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RISING STARS COMMITTEE Annie Snead, Mundi Ross, Bernadette Maisel, Haley Chapin, Forrest Senti, Jennifer Dodd, Chris Aaby, Chris Long, Samuel Elliott, Erik Huffman, Kelly Shelton, Todd Baldwin, Danielle Summerville, Amy Gillentine, Melissa Edwards, Jenn Cancellier, Vanessa Nagel and Bryan Grossman

Congratulations 2019 Rising Stars! It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again. The days are longer, the snow is melting (kinda), and Colorado Springs’ finest young professionals are being recognized for their outstanding achievements in business and philanthropy. Take a look inside and find 25 young pros who stand out for their accomplishments both in the boardroom and the community. The Business Journal received a record number of nominations this year, so the always-difficult task of choosing 25 winners became all the more challenging. This year’s honorees include exceptional young people from the nonprofit world, from finance, tech, education and entertainment. We have Stars who currently wear or at one time donned a uniform for their community or their country. The Front Range is teeming with tireless workers and top-notch talent, so we’re singing the praises of those who make a quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) impact every day in the Pikes Peak region and beyond. This year, we are also posthumously honoring a 26th young professional. Political strategist Kyle Forti, 29, was killed in a helicopter crash near Nairobi, Kenya, in early March. Forti leaves behind a wife and young son. Members of the Rising Stars committee agreed

Forti should be recognized for his impact on Colorado Springs. Several committee members knew him personally and said nobody was more deserving. From law enforcement to entrepreneurs and beyond, these professionals under the age of 40 are not only the future of the region — they are making their impact felt right now. None of these recognitions would be possible without the support of our amazing sponsors. Thanks to our Corporate Sponsor, Northwestern Mutual, and our Entrepreneur Sponsors: the UCCS Graduate School, the city of Colorado Springs, Ent Credit Union, the QUAD Innovation Partnership, Peak Startup, Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, Early Connections Learning Centers, Stockman Kast Ryan + Company and Stellar Propeller Studio. As usual, a special thank-you goes to Allison Daniell Moix (a 2019 Rising Star!) of Stellar Propeller Studio for her photography in the magazine. Finally, thank you, honorees, for creating a culture of excellence that will carry our city forward. Congratulations to the Class of 2019 Rising Stars! Bryan Grossman Editor

Special Thanks to: Stellar Propeller Studio Oskar Blues Stargazers Theatre Glassical Designs Blue Knights Percussion Ensemble Care and Share Food Bank Colorado College

Kyle Forti


yle John Forti was born and raised in Indiana. He graduated Hillsdale College with a degree in political science in 2012 and founded Peak Political Solutions in 2013. His work in political consulting evolved into the co-founding of D/CO Consulting, a political and public relations firm based in Denver, Colorado. He worked for and managed the campaigns of many politicians in Colorado, including former Secretary of Stte Wayne Williams of Colorado Springs. He was known as a prolific figure in Colorado politics. In 2014, he was named to Red Alert Politics, “50 under 30.” Kyle had a passion for humanity and the human soul, and this was best seen in his championing of foster children

alongside his wife Hope, who founded Foster Together Colorado. Kyle was a husband, father to Max, and friend first. He was an adventurer and lover of Mary Oliver. Kyle sought and fought for the best for his community. He was lost in a helicopter crash in Kenya on March 3, 2019. The Colorado Springs Business Journal honors him tonight for his accomplishments, his dedication to community, his love of Colorado.

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Rising Stars class of 2019

Beka Adair

Aisha Ahmad-Post

Alex Belding

Terrell Brown

Micki Cockrille

Liz Denson

Chad Eckles

Jason Feld

Chelsea Gaylord

Clay Guillory

Mattie Gullixson

Melissa Howard

Natasha Main

Mackenzie Maltby Tamayo

Aubrey McCoy

Allison Moix

Francisco Montes

Adam Morley

Deborah Mynatt

Mark Perrault

Lana Rodriguez

Bree Shellito

Meghan Stidd

Alexis Thompson

Sophie Thunberg

What do you wa nt to be when you gro w up?

I have no clue. I ju st have a few ideas —I have glimpses. Go to grad school, or someth ing else. Colorado Springs h as been an incredible plac e to start my career.

