perceived value of that environment and that ecosystem that matters.

What is success to you, and how do you hope to achieve that?

I enjoy working with my brother. I think one goal is sustainability … regarding any disruption that could occur in any specific industry. When I look at our business and think about the future, I look at solving that sustainability question, and I want to be doing it with my brother.

What do you do in your spare time?

My wife Bridget and I have an 18-month-old girl named Adalyn. … She’s a blast. It’s fun being a parent. We love it, and we love being here.

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Maxwell helps Hospice patients ‘not think about their disease’

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

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DSC01522CC_1It’s a large task to coordinate El Paso County’s terminally ill residents with the volunteers who help many of them through their final days — but Nicole Maxwell has made it her career. As volunteer coordinator for Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care, the 32-year-old wife and mother works every day to arrange visits by individuals who deliver alternative therapies using animals, music, books or essential oils. Maxwell spoke to the Business Journal this week about her seven-year stint at the organization, the fulfillment she receives from her work and how she applies a degree in sociology and English to her work with dying patients.

Can you start by telling us a bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Colorado, grew up in Denver and moved to Colorado Springs 12 years ago. I started at UCCS and in 2008 graduated with a bachelor’s in sociology and English. When I graduated, I wasn’t sure which route I wanted to go — books or marginalized populations. I had my interview with Pikes Peak Hospice the day before my commencement ceremony. … I didn’t know that much about hospice at the time, but I did my research and realized it does involve a marginalized population. No one talks about death and dying, but everyone dies. … I’ve fallen in love with [my job], and I’ve been here for seven years now. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else.

Can you explain your role at the organization? What is your day-to-day like?

I’m a volunteer coordinator and work with around 260 volunteers in the local community. Not many people know what a volunteer coordinator does, but it is kind of like human resources on a different level, because we are asking people who are giving us their time for free to do things for us. So you have to have a really good working relationship with your volunteers. … All of the therapies that I oversee are integrative therapies, which means they are all of the alternative therapies that we offer — foot rubs, essential oils, music, dog visits.

Day to day, we work very closely with the interdisciplinary team. … They are the ones on the ground, in the homes, in the assisted living facilities visiting the patients. Those groups consist of doctors and nurses, chaplains, counselors and volunteers, and behind the scenes you also have pharmacists, medical directors and nurse practitioners.

How would you describe the organization’s role in the community?

We recently came up with core principles that were put together by staff of Pikes Peak Hospice across all pay grades and departments. My favorite one, which I feel applies to my job the most, is about hospice care and living: “We see every day of life as precious, as we help our patients and family members celebrate it to the very end.” So the dogs, and the oils, and the music, and just a volunteer visit in general is that celebration. … If someone chooses Pikes Peak Hospice, we’re going to be with them every step they take on their journey, no matter which direction they go — we’ll support them and take care of them.

What was it like starting at a hospice at just 25 years old?

I was really, really excited. I had just gotten out of college with my sociology degree, so I was grabbing it by the horns. … There are moments — when there are patients my mom’s age or really young children in our program — that are definitely hard to witness. But what keeps me going is that I get to send a volunteer into that home, and through them I am able to give them a moment in time when they’re not thinking about their disease …. I love that, and that is what keeps me going. So if I get sad about the misfortune … I always think about the good work I’m doing by providing those volunteers.

We typically hear of YPs moving from here to Denver. You did the opposite. What has that experience been like?

Denver is so big that finding a niche or a place to plant my roots would have been much more challenging. Colorado Springs is smaller and the community is a lot more tight-knit. … This community is always trying to do better and to do more for the people who live here. There are tons of great nonprofits who do great work, and we partner with a lot of them. … I think the interconnectedness is really important and vital.

What do you do in your spare time?

I still love to read all the time — that’s the English degree in me. I also love to paint and do artwork, kind of just to stay sane. But mostly I hang out with my husband Jason, our 4-year-old son Finn, our two dogs and our cat. We also have a pretty large extended family, so we spend a lot of time with the whole clan.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

In May I will … become a certified volunteer administrator. The process is similar to how human resources people get certified in HR. It is not a degree, but it will definitely elevate my standing in volunteer management. So I’m excited about that.

