Nikki Lee moved with her family to Colorado Springs in search of a better life. After five years working for an emergency room in South Carolina, the 34-year-old and her husband decided to switch gears and get out of the South. Lee became director of events for the Blue Star Group in September and is passionate about the difference places like Blue Star, Ivywild School and Nosh are making in the community, bringing culture and character to the local scene. Lee took time out of her busy schedule to talk to the Business Journal about the work Blue Star Group is doing in Colorado Springs and what she’s doing to help.
What brought you and your family to the Springs?
We had been living in South Carolina for five years and we just wanted a change. We decided that the South wasn’t for us and that Colorado is very similar to Oregon, which is where we are originally from. We love the outdoor lifestyle and really everything about Colorado, so it was a better fit for out family.
What does your position at Blue Star Group entail?
I am the director of events, so I sell all of our event spaces and manage all of our group dining experiences. I most recently took on Ivywild School events. Prior to that, I was doing Blue Star, Nosh and catering for La’au’s.
How did you come to work for Blue Star Group?
I heard about Ivywild School while I was working at the farmers market and decided to come down and check it out at their grand opening. I absolutely fell in love with what they were doing, and the school, and everything about it — I just thought it was amazing.
They’re trying to be sustainable, there is art everywhere, and just the idea of repurposing an old school is amazing to me. Everything that they’re doing here I just fell in love with.
So I went home and got online and found out they were hiring for a baker — I get up early anyway and I thought it would be fun. So I came down, talked to them, and Ron Mahoney started showing me the place and everything that they were doing … and by the time he and I were done talking, I just said, “I want to be a part of this.” So after a few meetings, I joined the team.
What were you doing professionally before you moved to the Springs?
While we were in Oregon, I did event planning and special events for a resort, and I loved it. When we moved to South Carolina, I completely switched gears and went to work for an ER. I handled all of their conflict resolution, which as you can imagine is different every day — it’s very chaotic and entails being on-call 24/7. I also was going to school full-time and I wasn’t home very much. So when we moved out here, I wanted a little bit of a break — we had one child who still wasn’t in school, so I stayed with him for the first year before coming to work here in September.
What would you say is your mission and the mission of Blue Star Group?
Our mission is to bring culture and character to the Springs. When I first moved here, I felt like it was lacking and that the Springs didn’t have a lot of character. I saw that there were a lot of strip malls and that it was very spread out, and I felt like something was missing. I think a huge draw for me here at Blue Star Group is what they’re trying to do here by introducing new and different things to Colorado Springs. Repurposing Ivywild, for example: I think that’s amazing, and that is what the Springs needs. We need to make this a better place for us to live, and to attract other people who would just be passing through.
How would you characterize the environment for young professionals here?
I think that Colorado Springs does have a lot of potential for young professionals. I think that right now it is on the cusp of being great for young professionals, but that it’s just not quite there yet. Between the colleges and the work opportunities here, I think there’s a lot of room for that greatness, but being so spread out is a bit of problem. There’s not a vibrant downtown, but everybody is working on that, which is what makes me think that it has so much potential.
What do you do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I drive my children all over town. I also like to read and do anything outside: camping, running, biking, hiking. I like photography, painting, and I would love to learn how to rock climb.