Inspired by humor, Johnston helps BBB in communication

Fri, Nov 14, 2014


IMG_7624CCCrystal Johnston is a funny girl, and one who cares about the Colorado Springs business community. The 30-year-old Denver native works as director of marketing and events for the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and runs an Improv comedy company on the side. In the year since she started at the BBB, Johnston said she has incorporated themes from her standup experience to teach people how to think on their feet and be more successful communicators in business. Johnston spoke to the Business Journal this week about that, her decision to make the Springs her home and what she does for the BBB.

Can you start by telling us about your education and professional background?

I grew up in Denver and moved when I was in the middle of high school to Florissant and ended up going to Woodland Park High School. I graduated early — technically in December of 2001. Then I was a banker for many years. I was a teller, then a reconciliations clerk, then a personal banker, then a business banker, then a customer relationship banker and so on. I finally finished my degree in business communications and got a job marketing with Drive-In Autosound, which sells high-end auto accessories. I marketed for them and developed their website and that’s really when I started enjoying events.

So I did that for a few years before I was contacted by Graham Advertising and was brought over as an account executive. I worked for them for a little less than a year handling commercials for Honda associations. We did that for about 150 Honda dealers and six Honda associations on the East Coast. … That’s how I met Matt Barrett, who was the COO for the organization. He left in early 2013 to come to the Better Business Bureau and in September of last year my position became available here. So he contacted me to see if it would be a good fit and I have really fallen in love with it since I’ve been here. It has just been a blast.

What does your role at the BBB entail?

My day-to-day is always different. I’m the director of marketing and events, the foundation and public relations. I handle the website and social media, I have two staff members who handle events, I have an outsourced public relations person and a part-time web developer who all work with me in my department. One of our claims to fame are our events. We just got done with our Night of Excellence event, which showcases businesses in the community that excel in customer service and ethics, as well as high school students who are rewarded with $2,500 college scholarships. That concluded Oct. 2 and we have our Buzz with the Bees networking breakfast coming up on the 19th, which is a new thing since I’ve been here.

Why did you choose to start a career in Colorado Springs?

I did want to look for career opportunities in Denver when I was younger, but the positions I was being offered were all here. I like Colorado Springs — it’s a close-knit community and one of the biggest small towns I know. I like being able to connect with my community and see people that I recognize.

How do you feel about this environment for the development of young, female professionals?

I also own a business, and I’ve found that people in Colorado Springs highly regard women in business — especially business owners. I think that all women in business tend to struggle in the sense that you try to get ahead but just can’t or don’t meet the qualifications or those sorts of things. I really think Colorado Springs assists in equality and growth, not just for women but also with the elderly and with military — really pushing those individuals forward.

So that’s one thing that I’m very grateful for in Colorado Springs, and I feel as if the competition just isn’t as high. I feel like Denver tends to have a higher level of young professionals than Colorado Springs, so as a young professional and as a woman, I really feel like I have a leg up because we don’t have as many people competing for opportunities.

Tell me about your business.

I’ve been a standup comedian and improv comedian since 2009. … At the beginning of this year, me and a partner of mine were sort of wondering why we don’t just start our own company. So we started a business called Improv Anywhere. We don’t necessarily perform improv; what we prefer to do is teach people improv. So what we’ll do is go to businesses, companies and explain to them the importance of improv and how it can really change your day-to-day thinking process and how you can actually benefit from thinking on your feet.

I work with Colorado Technical University and teach their students improv … I’ve worked with Leadership Pikes Peak and their students … I love performing, and I still do, but I’d much rather show people how improv will teach you to think on your feet and totally change your perspective of people.

What’s next for you? What are your professional goals?

I really want my business to be recognized and to get the name out there. I’d also love to get to a place within this next year where I can get to a point where I can run half marathons and full marathons. … I’d like to be in a VP-type of position or a larger-title position within my early 30s. I’ve strived to become a young, working professional for quite a while, and I want to continue to push myself to get to that level.

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Talbott starts anew in space with Lockheed Martin program

Fri, Nov 7, 2014

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IMG_7600CCLike most children, Darrin Talbott pondered what it might be like to go to space. Now, at 40, he’s closer to that goal than most would dream. After 15 years working for defense contractors in this area, Talbott joined Lockheed Martin earlier this year to work on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle program with NASA. When he isn’t at work at Lockheed’s Waterton facility, Talbott runs a nylon soft goods company called Extreme Gear Labs that has experienced growth and success, celebrating its 11th year in operation next month. Talbott spoke to the Business Journal this week about his day job, his side business, his family and how he’s able to successfully juggle the lot.

Where are you from originally and how did you land here?

I’m originally from Korea. I moved here to Colorado as part of “Uncle Sam’s World Tour.” My father was stationed at Fort Carson and when he retired he decided this would be a good place for us to live. That was 30 years ago this year and I’m still here!