Beka Adair


eka Adair is the assistant program director at the Quad Innovation Partnership. She was previously a program manager at the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC. A 2016 graduate of Colorado College, Adair spent her last year in college as president of the Prison Project at Colorado College, a student-led initiative to humanize the prison system through community outreach, campus events and panel discussions. “When I took it over it was a reading group,” she said, “but we’re 40 minutes away from very large prisons. So I worked on getting students involved — to meet and interact with those who are very different from them. In this country, it’s very difficult for people who are or have been in prison — one mistake, and your life is destroyed. ” Immediately after graduation, she joined the Chamber & EDC as an intern. Three months later, she was hired as an economic development analyst. “Her ambition and professionalism led her to engage with business and civic leaders of all levels in ways that left everyone confident in her ability to manage projects,” said her nominator, Hannah Parsons. “Beka has an amazing gift in working with people.” During her time at the Chamber & EDC, Adair managed the ChooseColoradoSprings.com talent recruitment website project. Relying on local voices and experiences,

Adair presented Colorado Springs through the eyes of credible young professionals. It was a way of overcoming widely circulated stereotypes and false assumptions about the community. A new challenge beckoned, and Adair joined the Quad Innovation Partnership as associate director. The Quad Innovation Partnership is a joint initiative between Colorado College, Pikes Peak Community College, UCCS and the Air Force Academy that helps graduating innovators build careers that matter in the Colorado Springs area. “Beka wanted to work with business and community leaders to engage student groups in solving big challenges,” Parsons said. “She’s hungry for challenge and constantly pursues coaching and growth.” Adair has also served as a board member for the Cottonwood Center for the Arts and for the Colorado Springs Rising Professionals. So what’s next, for this young woman in a hurry? “I was born in central Asia,” she said, “I lived in Kirghizstan for several years, so I’m going back there in December. I want to travel, get my Russian back and learn more about central Asia. Maybe I’ll come back or go somewhere else — we’ll see.” — John Hazlehurst

t s o P d a m h A a h s i A What advice would you give your younger self? To not stress so much about career trajectory. … It’s funny how every single thing I’ve done has made me more qualified for this job than I think I even realized when I got it.


isha Ahmad-Post was one of three finalists for her current position as director of UCCS’ Ent Center for the Arts when she finished her interview and went to Garden of the Gods to call her husband. “I said, ‘Andrew, I crushed that interview. We might be moving to Colorado Springs.’ He said, ‘Remind me again where that is.’” The city is foreign no more. Ahmad-Post, a native of Tucson, Ariz., studied music and international relations at Indiana University Bloomington and made her way through several jobs before landing at the New York Public Library, where she managed its author series. “All of these [The] New York Times Best Sellers were coming through — Toni Morrison writes a book, Margaret Atwood writes book — in order to make The New York Times Best Seller [list], you have to go on a book tour and a lot of times you start at the New York Public Library,” she said. “Someone has to manage all that and make sure they’re taken care of.” When Ahmad-Post was hired at the Ent Center in 2017, she brought all of the experience she’d amassed during her decade in New York City. Her responsibilities at the Ent Center include oversight of its Artist Series — the third professional organization under UCCS Presents, joining TheatreWorks and the Galleries of Contemporary Art. Ahmad-Post’s primary charge is to book the 20 to 25

Ent Center shows each year, which range from classical to jazz to dance. “I’m hoping to expand to global music and start thinking about how we can have speakers and really big names — a variety of educational high-quality artistic offerings at the national and international level,” she said. Ahmad-Post has also gotten involved in the community, currently training to be a mentor through the Karen Possehl Women’s Endowment Scholarship Program at UCCS, which is set up for women who are nontraditional students who have faced adversity over the course of their lives. The program offers a full scholarship at UCCS and pairs recipients with a mentor. “It’s an incredible program because 96 percent of [scholarship] students graduate in four to five years,” she said. Unsurprisingly, Amhad-Post and her husband didn’t imagine they’d one day settle in Colorado Springs. “We imagined we would end up in Denver,” she said. “That’s where a lot of friends from New York ended up. “But it’s the right time for this town,” Ahmad-Post said. “It’s on the precipice of something really big. The next five to 10 years for Colorado Springs are really critical. ... There will be so much change. A big part of that is attracting business and people how want to live in a culturally diverse city is by having an arts center.” — Bryan Grossman

What do you want to be when you grow up?

ur. I’ll always be an entreprene e I’ll never work for anyone els again. ... My grandfathers were entrepreneurs — one was a potato broker and the other had a pet cemetery. So I grew up bagging potatoes, m operating the pet crematoriu and digging graves. I guess it’s in my DNA.

