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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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Patterson finds her fulfillment as Westside yoga educator

Sun, Jan 18, 2015

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DSC00688CCIn the yoga tradition, the Sanskrit word for “now” is “atha,” which is where Jessica Patterson prefers to spend her time and share her talent. Ten years ago, after becoming a college English professor, personal tragedy and her longtime passion for yoga inspired her to radically shift her career path. Patterson, now 39, since has become a Springs-based yoga educator and opened Root: Center for Yoga & Sacred Studies this month on the Westside. The Colorado Springs-born yogi spoke this week about her 23-year passion, her change in professional direction and the positive effect she hopes Root will have on her community.

Where are you from and how did your career begin?

I was actually born in Colorado Springs and have lived in the area on and off for 39 years. I started practicing yoga when I graduated from Fountain Valley School about 23 years ago and practiced on and off throughout college. I then went to graduate school — both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees are in English — and I was teaching composition at UCCS. Then, about 10 years ago, my father died and my practice became really important to me. Although I’ve been studying and practicing these things all along, it wasn’t really until I had a crisis in my life that it took on a greater importance. That drove me to taking my studies more seriously in terms of the yoga tradition. So from there I did my first teacher training in the Springs and continued to train in New York and all over the place. … I’ve been teaching in the Colorado Springs area and leading retreats in Colorado for about eight years now.

What was it like to transition from an academic environment to yoga?

It was on the heels of so many other transitions that it actually became the lifeline, in the sense that it was the one constant when things were not feeling constant. It definitely felt like a big shift, but at the same time … the teaching ethos, what guides me, has remained consistent. Part of what happened for me was coming back to the root of things, including coming back to my hometown and allowing myself to explore things at every level. For me there was loss — I went through a divorce, my father had died, I had changed jobs — all of those things shifted. By tending to the root of these things, there was grace … so I founded the Root Education program in response to a need that I saw in our community.

Can you explain the center and its role in your community?

We’re a community-centered space … and we’re dedicated to creating and supporting a sustainable practice for people.  I’m a yoga teacher, but I’m also a certified yoga therapist and nutrition therapist, and my goal is to make yoga acceptable to people in their actual circumstances. The practices should support a person’s understanding of themselves and where they’re at in life. The precept of all yoga teaching is the word “now,” which in Sanskrit is “atha.” … Our goal with Root is to provide a sacred space dedicated to sustainable, relevant practice for people. It is meant to be a sanctuary, regardless of what they are practicing. They can walk through the door and feel accepted as they are and not be seen as some project to be fixed.

When did the center become a reality for you?

I signed the lease at the very end of September or beginning of October and we did construction on the space. It is a former office space, so we did a lot of work and now it’s gorgeous. I started the training program again in October, so we’ve been doing stuff outside of the space, but the official launch of the center was the 5th of January. It’s brand-spanking new.

What do you hope your work will accomplish?

These practices are in place not to achieve something or acquire something, but to remember something. Yoga is meant to remind us of something, and that something is the “oneness of being.” Yoga is a technology that can be used to take you more deeply into whatever it is that reminds you of your highest self — that can be Christianity, that can be atheism, that can be Buddhism, that can be anything. So my job as a yoga teacher is ultimately to empower people and to render them independent. … My ultimate goal with Root is that it becomes a collective and then a co-op; that it becomes something that truly is a community-based response to a need.

What is the business climate like for you here (in terms of competition, etc.)?

We don’t want to operate from a place of competition, but from a place of collaboration. There is a very fundamental teaching in this tradition that the action itself does not mean as much as the intention behind the action. Karmically, there is a greater weight to thoughts than there is to deeds. So I think if the intention is to serve people, there is no place for competition. … It’s not about the different kinds of classes, but whether the vision has relevance or meaning, and in that sense I was not interested in going into something that was “competition.” I was much more interested in doing something that isn’t already happening out there — to addressing that need.

Your development as a young professional was somewhat non-traditional. How would you characterize experiencing that in Colorado Springs?

Because of who I am as an intellectual, as a woman, as a professional, as a spirit, however you want to put it, it would seem like there are plenty of other places better suited for that development. … But the reality is that we need to go where our work is going to be the most meaningful and where it is not being done. …

I really care about this place — because it’s my home. I’ve traveled to and lived in some far-flung places, but I always come back. … It’s so easy to walk away and live somewhere else when you don’t feel that you have a relationship to the place, but I feel like this land raised me. So I stay.