Where did you go to college?

I went to school at Colorado State University back in the ’90s. When I graduated with a degree in information technology, the Web was a very new-fangled thing. During my last semester at CSU, I actually signed on with the National Park Service as a web designer/webmaster. I didn’t really see it as anything, let alone resumé fodder. I just thought of it as pizza money … but it proved to be a boon for me in terms of Booz Allen Hamilton seeing me working in the industry before graduating college, which was a big plus. I managed to get into that company just a couple of months after graduation. From there I signed on as a web developer designing toolsets for a variety of Air Force applications. I moved on from there to supporting organizations out of Schriever Air Force Base … and then I ended my experience with Booz doing support for the Air Force Satellite Control Network and the Navy’s satellite communications program.

When did you find time to start a business?

When I left the Department of Homeland Security arena, I decided I had time to build and groom this side company, Extreme Gear Labs. It had gotten to the point where I was able to secure funding and have some of my products mass-produced. …Then a company contacted me about working with NASA with what ended up being a program developing the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle. By then my company was self-sufficient, and that isn’t really an offer that you turn down. I’ve been on board for about six months and every day is a challenge, but it’s going well. We have a test launch next month out of Florida.

How do you think this environment has helped shape your career?

I was sort of predestined for this because of my background in military — being a military brat and just being a part of that culture. Colorado Springs has a very interesting business environment in part because of its heavy ties with the defense industry. I think to a certain extent, that can have sort of a negative impact on getting young professionals who aren’t keyed into that industry interested in being here. … I think Colorado Springs has a kind of potential that cannot be had on either coast, but it’s a matter of getting the cultural component taken care of and making it become what young professionals want. That entails needing to understand what young professionals want and desire. … There is a lot of promise here, and Colorado Springs has a lot to give to companies.

What’s in the future for your company?

I want to be involved in bringing back the manufacturing industry to Colorado Springs. That would be what it takes to get me to leave NASA, to be part of the rebirth and growth of Colorado Springs manufacturing. I think the biggest thing right now is trying to convince people that this really is a tenable industry to branch into.

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Kensinger sees big year coming for Colorado Springs

Fri, Oct 31, 2014

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IMG_7568CCFrom his position as a Colorado Springs commercial real estate broker, Stanton Kensinger says 2015 looks to be a good year. Kensinger, 31, has been a broker for Olive Real Estate Group for three years and specializes in tenant representation. He said he is hopeful that as industry and commerce continue to boom in Denver and northern Colorado, the “wave of momentum” will travel this way. Kensinger spoke about that, his family, his career and why he chose to settle down in his hometown of Colorado Springs after years of travel.

Can you tell me a bit about your education and professional background?

I was born and raised in Denver, lived in Colorado Springs the majority of my life, went to District 12 — Cañon Elementary and Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School and High School — then I went to an East Coast boarding school my junior year of high school for hockey. I played out in Salisbury, Connecticut, and then went to Hobart College for hockey. I was there for all four years and then drove to Alaska, did commercial salmon fishing, drove down to San Diego and eventually found my way back to Colorado and haven’t left since.

What brought you back to Colorado Springs?

I worked in Boulder for a while at a restaurant called Sushi Zanmai before I got a job in Colorado Springs working for Strategic Financial Planners doing 401K consulting. I worked there for about two years. From there, I did about two years working for Blue Sky Restoration as their national catastrophe coordinator, so I ran operations for all of the disasters from Hurricane Irene to the tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Joplin.

I did that for two and a half years, got married and decided it was time to stay put and make Colorado Springs home. I interviewed with almost all of the commercial real estate firms in Colorado Springs, knowing that I wanted to get into the industry here. I interviewed with all six partners at Olive and just really found it to be the right fit and where I wanted to go with my career.

It being the largest locally owned commercial brokerage firm in the Springs was also enticing, specifically regarding the business side of things and representing buyers and tenants who don’t want to be tied down to a national brokerage and who want that local feel, local presence and local knowledge. That’s what I was going for.

What drove you into real estate and to Olive?

With my old man doing it for 30-plus years, I think it was kind of ingrained in me. I think development is something that is both the history and the future of Colorado Springs, and I think it’s what enticed me — the control I might have in building a bigger, brighter future in this town. I think 2015 is going to be a big year for Colorado Springs.

I see my part as minimal, just trying to learn from the partners at Olive and trying to do my part for the clients I represent, but I just believe that the developers have big plans for next year.

I feel a good wave of momentum coming down this way. With Denver becoming too expensive and with Northern Colorado booming, we’re just here for the taking.

How has your role at the company evolved since you joined the team?