Alex Belding


lex Belding moved to the Pikes Peak region in 2015, for the simplest of reasons — his spouse, Samantha Nemecek-Belding, had just taken a job as sports performance manager for USA Fencing. Alex, who was living in northern Colorado, was delighted. “I wasn’t that happy with Denver,” he said, “and I was glad to come here.” Restless, innovative and fatally entrepreneurial, Belding had hopscotched from company to company for several years. “I kept modernizing things everywhere I get involved,” he said. “At Bill & Paul’s Sporthaus I brought a 50-yearold, second-generation family business into the world of eCommerce and social media. I modernized and improved a functioning eCommerce web-store at Ageless Aesthetics and improved sales by 200 percent.” Arriving in Colorado Springs, Belding took a job with Frontier Business Products, a $17 million, 40-year-old statewide copier/printer/business services company and was tapped to lead the newly formed managed network services sales division for southern Colorado. His experience working with website design, maintenance and growth led him to a new business model that would work for small to intermediate growth companies. “My Belgian partner, Philippe Monard, had created Webriq, a decentralized architecture that’s virtually unhackable,” Belding said. “He had been focused on selling

it to developers, but they weren’t interested — it didn’t fit their business model. So I suggested that we cut out the middlemen and sell directly to users.” Belding explained that most businesses purchase websites under a project-billing model that offers little flexibility to grow and adapt over time. Companies that can’t afford exorbitant servicing and upgrading fees need a new servicing model as well as technologies to future-proof and secure those websites — and that’s what Webriq aims to provide. “We’re providing a new category of web design here in Colorado Springs,” said Belding. “We do web design as a service. Businesses can have stunning websites, landing pages and sales funnels without the labor and frustration of DIY tools or the expense of a marketing agency.” The company presently does business in multiple states, the United Kingdom and Australia. It’s hopefully “poised to achieve substantial growth in 2019 and 2020 and become a global leader in JAM web development and innovative service models.” Belding has also been a 1 Million Cups organizer and a sponsor/trail crewmember for the Rocky Mountain Field Institute. “Alex is someone who pours himself into the local startup community,” said nominator Samuel Thomas Elliott. “He deeply cares about other people and helping them succeed.” — John Hazlehurst

What do you wa nt to be when you grow up? I want to be an in fluencer, a change agent, h owever I can enhance the lives of others. I don’t kn ow yet what that life look s like, but I’m on that pa th.

Terrell Brown


olorado Springs native Terrell Brown grew up in the Hillside neighborhood and graduated from Palmer High School. He was a pretty good basketball player, and decided to take his shot at Division I. “I went to three colleges in four years,” he recalled. “Started at South Dakota, then transferred to Otero Junior College in La Junta, and finished up at Montana State-Bozeman.” Brown earned first team all Region 9 honors at Otero, and captained Montana State in 2015. He graduated in 2016 with a degree in marketing, but also learned from basketball. “Teamwork, work ethic — you learn that in basketball,” he said. “I thought I could use that knowledge to pay it forward, just as so many people have in the past in Hillside. [Colorado Springs Basketball legend] Dan McKiernan, my dad Nathan Brown — it’s a very long list.” Brown founded a new organization, Hillside Connection, in 2017, intending to “leverage the game of basketball to create pathways to opportunity for kids in southern Colorado Springs. A group of community leaders serve as coaches/mentors to Elementary School boys [first through sixth grade] free of charge. Youth participate in fundamental basketball sessions, field trips and community service opportunities throughout the year.” The nonprofit has been a success, and then some. Brown raised money to fund a summer basketball league for 60 kids, coordinated a community renovation project at Memorial Park basketball courts and brought the Colorado

Springs Sports Corporation in as a fiscal sponsor for the program. His work at Hillside Connection didn’t go unnoticed — in 2017, he received the Mayor’s Young Leader award for sports and innovation. From 2016-2018 Brown worked as an El Pomar fellow, a two-year leadership development position that combines “hands-on program management with theoretical leadership and nonprofit management study” at the $560 million foundation. He served as Pikes Peak regional director for one of several regional partnerships that direct approximately $200,000 in annual grants, advised by 10-member councils comprised of local leaders. He also worked on health and wellness initiatives jointly sponsored by El Pomar and the Denver Broncos in 11 Colorado communities. In early 2019, Brown was hired by Pikes Peak Community College as multicultural student success coach. It’s a position created “to close equity gaps by increasing the retention, persistence, and completion of PPCC students from historically underrepresented populations (particularly male students of color).” Brown said he works one-on-one with about 35 men. “We’re the United Men of Color cohort,” he said. Nominator Warren Epstein is more than glad to have Brown aboard. “Terrell has truly made a difference in our community,” Epstein said, “and we know he’s going to make a huge impact as a Rising Star at PPCC.” — John Hazlehurst

Proud of our Rising Star

Terrell Brown | Multicultural Student Success Coach

Micki Cockrill e What advice wo uld you give your young er self?