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McCluskey helps BombBomb rise in its success

Fri, Jan 9, 2015

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DSC00282CCMichigan native Conor McCluskey, without any formal training, kickstarted a tech firm in 2006 that is among the Springs’ fastest-growing startups. In 2006, McCluskey started a video-email marketing service called BombBomb, which now serves 10,000 paid users and recently moved into the seventh floor of the Wells Fargo Building in downtown Colorado Springs. McCluskey, 37, serves as the company’s CEO. He spoke to the Business Journal this week about BombBomb’s beginnings, its growth and what he hopes will be a “banner year” for the business in 2015.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?

I grew up in Michigan and dropped out of Lansing Community College the summer of 1998, which is when I moved to Colorado Springs. Not too long after that I started a business in the multi-family housing industry and grew that in the early 2000s. We went for broke in 2003 and went broke, so then I went into local media sales. After that I started BombBomb and bought a cherry orchard in Oregon within the same month, November 2006. Now the orchard is a vineyard where I produce Proper Wines … It’s all direct-to-consumer and we have it at The Famous, MacKenzie’s, Blue Star, places like that.

How did you end up in Colorado Springs?

I was on a mountain-biking road trip and broke my headset by driving it through the overhang at the hotel we were staying at, and I didn’t have enough money to fix it. So I was drinking beer at a kitchen table in Fort Collins when the guy across from me said, “Oh, you’re from Jackson, Michigan? I’m from Jackson, Michigan, too. I live in Colorado Springs. Why don’t you come down tomorrow and I’ll pay you $100 to work with me all day.” So we ended up painting the atrium of the Antlers Hotel together. … That’s how I got to know Darin [Dawson]. He said, “Man, you’re a hard worker. You should move out here. I got a job for you and a place for you to stay.” So I sent home for my stuff, dropped out of college and moved to Colorado Springs.

How did that business relationship evolve into what it is now?

After I moved here we started a company that spring, doing everything from remodeling to painting. We built that up to about a $2 million business in three years and had about 60 employees. … In mid-2002 we just ended up getting taken out. I was 23 and we just didn’t know what we were doing, but Darin and I both learned a lot. We went separate ways after shutting down. That’s when I got into local media, and so did Darin in a different way, but we always stayed friends. Then, when all of this came about, I was trying to get his company to build BombBomb for me and they wouldn’t, so finally I just decided to build it myself.

In your own words, can you explain BombBomb and your role in the company?

BombBomb makes it easy to build relationships using videos through email, text and social networking. I’m CEO, so I run the culture, growing the business and strategic planning.

Tell me about starting the company.

I had lost interest in sales and wasn’t doing something I was passionate about. … BombBomb came about because I had built up my clientele base to about 150 local, regional and national clients and couldn’t stay in front of them. So I started thinking, “How can I send Conor to them,” and I went looking for software that could do what BombBomb does, which is build relationships using video. I found there wasn’t anything out there, so I built my own prototype and the day I sent my first video I had like 70 people call me. That’s when I knew I had something.

How has BombBomb grown since then?

We started out with $9,000 in sales and have doubled our sales every year for the past three years. We’ve increased our headcount every year since then and have about 10,000 paying users on our product in 36 countries and in all 50 states. We just did a big partnership in the UK. We mostly work in the residential real estate business — that’s our main focus.

What do you expect 2015 to bring for BombBomb?

Our plan is to double our business again this year, and to bring on some real top talent that we’ve been recruiting for the past couple years to build out the team. We think we’re going to have a real banner year — we’re hoping to make a big dent.

We’re really committed to Colorado Springs. We have a lot of families that live here, including my own, and we have employees in both Denver and Cañon City right now. We have a little office in Denver, but our main headquarters is going to be here. We see it as a competitive advantage to be here. We might not be able to do all our growing here, but build the coolest place to work in Colorado Springs and you’ll get the top talent.

Having built your business here, how would you characterize the market for young professionals?

I think it has gotten a lot better since 2006, when I started up. … It’s what you make of what you’ve got that really matters, and I think there are plenty of opportunities here.

What do you do when you aren’t working?