Part of the reason I chose Olive is because they let you create the position for yourself, so you’re really an entrepreneur. They don’t say you have to do just office, or just industrial, or just multi-family, but that you can discover what it is you want to end up doing. That has been hugely beneficial to my own development and understanding of the market as a whole. I would say my expertise is probably tenant representation. I’m getting more involved in seller representation. That’s really the majority of what I do in the office, industrial and retail markets.

What do you think of the Springs in terms of development as a YP?

I think it’s a wonderful city to develop as a young professional. I feel like it is a good way to see how involvement in a community can truly help your development as a professional in the Springs. If you really, truly give time to the wonderful nonprofits, causes or even fighting for city government, you can quickly come up on top as a leader. I feel that more people need to step up. I really think 2015 will also be a big year for young professionals.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m on the executive board for Junior Achievement … I’m also on the foundation board of the Better Business Bureau and help them with their scholarship money and support. I also just try to help the BBB and make sure the money is going to the right place. I’m married, my wife’s name is Kristy, and we have an 8-month-old little girl named Elle. Our spare time is spent trying to enjoy the Colorado lifestyle — enjoying the mountain biking, skiing and fly fishing whenever I can and just trying to enjoy the great outdoors.

What is in the near future for yourself and the market?

I think multi-family housing has been the biggest piece of the market for the past few years, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. My partners and I have really reached out to the market and found a lot of out-of-state investors for properties. We’re just trying to find sellers to at least look at opportunities to sell their properties. n CSBJ

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Popular local artist goes from starving to thriving

Mon, Oct 20, 2014

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IMG_7185CCPhil Lear has made quite the impression on the local arts scene since he arrived in Colorado Springs 15 years ago. The Canadian-born painter has commissioned works for The Mining Exchange hotel and several restaurants throughout the community, including one of his largest works, an Alice in Wonderland-themed piece, displayed at the Rabbit Hole in downtown Colorado Springs. Lear’s muses include music and history, leading to pieces known to mix discomfort with familiarity. Lear, 39, spoke this week with the Business Journal about telling stories, the inspiration of cowbells and learning there’s never a perfect time to follow one’s dream.

You’re originally from Canada. How did you end up here?

My dad worked at a meatpacking [plant in Ontario, Canada]. He was getting laid off and was originally from Pennsylvania, and we moved back there. I left to go to college at [Pensacola Christian] in Florida and was back in Pennsylvania after I graduated. I got a call from one of my buddies who was working [here] at a Christian publishing place. I moved out here and got a job laying out math books and textbooks. That lasted for about four years before I pretty much went into art full time.

Why Pensacola Christian College?

It was a ministry school, but their art program was better than a lot of art tech schools. It was a very classical education … lacking in a lot of schools. Today, there is a real push for self-expression, but without any sort of base. We drew using just pencil for a year before we even touched paint.

Talk about your time in Switzerland.

It was out of college. I found a job posting on a board for graduates. I was doing [book] design and layout and switching out French, Spanish and German text. It was a great job working while cowbells are ringing right outside your door. We were very sequestered on a mountaintop. You could leave your bedroom and in 20 minutes you were standing on jagged rocks looking at the Alps.

How did you make the decision to leave design and pursue your art full time?

Textbooks weren’t what I wanted to do. You hear about people putting off their dream. They want to wait until the situation’s perfect, and there’s never a good time to follow your dream. It’s just right now. I decided to move forward, and it doesn’t kill you. I was a starving artist for a while. But I had people in the art community who gave me breaks. … I had to sell my house and do a lot of downsizing. I pretty much went from having nothing and sleeping in a studio for nine months to sharing an apartment with a couple guys. … Now I do my art pretty much full time instead of having to take on odd jobs, which I’ll still do.

When did you discover your affinity for art?

It’s been pretty much as long as I can remember. I was always drawing and doodling. I remember my parents got me these little books that had lines at the bottom of the pages and the rest of the page was blank. You would draw on the blank pages and the lines were so you could write a story. When I look back, I think that was a really good tool and did a lot to develop my creative nature.

How would you describe your art now?

It’s narrative, figurative work. It’s a trend that’s kind of resurfacing. There was a lot of it in the 1800s. Some of it is grotesque, but it’s usually story-driven and has a narrative that can stand on its own. … It’s kind of painterly realism. It’s not quite real but not quite Impressionism. It gets lots of good responses. People can’t really describe why they like it. But that’s part [of the appeal.]

How has your art evolved?

I started off painting things like still lifes. I painted things to match your couch. That was fine and all, but I have better sales now than I did with that stuff. … A lot of it comes from listening to music. I’ll listen to the same song over and over and over again through a project because there was something in the music that carried me away here or there. I listen to a lot of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and they’re very narrative performers.

What do you think of the local arts scene?