I would say ‘Hey man, take a deep breath and relax for minute. Be kind to yourself and embrace your vulnerability. Accept who you ar e. Just remember that yo u’re enough. You don’t have to be anything but yourself.’


ew Jersey native Micki Cockrille has lived in the Pikes Peak region for more than 20 years. He grew up in Woodland Park and moved with his family to Colorado Springs, where he went to high school and college, graduating from UCCS with a degree in business, emphasizing human resources management and marketing. After graduating in 2016, Cockrille began to look at the city differently. “I recognized that Colorado Springs was more than just a Front Range city in the shadow of Denver,” he said. “Colorado Springs is an up-and-coming leader in business, social enterprise, culture and more.” He wanted to participate in the city’s vibrant business community. After an internship focused on digital marketing with the Small Business Development Center, Cockrille has engaged with and sought to expand what he calls the “Colorado Springs business ecosystem.” He’s currently on the board of REACH Pikes Peak and has volunteered with 1 Million Cups and Peak Startup. He’s one of the founders of Aspiring Change Makers of Colorado Springs, an organization that seeks to inspire young professionals in the future of Colorado Springs. “Our mission,” he said, “is to galvanize aspiring change-makers leading the movement into the Colorado Springs renaissance.”

Since 2017, Cockrille has served as the digital marketing and events specialist for both the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado and the Colorado Institute for Social Impact. Formerly the BBB Foundation, the CI4SI “seeks to harness the evolution of a new emerging sector of the economy,” according to CI4SI’s website. “Traditional capitalism provides a lot of value,” said Cockrille, “but consumers are shifting their preferences and buying power. This rare phenomenon of an emerging sector happens once in a lifetime, and social enterprise and social impact businesses are reshaping capitalism. CI4SI seeks to bring awareness, education and training for this new sector.” Cockrille seems well suited to this cutting-edge position. “I’ve worked with Micki on several social media projects and volunteer groups,” said nominator Brad Brackel. “He is honest, dependable, and incredibly hard-working. Beyond that, he is an impressive marketing and business development professional who has always performed above expectations. Micki has always been an absolute joy to work with.” In his free time, Cockrille loves “exploring the Colorado outdoors, playing guitar and singing, gaming, and spending quality time with friends and family.” — John Hazlehurst

What advice do you have for younger self? Don’t be afraid to take the leap. A lot of the successes that I’ve had in my life have been because of taking that leap that I wasn’t very sure of.

Liz Denson


iz Denson considers herself fortunate to have found her dream job. “I’m so lucky because I’m in the position I’ve always wanted to be in,” said the vice president of community engagement at Early Connections Learning Centers. The Conroe, Texas native’s path to Colorado included a stop in New Mexico for a few years. It was there Denson got her first exposure working for a nonprofit after spending about a year with a small public relations company, she said. “I enjoy being at nonprofits because I did not come from an affluent family at all,” she said. “Some of the organizations that I’ve volunteered for, or that I work with now, offer very similar community services that I received as a child or my family received. “And, it’s really more meaningful for me to be able to support work that I believe in.” However, when the recession hit in 2008, Denson and her husband both found themselves looking for new jobs. “We knew we wanted to stay in the Southwest,” she said. “We were looking in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado to see basically who would find a job first, and my husband was headhunted here for a national auto body repair company.” Denson and her husband and their three horses live in Penrose. Together, they put on an annual rodeo in nearby Florence to raise money for the high school’s FFA program.

“I think that appeals to the event planner side of me that I enjoy doing,” she said. “I especially enjoy the camaraderie that you get with rodeo families. “My husband and I just like to be out — being active and enjoying our horses and enjoying the competition. And being able to host the rodeo, where we live, it builds awareness of that in our community.” Denson is the outgoing chairwoman of the Festival of Lights parade in downtown Colorado Springs. “That’s something I’m pretty proud of,” she said. “It’s really fun. And I love that it’s become such a huge family tradition.” The 36-year-old also sits on the Association of Fundraising Professionals board of directors and has her bachelor’s degree in marketing from Texas Tech University. Denson said being honored as a Rising Star is really exciting. “I was very flattered and felt really proud,” she said. “I guess it’s a feel-good, pat-on-the-back kind of thing. “When you’re in the trenches, you don’t really think about everything that’s going on and I’m not one to chase down accolades, so it was a good feeling.” Denson said receiving the award can help build the stage for a young professional’s career. “To have the opportunity to be recognized and hear, ‘You’re doing a good job, keep it up —’ I think that’s important,” she said. “It’s very encouraging.” — Jessica Kuhn

What makes Colorado Springs home? What makes Colorado Springs feel like home is the warmness of the people here. It’s a community that really has a strong sense of purpose.