I hang out with my wife and three kids under the age of 3.

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Barad supports local community in role at PPCF, other interests

Wed, Dec 31, 2014

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DSC00110CCFor 86 years, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation has elevated the Colorado Springs community through philanthropy, and Sara Barad feels proud to be part of that legacy. Barad, 25, has worked as fund officer for PPCF since May 2012. She spends her days supporting local nonprofits and her nights as a comedian and stage actress, performing regularly at Millibo Art Theatre and on occasion at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. She also serves on the board of Millibo and was honored as one of the Business Journal’s 2014 Rising Stars. Barad spoke to CSBJ this week about what she does for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, why she enjoys her working environment and the energy and excitement she would like to see grow locally.

Can you tell us about your background?

I was born in San Antonio, Texas. When I was 6, my father, an Air Force doctor, was assigned to the Air Force Academy, so we moved to Colorado Springs. Other than a brief stint at Rice University in Houston, I have lived in Colorado Springs since 1996.

How did you end up in Colorado Springs? What brought/keeps you here?

Colorado Springs is my hometown, and I am committed to improving this community. As a longtime resident, I have had opportunities and built networks that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. Through elementary, middle and high school, I built relationships with organizations such as the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and the Millibo Art Theatre that directly impacted my life. When I attended Colorado College, I strengthened my relationships with those organizations by volunteering, interning, teaching and performing.

How did you start your career?

I began as an engineering student at Rice University. I am a strong student in math and science, so engineering seemed like a logical choice. After only one semester, however, I realized that I wanted to have the opportunity to work with people and make a social impact. Because the engineering program at Rice was not affording me that opportunity, I transferred to Colorado College, where I created my own arts administration major. As I worked with a variety of arts nonprofits as part of my major, I realized that, although many of them do incredible work for the community, the leadership of these nonprofits does not have the skills necessary to run a business. I worked with the college to design my own major that would give me the skills necessary to help arts organizations thrive.

How did you land your position with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation?

As I was finishing my coursework at Colorado College, I heard that the Pikes Peak Community Foundation was looking for a young, energetic college graduate to work as a program officer. I applied and, thanks to my community connections and internship experiences, I was hired! One of my favorite things about working for the Pikes Peak Community Foundation is that I don’t have a day-to-day routine. In a single week, I will do everything from weeding pumpkin patches to visiting nonprofits to developing procedures to streamline accounts payable processes.

Do you feel this is a good environment for developing as a young professional?

Absolutely. Because no two days are alike, I have had the opportunity to learn huge amounts about multiple aspects of the community. I am also lucky to have mentors who include me in decision-making conversations and invite me to attend conferences and workshops to expand my knowledge.

What do you think this town is missing that it needs most?

Positive energy and excitement. I cannot tell you how many of my friends come back to Colorado Springs for the holidays and are surprised that “Colorado Springs actually has some cool stuff” like Shuga’s, the Patty Jewett neighborhood and Ivywild. I think that PR is Colorado Springs’ biggest problem; our community has a lot to offer, we just need people to know about it.

Are you involved with any of the local YP groups?

I am on the Civic Engagement committee for the Colorado Springs Rising Professionals.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am in an improvisational comedy troupe, the RiP, that performs at the Millibo Art Theatre on the first Friday and Saturday of each month. I also perform children’s shows throughout the state. I am the board president for Millibo. I also perform occasionally at the Fine Arts Center (Stuart Little in the 2014-15 season, Play It Again, Sam in the 2013-14 season). When I am not performing or board president-ing, I play the ukulele and knit.

Would you say that PPCF’s goals and values align with your own? How so?

Absolutely. Pikes Peak Community Foundation is dedicated to using philanthropy to improve the quality of life in the Pikes Peak region.

I love Colorado Springs and believe that public and private institutions need to work together to make Colorado Springs a world-class place to live, work and play.

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Jeffers finds medical dream job specializing in cancer care

Mon, Dec 22, 2014

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DSC09187Maryland native Kate Jeffers says the first job of her career has become that of her dreams. Jeffers, 27, became Memorial Hospital’s first ambulatory oncology clinical pharmacy specialist in September 2013 after graduating pharmacy school and spending two years in residency at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Having been recently certified by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, Jeffers is one of only 16,078 in the world to hold such a position. She broke away from her busy schedule this week and spoke to the Business Journal about what motivated her to pursue a career in medicine, the passion she has found in her role at Memorial and her vision for its future.