I think it’s really good. It’s not moving backwards. It’s moving forward. … It’s weird, though, because you have people with money here in town and you have artists painting locally. A lot of those people [buying art] are leaving town to purchase their art, and a lot of local artists are making livings selling their art to out-of-town collectors. I don’t think a lot of people understand there’s really good work happening here. There’s a breadth of arts here, and not just visual.

What do you do in your free time?

I do a lot of reading. … I have a little boy [Lincoln, 7] who’s really into history like I am. … The other night we created a Civil War battlefield while looking at a map. … I do teach plein air classes. … You have the red rocks, the green trees, the blue sky, the purple sage. The colors here make it very easy to teach. n CSBJ

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Health and fitness help O’Brien feel at home in Colorado

Thu, Oct 2, 2014

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IMG_9965CCBeth O’Brien doesn’t look back — a trait she has acquired through her role as a triathlete, and one she carries with her to work at Colorado Springs Health Partners. O’Brien, 33, came to Colorado Springs seven years ago after growing up in upstate New York and graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Despite initial struggles breaking into the market during the economic recession, she became more connected to the athletic community through her work at Colorado Running Company and eventually found work as a graphic designer and marketing coordinator for CSHP. O’Brien spoke to the Business Journal this week about her five years at CSHP, her passion for fitness and being a Colorado transplant.

Can you tell me about your background and how you came to work for CSHP?

I grew up in upstate New York in the Hudson River Valley … and decided that I wanted something completely different when I left for college, so I went to Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. I graduated in 2003 and got a great job as an in-house designer for AT&T and was a graphic designer there during the big BellSouth merger. I spent almost four years with them before I moved out here with my ex-husband in 2007. The economy was obviously horrible then, and I had a hard time finding a job that would rival AT&T. I ended up getting a job at a small company here and they laid me off after about 10 months, which was actually a blessing in disguise. That’s when I started working for Colorado Running Company, just to make ends meet, and put together their website and I worked on the retail side of something that was my passion — running. I really found my niche here working for them, and I still do some work for them. … It had been about two years, and the economy started to get better, when I saw a listing that CSHP had posted online for a graphic designer and marketing person. I applied, got the job, and October will be my five-year anniversary with CSHP. It has been a fun ride so far.

How does working for CSHP compare to AT&T and other jobs you’ve had?

It’s very interesting, and I love it. … Here it is about being flexible and being knowledgable about the industry, and also what you do. What I love about it is that it’s not the same thing every day. Some days I will be at a health fair, while others I will be designing health pamphlets for patients or a new brochure because there is something new with the Affordable Care Act that is going to affect our patients. So I use my skills as a graphic designer to help people understand health care systems. It’s an awesome place to be.

Graphic design and marketing coordination seem like two sides to the same coin.

It is almost the best of both worlds: I love being social and being connected and the dynamic of all of that, but I also love to design, and that’s why I do what I do. This is such a great combination of those two things.

How long have you been interested in running, and how did you become a triathlete?

I ran cross country and track all through high school, and I played basketball during the wintertime to keep myself in shape. I carried that through college, but when I started at SCAD they didn’t have a cross-country team yet, just a running club. … Then my freshman year, the running club became a team. As soon as I found that out, I joined the cross-country team. My cross-country coach at the time was an Ironman triathlete, and she knew that I worked as a lifeguard during the summers when I went home and that I biked everywhere, so she said, “You know, I really think you would love triathlons.” So I did my first triathlon the year I graduated and haven’t looked back.

Do you get anything from running and being outdoors that you apply to your working career?

If anything, it calms me down and clears my mind. Today, when I leave work from Monument, I’ll go home and work until 10 o’clock, but this morning I made sure that I got in my 5-mile run. I knew that if I didn’t get it in, I wouldn’t feel as energized as I needed to feel for the day to do my best at work.

How would you describe CSHP’s role in the community, and how do you fit in?

We’re the largest privately owned physician group in the community. We’ve been here since 1946, and have grown over the years from just six doctors to over a hundred, as well as nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. … My role as our in-house graphic designer, and part of our three-person marketing team, is to be part of that support system for our doctors and their clinics.

Would you say your values align with those of CSHP?

I wouldn’t work for a company I didn’t believe in. That’s kind of like being a sales person trying to pitch something they don’t believe in — you’re not going to work for that company unless you can back the product. I think we’re absolutely heading in the right direction. … I think our company is very strategically placed right where it needs to be as a company, and as far as taking care of our patients also. n CSBJ

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UCCS group helps Elliott find business future in innovation

Wed, Sep 24, 2014

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IMG_9782_2CCSam Elliott never imagined being anything other than an athlete. But after breaking his back in two places as a teen and then later leaving the UCCS golf team, he found another passion. Elliott, a 20-year-old junior from rural Iowa, overcame his social anxiety with help from the UCCS Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club, which he now serves as president. He is also on the board of Peak Startup, which is gearing up for Colorado Springs Startup Week, and is the junior teaching assistant for a freshman networking course. Elliott spoke to the Business Journal about accidentally finding a passion and degree path in innovation, making a name for himself in a new part of the country, and his vision for the future of Colorado Springs’ startup culture.