Chad Eckles


had Eckles is committed to serving his country and community. At 21, the southern California native joined the Air Force. He served four years active duty before transitioning into the Reserve. About two years ago, Eckles decided to switch from enlisted to officer and received his commission as an information wartime officer in the Navy Reserve. The 30-year-old has a bachelor’s degree in resource and technology management from Troy University and master’s in information assurance from Regis University. He works in cybersecurity and information technology at Price Waterhouse Coopers and is the platoon leader for the Colorado Springs chapter of The Mission Continues. “I got involved with the nonprofit a little over three years ago,” Eckles said. “It appealed to me because it is community focused and about making the city better and really engaging with other veterans. “The military had a lot of good things about it, and something I missed from the active duty side was the camaraderie.” Eckles became platoon leader about a year and half ago and has since overseen several community projects, including clearing trails and restorative maintenance at different local parks. Next month, the organization plans to help build horse stables at a nearby ranch through a program for veterans, he said. “If it’s clearing a trail, picking up trash, repainting something or whatever, we’re making our community

better one step at a time,” Eckles said. “And we have fun doing it. “One of the things I tell my platoon all the time is we all live here and that this is our opportunity to give back and make the city of Colorado Springs better.” Eckles believes the impact the nonprofit’s had in the community is why he was named a Rising Star. “It was a little bit surprising,” he said. “I just love helping out the community and being there for Colorado Springs and making it better, and to be nominated — it was a welcomed shock, I’ll say that.” Eckles also volunteers with Habitat for Humanity International and the American Cancer Society. When he isn’t busy serving his county or community, Eckles is spending time with his wife and helping take care of their two young daughters. “My wife is going to grad school right now,” he said. “She’s hard charging on that a lot of the time with a lot of homework, so I watch the girls. But, it’s really just me doing my part — we’re a team.” Eckles said his advice for other young professionals is to dream big. “Go out there with a purpose and then actually put your plans into action,” he said. “Get involved in your community — there are a lot of people that need help here. …There also are a lot of parks that are falling in disrepair because of lack of funding. “So, if you want to make a difference, just go for it. The opportunity is there.” — Jessica Kuhn

What makes Co lorado Springs home?

You know, it’s take n five years, but I think I’m fi nally starting to get to a point wh have that nudge to ere I don’t home… Through al move back l I’ve met and all th the people e work I do, I feel lik volunteer e I’ve got a lot of friends n ow and I’m contributing to th e community.

Jason Feld


wo things have been fixtures in Jason Feld’s life since childhood — Colorado and helping others. “It’s one of those things that gets instilled in you by your parents,” said Feld, who grew up as the son of two firefighters in the suburban Chicago area. “I like to help people and I like to keep busy.” Feld checks both boxes with his job as resource manager of the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, where nominator Stacy Poore said he plays a key role in procuring more than 16 million pounds of food annually to distribute throughout the southern part of the state. “This is a monumental responsibility and Jason takes his role very seriously,” Poore wrote. “He procures healthy nutritious food and staple food items for pennies on the dollar, and he does so while managing increasing costs and flat budgets.” Feld spent his high school summers working at a Boy Scout camp at Eleven Mile Canyon, outside Lake George. He talked for years about moving to Colorado permanently, finally deciding to take the plunge after losing his job with a large corporation in 2014. “I spent most of my life in corporate America,” Feld said. “When I lost that last job, one thing I knew was I didn’t want to go back to that.” Feld, who has a degree in criminal justice from the University of Phoenix, was looking for a law enforcement job when he stumbled across an advertisement for resource

manager at Care and Share. He had been volunteering at the Northern Illinois Food Bank before his move to Colorado Springs, and had often thought about making it a full-time job. “It was one of those things like, ‘Wow, this is a dream job,’” Feld said. That dream job has not come without its challenges. Natural disasters and labor shortages, particularly in the trucking industry, present barriers to securing fresh produce for struggling Coloradans. But Feld has never regretted leaving behind the corporate world. “No job is without its stress, but at least at the end of the day — even if you had a rough day — you know you accomplished something good for somebody,” Feld said. “If you work for Evil Corp., as it were, even if you have a good day, when you go home, all you did was make somebody else richer.” Feld’s volunteer work throughout Colorado Springs is equally inspiring, Poore said. He does IT work for Inside Out Youth Services, is a graduate of Leadership Pikes Peak Leadership NOW program, and is in the process of becoming a regular volunteer at UCHealth Memorial Hospital. “It feels good to give back,” Feld said. “I’m not Warren Buffett, I can’t give money everywhere, but I can certainly give time.” — Erinn Callahan

What do you wa nt to be when you gro w up?