Can you tell me about your background?

I was born and raised just outside of Annapolis, Maryland … and lived there my entire life. I did my undergraduate work at Virginia Tech and then went on to pharmacy school at the University of Maryland. Pharmacy school is a four-year degree and you graduate with a Doctor in Pharmacy. Then I did two additional years of residency at Johns Hopkins University. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, which all residencies are through, considers the knowledge you gain in one year of residency as equal to three years of practice. The first year is general practice and you can choose a specialty for your second, so I chose to specialize in oncology.

How did you become interested in medicine as it relates to oncology?

My grandmother had lung cancer when I was in high school, and my senior year of high school it ended up spreading to her brain and she passed away. That is what really made me interested in medicine, especially oncology. … It is not common for students going into pharmacy school to know what path they’re going to take, but I knew I was going to do residency and I knew I was going to specialize in oncology. I knew it was my path.

Can you explain your role as an ambulatory oncology pharmacist?

This is a brand-new role for the system. Memorial has always had pharmacists in the pharmacy department who focus on oncology. … What’s different about this role is that it is completely practice-based. … Every new patient that we have who is going to start chemotherapy — whether they’re switching treatments, starting a brand-new regimen or anything — I have an appointment with them. We go through all of the side effects of their medications and how to manage those side effects. … That is the majority of what I do.

Can you tell me about becoming certified in that field?

The Board of Pharmacy Specialties has exams that you can take to become certified in a certain field. So I sat for and passed the Board Certified Oncology Pharmacist exam. In the world, there are 16,078 BCOP pharmacists now. … These certifications prove that you have the knowledge and the training and are pretty much an expert in that field.

What has it been like starting your career and developing in the Springs?

I think Memorial is amazing at making people feel welcome. … Everyone has been very friendly here, which is very different coming from the East Coast. And I think everyone has been very appreciative and supportive of our services.

They’ve really let me develop the role along with my interests, assess needs and develop the practice to address those needs.

What do you do in your spare time?

I’ve been exploring the Springs a little bit, especially with my friends and colleagues who work here. My husband and I like to hike all over, go for walks and take the dog out. We haven’t done a Fourteener yet. (That’s next year’s goal). We are never leaving Colorado — we love it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

If I had to decide what to do for my dream job and I could do whatever I want, it would be to work with the patients in the doctor’s office, basically doing what I’m doing. Another thing I like about what I’m doing and the Department of Pharmacy and the oncology group is that they are all very supportive. … I like that they’re supportive of my own goals and desires.

One of my goals is, within three to five years, to have a [second-year residency program] in oncology here so we can train more oncology pharmacists with an ambulatory focus. I feel very strongly that you have to train people to take your place. … I will be going back for my Master’s in Health Administration starting in January. 

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Elyo designs career his way without architectural training

Thu, Dec 11, 2014

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DSC08871CCBrian Elyo is not your typical young professional. Without a college degree or formal training, he has cultivated an architectural career by building relationships and keeping his passion for the trade on its toes. Elyo, 38, is originally from El Paso, Texas, but has lived in the Springs since his short stint in the U.S. Air Force. He parlayed his military background in drafting and engineering into work as an architectural designer, working for local companies including CSNA Architects, RTA Architects, H&L Architecture and now Echo Architecture. Elyo, in the process of becoming a state-licensed architect, spoke this week about his nontraditional career path and the Colorado Springs environment in which it has evolved.

Can you first tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

I joined the Air Force at 19, and that is how I got into architecture. I started doing civil engineering and drafting and worked at Cheyenne Mountain. I was the only drafter on the base, so I drew everything — mechanical, electrical, civil and structural. … Eventually, the Air Force wanted to move me to Florida, but I said no and I got out. Then, around 2000, I worked for an interior designer for a year until they closed their office. That’s when I put my resumé on Monster.com and really decided that I wanted to do architecture — proper architecture. So I hit the street with my resumé and my tiny little portfolio of nothing and interviewed at a couple of different places, including CSNA. … I worked there for about two years. … Then I went to work for H+L Architecture … then RTA hired me and I worked there for about two years before I quit and started freelancing in 2007 or 2008.