First, can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I went to school and grew up in Iowa. From a young age I loved sports, and that is all I cared about. I thought that I was going to play sports for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, when I was 15 years old I ended up breaking my back in two different places. That completely threw me off, and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. … Through that, it really damaged my social skills, and I went into high school not being interested in anything. Then, after my freshman year of high school, my father pressured me into playing golf. … Then I graduated high school and started looking for colleges out of state to go play golf for. I was going to go to a school in South Carolina with an absolutely amazing golf instructor … but a week after my visit, he called and said “I’m sorry, I just got a job opportunity that I can’t pass up.”

I was lost, and I had no idea what I was going to do. It was the summer before my freshman year of college and I had no idea where I wanted to go to school. All I knew is that I wanted to play golf. Then I received a voicemail from the assistant coach at UCCS saying, “We’d love for you to come out and play golf with us this fall.” That month was crazy. I came out and started playing golf, but I just wasn’t enjoying it and I decided to step away from the team. Then I ended up accidentally signing up for an innovation class … I wasn’t even in the Bachelor of Innovation program! I was undeclared at the time, but I fell in love on the first day of class.

What was the transition like from socially awkward kid to confident teacher?

I’ve done a lot of work in the past two years to improve my skills. One thing was getting involved with Peak Startup at the Pitch Nights downtown at Epicentral, which is when I got exposed to other entrepreneurial and innovation organizations. I’m really bad at five-minute speeches and presentations because I tend to ramble, but I told myself that I was going to pitch my mobile app and really put myself in an uncomfortable situation. I didn’t do so well during the first pitch … next week I came back and absolutely killed it. So going from socially awkward to teaching a class and motivating students is one of those situations where I just have to put myself out there. I had never taught a class before, so it has been a new experience for me. But that experience has helped me grow, which is really all I’m trying to do right now — grow and take advantage of as many opportunities as I can get right now.

How did you get involved with Peak Startup?

When I became president of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I knew where the club needed to go, and I knew the potential. That’s when I ran into Peak Startup, right after the two organizations had merged. Then, toward the latter half of last year, we got hooked up with Nick Lee, who is a professor here on campus. He heard about what we were doing … and we ended up agreeing that every president of the club should be a member of the board of Peak Startup. That really made sense and it was really kind of a milestone for us. It has been a great learning experience.

How do you think that moving to Colorado Springs has affected your career path?

In Iowa, I would live in the shadow of my father. My father is a great golfer and he owns and operates a family business that sells municipal equipment — garbage trucks, street sweepers, sewer cameras and things like that — which is very successful and has grown to a large market share in the Midwest. … I’m glad I’m here in Colorado Springs, because we’re trying to prove ourselves as an entrepreneurship city. I like the challenge of putting this city on the map as a center for innovation, and a lot of things are on the way that I just cannot believe.

What do you see for the future of all of this?

Our mission is to build an entrepreneurship community within the city, and part of that is building one here on campus. We share the same mission, just with different audiences. I have a vision of Colorado Springs as a city for innovation. n CSBJ

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Saliba mixes personal priorities with his variety of ventures

Fri, Sep 12, 2014

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IMG_9733CCJoe Saliba lives a varied life. The 30-year-old Colorado Springs native was briefly a professional golfer, graduated from UCCS with a communication degree, and has started companies specializing in both recycling and petroleum production. His company Wine Punts — a college project gone legitimate — produces glassware made from repurposed wine bottles, while Pikes Peak Energy LLC —  opened in March with two business partners — works in the exploration and development of wells for the oil and gas industry. Saliba spoke to the Business Journal this week about his businesses, his wife and dogs, and how golf is a thread that runs through the fabric of his career.

Tell me about your background and how you’ve gotten to where you are professionally.

I grew up in Colorado Springs and went to high school at Coronado. Then I went to the University of Hawaii at Hilo and played golf for them for two years. I transferred back to UCCS and played golf for another two years and graduated with a bachelor’s in communication. In college, I started Wine Punts, basically a recycling company, as a college project and thought it could really be something. It started there and really took off. I’ve been in oil and gas for the past five years and in March started Pikes Peak Energy, which is basically an exploration and production company. We’ve done great in the short amount of time we’ve had to be successful.

What brought you back to Colorado after the first two years of college in Hawaii?