I’m always seekin g opportunities to tr y something new an d maybe outside of the box — and learn by doing.

Chelsea Gaylord


helsea Gaylord worked with entrepreneurs in Uganda while in the Peace Corps before moving to Colorado Springs about a year and half ago. “Uganda is a country the size of Oregon but has a large population of almost 40 million people,” she said. “And 70, 80 percent of them are people 35 and younger. “There’s a massive unemployment rate, so you have a lot of entrepreneurs.” The Eastern Iowa native created business camps across the country to help teach Ugandan youth business skills. “They went from camps to regional business plan competitions and then the national business plan competition,” Gaylord said. “The program has continued since I left; it’s in Year 3 now, which is really cool.” The 28-year-old also worked at a community health center while in the East African country. Gaylord said she uses those experiences in her current job as the economic development project manager for the city of Colorado Springs. “My broad role is to promote investment, job creation and business expansion across the city,” she said. “Two of my many focus areas are innovation and entrepreneurship. So, how can we cultivate and enhance opportunities for entrepreneurs and then work in southeast Colorado Springs as well?” Gaylord has a bachelor’s in psychology and one in health promotion from the University of Iowa. She serves on four local nonprofit boards, including

Peak Startup, Pikes Peak Market, Solid Rock Community Development Corporation and Thrive Colorado Springs. “Community is just a one of my core values that is important to me anywhere that I go,” Gaylord said. “I think that comes from being from Iowa where if you need anything, you can call your neighbor, you can call a friend or family member, and they’re there for you immediately. “So, it’s important to me, no matter which community I am in, that I’m involved, and not just from what I do day-to-day and get paid for it but how am I giving back and contributing to what I want to see also.” Gaylord said she was honored to learn of her 2019 Rising Star recognition. “It’s very humbling to get to be a part of that network of the people who have come before me — who continue to contribute to the community,” she said. “I think that we each have a valuable role to play in a community.” In her spare time, Gaylord enjoys hiking and spending time with her boyfriend, she said. “I love to be outside. I live in Cheyenne Cañon, so I’ve got the Stratton Open Space right out my door, which is amazing,” she said. “I really love living in Colorado Springs and have found there are a lot of opportunities to plug in here regardless of your interests or where you’re at in your career. “Even if you’re new to the community, there’s a lot of opportunity to get involved.” — Jessica Kuhn

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What advice would you give to your younger self? Plan. Be smart about things. Don’t just go headfirst into all opportunities that come at you.

Clay Guillory


lay Guillory still has the $400 “monster” that first propelled him into the world of 3D printing. “I wanted to get into make-n-bake 3D print stuff,” he recalls, “but I started with a little kit I found online. It was a terrible kit — kept falling apart — so I got to learn how to build one myself. Then I put an ad on Craigslist saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got a 3D printer. I can print parts for you, or I can make you your own printer if you like.’” Guillory kept his day job as a mechanical engineer and built the first Atlas 3D printer in his garage by night. The Craigslist ad kept running, orders exploded, and soon the Louisiana native was working up to 120 hours a week. His father, his mother and his wife, Maddie, came on board, followed by a college roommate and a neighbor — and Guillory quit his day job one year after building that first printer. Today his company, Titan Robotics, specializes in industrial 3D printers (the Atlas is its flagship) as well as purpose-built systems, additive manufacturing and production solutions. Titan has 20-25 employees, depending on the season, and ships to companies all over the world. It produces finished 3D-printed items (everything from store mannequins and prosthetic devices to hybrid rocket assemblies and aerospace parts) and manufactures both standard and customized 3D printers for other manufacturers to use. The aims is to “change the way the world manufac-

tures,” Guillory said, boosting speed to market and reducing the costs for traditional manufacturers. Titan’s position as a leader in novel pellet extrusion technologies is keeping it ahead of the curve in a rapidly changing field, and Guillory says the industry’s next wave of change will ride on close collaboration between businesses and expert 3D printing production companies. “There are so many really cool applications that we’re doing that are just going to change the way that so many things are made, but we can’t even talk about them,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of really neat aerospace applications that are going to space — very cool stuff,” he added. “We do a lot of work with the [Department of Defense] and Tier 1 suppliers and Tier 2 suppliers to the DoD. We’re becoming very integral in their processes, and they’re changing the way they make parts and go to space.” The frenetic pace of business leaves Guillory with little spare time, but Titan volunteers 3D printing to give back to the community — prosthetics for children and paralympians, as well as pro bono projects for local startups needing prototypes. Guillory describes Titan’s first five years as a blur. “It’s wild, it’s exciting, but you can’t go into it with the thought that this is ever going to be easy,” he said. “I think anyone who’s ever had a successful business totally understands that.” — Helen Robinson