Did you find freelancing as an architect to be a viable career in Colorado Springs?

For me, and for what I do here, it is. It’s very hectic, but it was kind of helpful when the economy really started to take a crap. Architecture firms could call me to work on a project for a few weeks and then that was it … without them having to hire someone. And I was really getting plugged in to the architectural community, so people were starting to get to know me. It just worked out. … I taught software [at Pikes Peak Community College] while being productive and billable, so when firms were transitioning … I would get hired to be in-house help/training while also being actively productive on projects. So that was probably how I was able to get into so many offices also and keep a lot of architects as clients. … I probably ended up working for about 30-35 different firms in town.

How do you think not having a degree has affected your career?

It has been very positive, and principals love it. “Someone that hasn’t been ruined by school” is what they would tell me. …

How did you come to work for Echo Architecture and what is your role at the firm?

Every time [architect Ryan Lloyd] needed help, he would ask around and everybody would tell him to talk to me. … It took about a year before my workload lightened up and he got enough work to “take the bite,” but we’ve been working together for about a year now. … The work that we do is mostly small commercial, and we’re waiting for the bigger stuff to happen. So far I’ve helped Echo on Iron Bird Brewing, Pueblo 210 and other smaller projects.

Why did you choose to stay in the Springs after getting out of the military?

It was originally because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Now I’m married and have two kids, and this is a fine place to live. … When I first moved here, it was sort of the doldrums, but now it seems like everyone wants to invest in the city — not just money, but time and energy. People actually want to stay here now. People like Ryan [Lloyd] are adamant about doing work in the Springs. … I want to design buildings where I live; not just because I want to see them, but because I know how it feels to be here.

What was developing as a young professional like for you in Colorado Springs?

It was very easy for my personality type, because I’m very naive and I had no idea what I was getting into. … And I’m also not what many people would describe as a young professional: I have no degree, no formal training, none of that. … I think people hire me because I’m a decent designer, I’ve got a good eye and I absolutely love architecture. 

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Kinlaw brings legal, business expertise to Colorado Springs firm

Mon, Dec 8, 2014

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DSC07986With the word “law” in his name and a number behind it, Joe D. Kinlaw II seems to have been born to become an attorney. Kinlaw, 28, is a transactional lawyer practicing business law and estate planning for Mulliken Weiner Berg & Jolivet, where he started in July. Originally from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Kinlaw decided to start his career and a family in the Springs after law school when his wife became pregnant with their first child. He spoke this week about that, the local lawyer scene, why he loves Colorado Springs and what he does for business owners in the community.

Tell us about your background.

I have a business degree from the University of Northern Colorado, where I minored in economics, and I went to law school shortly thereafter at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California. I graduated magna cum laude from there and was the editor-in-chief of the Law Review. Originally, I’m from Dallas. I moved out here to Colorado in middle school with my family — my parents came out here and fell in love with the Springs, the views and that was it.

What made you decide to return to the Springs after college?

For one, the beauty really is hard to beat. My wife and I found out we had a child on the way, which also helped us to make the decision to move back to be close to family.

How did you become interested in law?

When I was in business school I took a business law course and fell in love with it, so I took another one. That helped me solidify my decision to go to grad school. Pursuing an education is always something that interested me, but I really found my passion for law in business school.

How did your specialties develop?

I really found my niche in law school. … Entrepreneurship is really something that interests me and I believe it is what this country really is founded upon and has led our success in the world. I want to help new business owners prepare for the future and to anticipate for problems when they do happen. So I’m a transactional lawyer and specialize in the area of business law and estate planning, which often go hand-in-hand with small business owners. … Estate planning is something that many people think of as just a niche area for the elderly — people for whom death is more realized or accepted. Younger people tend not to think about it and don’t plan, and that is an area I’m trying to branch my practice out to those young entrepreneurs.

What is it like, practicing law as a young professional in the Springs?

Everyone has been very receptive and excited to see a new, young face in town. Colorado Springs is just such a great community; one thing leads to another here and it’s very connected. It has been a really great experience starting my career.

Are you involved with young professionals?