Hawaii was a little slow for me. I figured that with getting out of college, I wanted to be somewhere a little faster-paced and maybe I would have some connections to get a job. I tried to play golf and make a career out of it — I got to play in two Canadian events, but after that I was out of cash. … One of my teammates in college had been working for an oil and gas company, so he introduced me to the business, I got involved and I was there for four years or so when me and my business partners started Pikes Peak Energy.

Can you talk about Wine Punts and how it got started?

I heard a story from my wife’s grandfather about a wine bottle that was cut in half and made into a glass. So I thought I would try to make one of them and give it to my wife for her birthday. I made one and thought, “You know, there’s a market for this.” Then it turned into a college project: I wrote the business and marketing plan, and then I executed it. I scrounged together $600 to have a website built, and I’ll never forget the moment that the first order came in online. … Now we can produce up to a thousand pieces a day with our five employees. I’ve only been doing full-scale manufacturing for two years: The first year we made about $204,000; last year we made around $407,000; this year I expect to do close to $700,000; and by the end of 2015, we expect to be closer to $1.5 million.

What about Pikes Peak Energy, and how has that experience been different?

I learned a lot starting Wine Punts. There were so many things that were just blind spots to me. Wine Punts was a way to help the community and recycle glass. Pikes Peak Energy is an entirely different industry. The foundation is similar, but the dollars and cents, and the scale of it, is quite different. With oil and gas, I truly believe that there is no limit to what you can do financially, and that’s what attracted me to the business.

Would you explain what exactly it is that PPE does?

Basically, what we do is develop land. We drill the well, we get it into production, and then it gets sold off to a buyer, which is how we make our revenue. Then we do it again and again and again. We just purchased land in East Texas with 17 wells and we have 72 in Oklahoma. Our goal by the end of 2016 is to have 400 wells in East Texas.

You live a varied life — golf, petroleum, wine glasses. How do you balance those things?

I do what I enjoy, plain and simple. I can really tie in golf to anything that I have done in my life, especially on a professional level.

What do you do in your spare time?

Me and my wife Melissa live on the Westside. We do a lot of camping and backpacking. We have two border collies. I also do a lot of fly fishing and play a lot of golf. She runs the Pikes Peak Ascent every year, and next year her goal is to do the double [the Ascent followed by the Marathon the next day]. She’s very good at it and I’m very proud of her for doing that.

Do you think Colorado Springs is a good location for what you’ve chosen to do?

I think it is a great city to start a business, but I also think that it can be a hard city to find work. I think that is a struggle that a lot of startups have. But I love Colorado Springs, and I love being close to the mountains.

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Peoples mixes food and faith in his Rescue Mission role

Fri, Sep 5, 2014

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IMG_9727CCFor 10 years, Tyler Peoples felt called to work for the Springs Rescue Mission. Then, earlier this year, he got his chance to become a chef at the local faith-based nonprofit. Peoples, 29, had spent his adult life in the kitchens of Colorado Springs eateries, including the Briarhurst Manor, 2 South Wine Bar and the Warehouse, before combining faith and food. The Springs native now incorporates his culinary knowledge and skills with ministry — teaching men in recovery how to cook, cater and lead more fulfilling lives. Peoples told the Business Journal about his work, his family and his calling to serve all walks of life.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Colorado Springs. My whole family lives here now, but my mother was born in Colombia, South America. I have a pretty big family (lots of cousins) and I am one of four siblings. I love cooking, and my whole working career has been cooking. I always wanted to work in ministry and I went to Charis Bible College for a little while, but I was always cooking and trying to find something else to do. … I just never got out of it, and I feel like God has really blessed me in the things I’ve done. I started out at the Briarhurst Manor Estate a little more than 10 years ago. I was there for eight years … and the whole time I was wondering what I’m going to do when I grow up. Then I helped start 2 South Wine Bar on the Westside. … I got married and my wife got pregnant, so I was looking for something a bit more stable with better hours … so I went to work at the Warehouse. I was there as the executive chef for about two years, and then I ended up here.

How did you go about landing this job?

As I was looking for something else to do in my life, I applied here three times over 10 years, and I never got a call back. … One day, I met the chefs here at an American Culinary Federation event. After the demo I was working on, one of them came up and introduced himself and a week later gave me a call and said, “Do you want to work with us?” … I was thinking it must not have been God’s timing before, so I jumped at it and said, “I would love to work there.” So that’s how I ended up here.

How did you get into cooking and when did you discover your passion for it?

I love art, and I thought I was going to be an artist in my life, but that doesn’t really work out for anybody. So I was looking for jobs and a way to make money, because life runs on money, and a restaurant is a good place to start, because you can start without really any skills. So that is just what I did, and I loved it. I still love it, and I love cooking, because it is more than just feeding people. At the Briarhurst especially, I really liked it because food was really elevated — what you cooked and how you cooked it added value to people’s lives. … I really liked that part of food, and the artistry of it, and learning how to do new things.