Mattie Gullixson What makes Colorado Springs home? There was something different, something special, every time I drove down and visited. When people talk it about it being a big city with a smalltown heart and feel, it does… It’s kind of Camelot.


attie Gullixson is no stranger to shaping public policy. At only 30 years old, she has built an impressive resumé effecting tangible change for her fellow Coloradoans. “I like new challenges,” Gullixson said. “There’s no doubt about that.” Gullixson rises to those challenges, both in her job as a senior regulatory compliance analyst for Mayor John Suthers’ office and her volunteer work with various nonprofit organizations in Colorado Springs. “Mattie has a decorated background as a scholar and government professional and continues to make a large impact in the Colorado Springs community,” nominator Shawn Gullixson wrote of his wife. “Colorado Springs and the mayor’s office are lucky to have Mattie working to move our community forward.” In her newly created position, Gullixson focuses primarily on marijuana policy — studying the practices of other jurisdictions, monitoring the state Legislature and coordinating a working group of stakeholders with diverse perspectives and community interests. “Even though it’s been legal for several years now, it still is a very nascent industry,” Gullixson said. “I have an opportunity in this role to understand, appreciate and look at the topic from a lot of different perspectives.” After earning her bachelor’s degree in economics from George Mason University, Gullixson returned to her home state to pursue a master’s degree in international political policy from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. A stint as a budget analyst in then-Gov. John Hickenloop-

er’s Office of Budgeting and Planning followed; then a job designing, developing and implementing the state’s performance management program. “It was a lot of building a program from the ground up, and Colorado is still recognized as one of the foremost states that has a really effective, goal-oriented state government,” Gullixson said. Gullixson moved back to Colorado Springs in 2015 to take over as executive director of The First Tee of Pikes Peak, an international nonprofit organization that uses golf as a medium to teach kids life skills and core values. She continued to use the connections she formed in the local nonprofit community when she returned to the public policy world a year later as El Paso County’s assistant election manager. “I worked in getting a lot more exposure for voter registration programs in the county, and I worked with a couple folks to put together new games and a giant chessboard in Acacia Park,” Gullixson said. “That was a way to continue to add some vitality to that central part of our city.” Gullixson currently is collaborating with former city councilwoman Brandy Williams to organize events and community conversations about men’s mental and emotional health, she said. “There are some really important issues to work on,” Gullixson said. “I love this community. I want to see all folks rise.” — Erinn Callahan

What do you wa nt to be when you gro w up?

I don’t want to b e the CEO or the COO — I want to be an example. ... That you can find succ ess, you can do good in ou r world, and you can still be madly, wildly successful.

Melissa Howard


how Melissa Howard a challenge, and she’ll dive in head first. “We heard the Carter Payne Chapel might be available ... nobody knew if the tenant was going to stay or not,” she recalls, “so like a crazy person I got in the car and drove to Texas and found the lady that owned the building. I said, ‘I know this isn’t considered stalking in the state of Texas — it might be in Colorado — but can I take you to lunch and tell you what I want to do with this building?’ She was kind of weirded out, but she said yes.” That’s just part of the story of how Howard ended up co-owning three Colorado Springs social enterprises: The Carter Payne, Common Cause Catering and Local Relic. “We kind of reverse engineered this brewery,” she said of Local Relic. “There’s no real playbook, so you kind of throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks. … We did it completely backwards. People told us we were idiots and crazy, and ‘What is wrong with you?’ We told them, ‘We still haven’t been diagnosed, nobody knows what’s wrong with us — but this is how we’re going to do it.’ “We really dug deep and figured it out. We are inherently fortunate that the people who have crossed our paths have been super helpful in wanting to see small business succeed.” Howard’s journey into social enterprises began with Common Cause Catering, which she launched part-time with Jeff Zearfoss, while both had other day jobs.