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Jewett: Good balance of quality of life, work

Wed, Jan 28, 2015

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Winn JewettWinn Jewett runs his web development company on passion for the Colorado Springs community — and the scientific method. Jewett, 35, owns Oxbow Labs, which specializes in building websites for clients in both the public and private sectors. He came here from New York in the late 1990s to attend Colorado College and fell in love with the region and his future wife Rebecca. Jewett spoke to the Business Journal this week about his company, the local web industry and why he thinks Colorado Springs is a great place to live and work.

Where are you from and what brought you to Colorado Springs?

I grew up in New York City and got my start in the web development industry working at Martha Stewart and iVillage in New York City. I came out to Colorado in part for the beauty and majesty of this place, but also for Colorado College. I was a physics major at CC. I wanted a small liberal arts college, but I’ve always been drawn toward the technical side of everything. CC offered the perfect balance between that liberal arts education where you learn how to think for yourself and to write — that well-balanced education — and also satisfied my desire to understand how the world works.

How did you get into the web development business?

Over the summers throughout college, I would go back to New York and work at various places within the web industry. After I got out of college in 2003 I started doing it full-time. At first I was a freelancer, just doing web development on my own. Then, in the next couple of years, it grew organically. As I got busier I added additional freelancers and eventually decided to take on full-time employees a few years ago. I’ve been slowly adding to that over time.

Does that physics degree translate at all to what you do now?

No. I think what college gave me was that ability to think on my own. The web industry is such a dynamic field and it is definitely a field where you have to continue your education — you’re constantly learning, you’re constantly testing. Part of the reason I’ve called my company Oxbow Labs is because I really do believe that we are in part a laboratory. In that we’re constantly testing new techniques and technologies, we have to stay ahead of the curve and innovate both in terms of techniques and also design, user experience — different ways of communicating our clients’ message to the world. In that way I have brought in some of those science methodologies.

Do you think this is a good place for your business?

I do, yes. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a bunch of local organizations and companies — from the Humane Society to the Sheriff’s Office to the Health Department to the YMCA. What’s so amazing about this community is that it is so tight-knit. … In a city like New York, the proverbial pond is so big that no one company can really dip its toes into every aspect of the city. … It’s really fun to watch the companies and organizations around us grow, and to be able to play a role in that growth.

Can you explain what Oxbow does and what part you play?

We build websites for both nonprofits and for-profit companies. We focus on one technology, one content management system, called Drupal, but we are diverse in the application of that technology. … What I love doing is playing the role of visual strategist. For a lot of organizations, the website is really a defining piece of their organization, so the process of building or redesigning a website is one where you dig deep and try and figure out who you are as an organization, and how you’re perceived by the community. So by going through that process with them, we are able to craft that message and help them better communicate who they are as a company or an organization. That web architecture is what I love doing, but I wear a lot of hats. I started off as a web developer, so I often put that hat on and do actual programming. My official title is web architect, so in that role I work with the customers to help craft a solution to build out their website in the most efficient manner possible — that’s the part that I love the most.

How does developing as a young professional here compare to New York?

I feel strongly that Colorado Springs offers an incredible balance between quality of life and all of that … but also brings to the table a very vibrant technology community. The open-source community here in Colorado Springs is absolutely phenomenal.

We meet regularly to share experiences, to share tips and techniques, and it feels much less like we’re competitors and more like we are in it together to help each other and to help the web community to help the greater community. That is something that feels really special … and definitely something I feel on a regular basis.

Even in the economic downturn of the past few years, it never really felt cutthroat or like we’re all competing for the same jobs. Even though I know some of us are bidding on the same jobs, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like there is enough work to get distributed around.

What do you do in your spare time?

I try to get out as much as I can. In the summertime I like to bike and climb, and in the wintertime I like to ski and climb. … I try to ride my bike to work as much as I can. n CSBJ

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