What was it about Springs Rescue Mission that drew you here?

While I loved elevating food and making special things for people at the Briarhurst, none of those people were hungry. They could have easily skipped an entire day of food and been fine. So I was cooking, and cooking, and cooking, but I wasn’t feeding hungry people — and I thought that would be great. I felt a calling to feed people who were actually hungry, and that was the calling that drew me here.

What do you do here at the Rescue Mission?

It is very different day to day, but what I essentially do is work with the men in the program and teach, encourage or inspire them to cook food, like food, care about food, and to realize that food is about more than just feeding people. … The guys that live here are really getting an opportunity to add value to their own lives, because they struggle with addiction, or homelessness, or just feeling like they don’t have value in their lives. That’s what I like to think that I do: I want to encourage these guys and help them add value to their lives.

Do you think food plays a major part in recovery?

Food is a major player in our lives, and food is everything: It’s art, science, geology, agriculture, culture. It’s about taking something normal and common and making it important.

Can you tell me about the new catering program?

We have a great crew of chefs here, and whatever our clients want, we are able to pull off — no matter how extravagant. The catering is a great thing that God is using in our ministry to help expand us and teach the guys, and it’s really growing.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’m a pretty busy guy in my spare time. I have a U.S. patent on a product and I own a company called Peoples Design where we design, manufacture and sell kitchen products. … I also have an 11-month-old son named Josiah and a wife named Cassandra. I couldn’t deal with my busy life without my wife.

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Advisor Chris Long ‘cut his teeth’ during nation’s financial crisis

Fri, Aug 29, 2014

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0829--yp-longCCIt took Florida native Chris Long, 31, a couple years of college to figure out what he wanted to be when he grew up. Scared off by the earning potential of earth sciences -— his first love — Long instead chose to pursue a degree in the science of numbers. Now a certified financial planner with a Chartered Financial Analyst certification, Long manages his clients’ portfolios from his office at the northern Colorado Springs-based Breglio and Associates, an Ameriprise Platinum Financial Services practice. Long spoke this week with the Business Journal about gaining client trust and offered advice to fellow Millennials about preparing for the future.

How did you decide you wanted to be a financial advisor?

My family moved here [from northwestern Florida] in 1999. My dad got a job in Longmont and eventually I went to Durango to study. I was a big science guy. … I started with biology, and in Durango, geology was really big, so I started to go down that route. … I was self-funding college and got to a point where I figured I would need a master’s or a Ph.D. to make any money in the sciences. … I looked to a business degree and economics was the one area that drew me in. … We’d moved back to the Front Range and I took my first macro-economics class at [Metro State University of Denver]. I fell in love with it and knew I wanted to do something related to the economy and markets in general.

What were your first professional experiences after college?

When I got out of school I was the deputy finance director for Marc Holtzman when he ran for governor in 2006. That was a good experience, but my passion was still to be involved in the market somehow. My first job in finance was with [Charles] Schwab at its campus in the Denver Tech Center. I worked on the phone lines there and worked my way into some of the active trader groups. … I went from working on general customer service lines within a year to working on a team of four managing $500 million. It was a huge responsibility and a great learning opportunity.

How did you end up in Colorado Springs?

I wanted to focus on investments. That’s why I got my [Chartered Financial Analyst certification] and I was handling financial planning, relationship management, investment management and, oh yeah, I needed to feed my family, so I needed to bring in new assets. I wanted to go somewhere with more specialization and focus. I found Carol [Breglio] when she was looking for an investment manager and it was a perfect fit. We saw eye-to-eye on everything.

What advantages does being young provide in this profession?

I think it means a fresh perspective, because a lot of investment professionals who have been in this business since the late ’70s and early ’80s have seen an up market. … Being young, I cut my teeth in the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis. I was on the phone with people who were very worried about their livelihoods and retirements. Having that experience early in my career helps me be a partner with my clients. I can tell them I’ve actually been here before. We can move past this.

What are the disadvantages of being young?

The first impressions. I don’t have a lot of gray hair, but I’m working on it. … When you’re talking with someone your parents’ age or your grandparents’ age about their money, it takes time to build confidence in you; to show them you know what you’re talking about.

What advice would you give to someone your age regarding finances?

Save early and save often. That’s the most important thing. … Investment returns alone aren’t going to allow you to retire. It’s how you’re saving on the front end and spending on the back end. Those are the two biggest levers you can pull to shape your retirement. … Get to a lifestyle you’re comfortable with and that allows you to save a little money and then, as you get raises, you should be able to invest that extra percentage in retirement savings or building an emergency fund.

What are the biggest financial challenges facing your generation?