I’m involved in the bar associations and I would like to see members of those bars a bit more active than they are, especially down here in the Springs where it is a bit more difficult to be a young person in the legal profession. … A lot of people run off to Denver and end up missing the opportunities that are here. This is a place to grow and begin making those connections that will create a career avenue.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My wife and I love to put the little guy in a backpack and go explore. We’re a big outdoors family — we hike, go four-wheeling and just love to take a back road and see where it leads.

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Heffentrager follows his calling to position with Navigators

Wed, Nov 26, 2014

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IMG_7863CCMark Heffentrager is a man of God — both personally and professionally. When he moved to Colorado from Arizona in 1998, he started work as an Eagle Lake Camps counselor for the Navigators and has been with them ever since. Now 40, Heffentrager serves the faith-based nonprofit as director of camping ministries both on the road and from his office at Glen Eyrie. The family man spoke to the Business Journal this week about his roots, his wife and kids and how they have influenced his role with the Navs.

Can you tell me about your background and how you got to Colorado?

I was born in Hawaii, because my father was in the military, and grew up in Tucson, Arizona. I started school at Arizona State and soon became disenchanted with school, so I left college to get started in the working world. I found my way up here because I was a 22-year-old kid heading nowhere in life and I came up to Colorado just to get away. Then I started as a counselor at Eagle Lake and one summer was offered a job to come on and do public relations. I did finish my education eventually in 2005 at Colorado Christian University’s satellite campus down here with a degree in organizational management and an emphasis in Christian leadership.

Have you always been religious?

I have. I grew up in a Christian home and as many Christians would say, there was a season of my life when I just walked away and explored what I felt the world had to offer. I ran down a lot of different roads, but it was the hope of Jesus that brought me back to an understanding that this is what I believe. As I’ve continued down this road, both personally and professionally, I’ve had the privilege to work in an area that I get to express that belief freely and openly.

How has your role changed since you’ve been here?

I started as just a public relations guy, beating the drum for Eagle Lake. At the time, we only had the one property, which has been there since 1957. I would go around and meet with families, youth pastors, marketing agencies, everyone, to push Eagle Lake. … When I started as a counselor in 1998, we had 1,800 campers. In 2001, we had 2,600 campers. Then 9/11 hit and everyone in our industry took a step backward. Last summer at our overnight property was the second-largest summer we’ve had in the history of Eagle Lake. So it has taken us a while to get back to that, but in the midst of all that I went from being a public relations guy to being assistant director for camp. Then, in 2001, Executive Director Jack McQueeney asked me to oversee everything to do with kids as director of camp. That would eventually include a day camp that we run at Glen Eyrie and a program called On Location, in which we partner with churches across the country to bring a camp to their property for a week.

What is your day-to-day like, and how does it change throughout the year?

It’s a lot of fundraising — that’s the first thing. … Eagle Lake runs at about a $2 million budget, and we don’t want to charge our kids more than we have to. So we raise a substantial amount of money so that we can keep prices down and really serve the community. … But my gifts are in creativity and leadership, so I have the chance to bring my own, unique contribution to each area of our program. I spend a lot of time traveling and selling Eagle Lake to churches and communities across the country, and I also spend a lot of time with parents and people in the community to continue to push Eagle Lake forward in a positive light. We want to be good, active members in our community.

How has starting a family affected your work with children?

I actually met my wife at Eagle Lake and we have served in every position. … In our third year at the camp, I convinced a very beautiful woman to marry a very ugly guy and have been married almost 14 years. I have three kids — 6, 3 and six months. … What really changed for me was going from caring about kids as a counselor to really understanding what it means to have your own kids. … As a parent now, I understand that it’s my job as director of camp to help parents understand why this is important for their kids and that their kids will be safe in our care. … It has changed me as a business person. I think I’m more able to relate to parents and people, and I’ve looked at my staff differently since becoming a dad of three.

You have the rare experience of having developed as a young professional within the same organization in the same location. What has that been like?

It’s interesting having been in this job for 17 years now. When I first got here, I was just trying to keep my head above water, and I don’t think I really took advantage of relationships. As I’ve grown, I’ve recognized all the great things we have going on in our culture. … I think there is a vibrant community here, and it’s a laid-back community, and chances to develop deeper relationships. … This is a great place to live, and I’ve really enjoyed it. My wife is from the South and I am from the Southwest, but we don’t plan to return to either of those places. Colorado Springs is our home. 