Besides college debt? That is the biggest challenge. Trying to get out from under all of that debt. But sometimes there’s a myopic focus of paying down debt and not saving at the same time. We’re big believers in meeting dual goals over time. … There’s also overcoming the skepticism in the stock market after seeing what our parents and grandparents have gone through over the past decade. [Millennials] are going to have to get over it. The unfortunate fact is our generation, more than any generation before it, will have to rely on our investments. Who knows what Social Security will look like? … Fewer companies are offering pensions and some companies aren’t as robust with benefits as we’ve seen in the past from a 401k match standpoint.

What do you do in your free time?

My wife [Jill] and I love the outdoors and Colorado lifestyle, but we haven’t been able to partake in that as much because we have more fun in our house with our 16-month-old baby boy, Derek. That’s what I spend a lot of time doing. We also hike and go on walks … and kayak in the summer. n CSBJ

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Aaby’s environmental affinity fits well for Catamount

Fri, Aug 22, 2014

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IMG_9507CCChristopher Aaby has spent years exploring his passion for the environment, which has found the right outlet in his current role as assistant director of the Catamount Institute. Aaby’s journey of eco-stewardship began in part with his Norwegian heritage, building with each job he took until joining the seven-member Catamount team in 2011. After starting his professional life in retail, the 31-year-old found a love for Catamount’s doctrine while working for a fair-trade coffee company before being hired on to do marketing work for the Colorado Springs nonprofit. Aaby (pronounced Oh-bee) talked about these things and more, and how they all have shaped his hike on the path of life.

Tell us about your background and how you started your career.

I am originally from Norway, but I’ve lived in Colorado most of my life and grew up in Monument. I started my semi-professional career in retail just out of high school and did that for years at GAP and Bed Bath and Beyond. I did a little bit of schooling in Chicago at the Illinois Institute of Art, but decided not to finish and came back to do some classes with Pikes Peak Community College … but I was working so much that I didn’t finish that either. Working in retail, I learned a lot about customer service and ended up joining on with a fair-trade coffee roasting company and worked with them for about four and a half years. I traveled the country to food and beverage trade shows, sold the coffee and did their marketing and graphic design. …  We ended up joining the Pikes Peak Sustainable Business Network, which is a program of the Catamount Institute.

How did you get hired by Catamount?

They were looking for someone to do marketing and graphic design, and that is what I had been doing. I wore a variety of hats at that small company. … Then this opportunity came up to work for Catamount and do their design and marketing. I really saw it as an opportunity to help an organization that already had a great reputation in the community to build a brand and more brand awareness with what they do.

Do you feel you’ve succeeded in that regard?

Yes, I do. When I came on a lot of the work they did was segmented, and I didn’t even know that they had kids programs. When I was working with the Business Network, we kind of joined things together consistently and began talking about Catamount more as a whole and the fact that Catamount works with kids, adults, businesses, and to kind of bring those things together.

Tell us about being promoted from graphic designer to assistant director.

I worked hard. In any nonprofit, you’re going to end up doing a lot of different things. So I started out just really concentrating on the marketing and design work, but through changes in the organization I took on more roles with day-to-day operations,  and then last year I took the lead on planning our annual conference. So through all of those things, while still doing all of the marketing and design work for all of the programs and doing a lot of fundraising, the board offered to raise me up to this position (in March).

Describe your day-to-day work.

My days are adventurous. I will be coordinating things for the conference, talking to Colorado College about the use of facilities, talking to speakers who may potentially be coming to the conference, and then later I might drive to camp … and then the next day come back and maybe go to a meeting with the Regional Business Alliance about clean tech. So it’s very much a wide gamut of stuff, and it kind of shows the range of what Catamount Institute does in not only working with kids but also trying to reach businesses and encourage the community to become more sustainable.

Would you say that the values of Catamount align with your own?

Yes, and I think it’s mostly because I’m very passionate about the environment.

In middle school I was the one who did a report on the Exxon Valdez oil spill or on animal rights or things like that. … Also growing up around Norway, which has always been at the forefront of environmentalism and taking care of the planet, has made me try to get people here as excited about those things. When I left the retail world and was able to go to this fair-trade organic coffee roasting company, that was a perfect fit because it was a for-profit company but we were very serious about doing things in sustainable ways. … Being involved with that, and now being with Catamount helping teach kids to have those same values and teaching kids to take care of our resources and our planet is really exciting to me.

From your own experience, how would you characterize the business environment for young professionals in Colorado Springs?

I think for me it has been good with the opportunities that I’ve had in the environmental circle, which is very open and accepting to young professionals. Environmental groups look to younger generations as the future, because we are the ones who are going to inherit the earth. …  I think young professionals think in a very progressive way about the environment.

What are your professional goals? How do you view your own future?

For now it is to help Catamount grow its programs … help those new programs operate in the right way, making sure the team has all the tools they need to succeed and help build all of that up as much as I possibly can.

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