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Hitchcock uses role at UpaDowna to find solutions on the trail

Mon, Nov 24, 2014

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IMG_7721CC_1Steve Hitchcock and his nonprofit UpaDowna are on a mission to slow people down and show them the value of community. The 37-year-old Florida native serves as executive director of the organization, which aims to provide access to outdoor adventures and bring all walks of life together on the trail. Hitchcock, also known as “Yeti,” is also a husband, father, military veteran, beer lover and outdoorsman. He spoke with the Business Journal about what UpaDowna means, how it has evolved and the impact he hopes it has on the Colorado Springs community.

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

I was brought here by the military in 2004. I’m originally from Jacksonville, Fla., but I’ll never, ever go back there. … My entire life I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors — hiking and biking, climbing and skiing, running and jumping, skipping and scraping and just getting dirty — and I love it. Colorado is a great place to do that, especially Colorado Springs because we’re so close to Pikes Peak, Pike National Forest, the trails and open spaces. There’s no better place to be involved both with the human culture as well as nature.

Can you tell me a bit about your education and military service?

I went to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and was a philosophy major. … After that, I joined the Army, went in as a private and then 9/11 happened. I went to Germany, then Iraq, and then after some incidents in Iraq and a couple of surgeries I was brought here and medically discharged/retired.

How did UpaDowna get started?

I had been doing the UpaDowna thing in Germany since 2002. We knew we were going to war and a lot of the soldiers were 18 or 19 years old and afraid they were going to die. They weren’t retaining the information and it was extremely important that they did. So I started taking them into the Swiss Alps and we’d go up mountains and teach tactics, movements and drills in our civilian clothes and then we’d come down, camp and drink good, strong German beer. Those are the “up a mountain, down a beer” roots.

What role do you feel it has played in the community?

One of the greatest things UpaDowna has done is help me. I moved to Green Mountain Falls to escape people but now it’s forced therapy, if you will. Being able to share my passions with others helps me deal with some of the stresses of combat. I didn’t know what community was — I thought it was a word used as a catchphrase for someone to sell you something. … It doesn’t matter where you come from, whether you’re rich or poor, if you’re underdeveloped or overdeveloped, whether you have a disability or some hang-up — we’re all part of it, and that is what UpaDowna stands for.

We truly are a community. We’re everybody, and we’re not exclusive. That’s a valuable lesson for me, and I think that is a valuable lesson for the world. We’re all people but we just have to respect each other. … Outdoors, everyone comes together around this one thing, and that is the experience. Nature opens up a new part of us and we become more in tune with ourselves and each other.

How has UpaDowna evolved since it started?

When I came here, I was pretty wound up still and had a lot of anxiety — it’s really hard going from being shot at constantly to come to a city where things come at you from every direction. I started just getting out in nature and began asking people if they’d like to come along … and people liked it. Then we started doing the Incline happy hour. We would hike the Incline (before it was legal), drink a beer at the top and run down the Barr Trail. That grew to 70 people through word of mouth. Then we started teaching classes and the name UpaDowna slowly started to stick. … It was just a club where we would go for a hike and drink a beer, climb a 14er and drink a beer, get outdoors and drink some beers. That’s the Colorado mountain lifestyle — bust your ass on the trail and enjoy a craft beer. … Then Michael Hannigan and the Pikes Peak Community Foundation took us under their wing and gave us some of the tools to really do it. Now we’re community-supported rather than having to rely on advertising dollars through our website. … I’d rather have a little money for the right reasons than a lot of money for the wrong reasons.

What do you think of the young professional community in Colorado Springs?

I think a revolution is coming and we’re seeing it right now in Colorado Springs. We’re starting the Ute and Yeti pub over at City Rock, which is an effort between a climbing gym and a nonprofit to raise money but it’s also to build community. … The problem I think Colorado Springs has with young professionals is that the young professionals aren’t opening their damn eyes.

Look around: There are great groups, there are great organizations and there are great resources. This is the rebirth of America! We have people who are creative, passionate and hard-working. We may not have a lot of money, but we love what we do and we’re not going to let anything stop us. That’s what young professionals need to do. … Stop whining and get engaged; you’re the voice of change, so if you want something, then do it and don’t take no for an answer.

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Inspired by humor, Johnston helps BBB in communication

Fri, Nov 14, 2014

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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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