The catering company expanded into consulting and commercial services and, for eight years now, Howard has been helping people transitioning out of homelessness and domestic abuse situations to gain life skills and culinary training, then move to full-time employment via internships with Common Cause. “We really had a mission to hire people that were struggling in other areas. ...” she said. “We never had to look for those people; they always found us.” Local Relic came next, then the 121-year-old Carter Payne, which was the first African-American church in Colorado Springs, and has been reborn many times since. “We wanted to create a space that is welcoming to everyone regardless of religion or race or creed or orientation — a place to come and meet your neighbors,” Howard said. “I feel like our community is so amazing but our world is — um, on the struggle bus, man. Everyone’s angry. So we really wanted this to be a place that, as a community, we can celebrate, we can mourn, we can laugh, we can cry, that we can get to know the people that otherwise we walk by on the street — and never know who they are, what they do, what their contribution is or how you could help them. “The rising tide lifts all boats,” she added, “so we have to give back to the people and to the community to make sure our tide keeps rising.” — Helen Robinson

Natasha Main What advice wo uld you give to your younger self? Don’t treat youth as a disadvantage. I hav e grown to see youth as a lot of positive qualities th at can immediately be a contribution to society and en gagement.


hen Natasha Main stepped up as executive director at Peak Startup in June last year, she also took a “step back.” “For Peak Startup, we took a step back when I was hired — in a really great way — to reassess and speak with the community ... looking to co-develop what it is that we want to see from the Colorado Springs startup ecosystem with startup founders, with decision makers, with community makers,” she said. “We’ve really taken time to set a strong vision for what the startup ecosystem can look like and what Peak Startup will do.” Peak Startup is dedicated to driving economic development by bolstering the startup community — supporting connections and resources for founders and entrepreneurs in Colorado Springs. In her first year with the nonprofit, Main has developed a new strategic plan to secure the organization’s long-term impact and sustainability. “Now is such an important time both for our city and for our startup ecosystem because startup businesses generate ... the majority of the net new jobs in a community,” Main said. “So those are jobs and dollars that have never existed in a community or an economy before — they kind of spread out from nowhere when one of these companies becomes successful. Why that’s so important right now is we’re growing, we’re attracting so many Millennials, we have such great talent. It’s partly about retention and keeping that talent here — providing new and dynamic jobs — and it’s also about that economic resiliency too.” This year, Main says, Peak Startup will focus on growing the base and becoming “a more inclusive community, either through partnerships with other organizations or

on our own. “Our vision is to provide on-ramps for people who may not be connected to the startup community already, to participate — increasing that inclusivity and accessibility,” she said. Main grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, and moved to Memphis, Tenn. to attend Rhodes College as a Bonner Scholar. It was there she developed a passion for economic development and community engagement, and bringing those together. Already, Main sees positive changes in Colorado Springs’ startup landscape. “We are seeing some bigger wins this past year with the biggest number of external investments,” she said. “We’re also seeing more companies come through Peak Startup that are interested in building their businesses. So we’re starting to see this critical mass starting to come about, that is an indicator of our first wave of success with startup businesses. … Our community is really growing and it’s understanding that a diverse set of entrepreneurs is important, and looking to be more inclusive and collaborative.” Main aims to attract innovators and make entrepreneurship “a really valid opportunity” for people living in the Springs. “That’s really what I care deeply about,” she said. “I believe that if you have an idea — regardless of your background — if you have the chutzpah to get it done, you should be able to connect to the resources to make that an economic reality.” — Helen Robinson

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I read once that it takes a lot of courage to grow up and be who you really are. I suppose I want to be all of me — an ever-present, ever-involving, ever-faithful woman of integrity who’s dedicated to her family and her community.

o y a m a T y b t l a M e i z Macken


ackenzie Maltby Tamayo has always been a helper. So it’s not surprising that she’s gravitated toward the hospitality industry. “The core word of hospitality is hospice, which quite literally means to take care of,” Tamayo said. As director of sales and marketing for Altitude Hospitality Group, she helps develop and accomplish the visions for growth of the group’s restaurants and venues, which include Garden of the Gods Market and Catering, Till Kitchen, The Roost Coffee House, Altitude Floral, The Pinery at the Hill and the newly opened Sprig restaurant. “I believe that food isn’t just something that you give to someone,” she said. “It’s a deeply vulnerable experience on both ends, and I love creating really thoughtful atmospheres where people can come together and enjoy one another. That’s done through events at the Pinery, having a glass of wine and steak at Till Kitchen, lunch with girlfriends at Sprig.” Tamayo has been with the group since 2013; she started as a bartender and server at The Pinery and worked her way up to director of sales. While she was there, The Pinery was named the best wedding venue in the Springs. “I basically created the position I have now,” she said, adding her favorite part of the job is “the satisfaction that I’m contributing to the community.” That could be said of her community work as well. Tamayo was a winner in 2017 of the Colorado Springs

Chamber & EDC’s Community Builder award for outstanding community involvement. As a board member of Converge Lecture Series, she helps to bring in leading poets and artists; at CASA, she has worked with battered women; she has spearheaded large fundraisers for organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kidpower of Colorado, Dream Centers and many more. Tamayo’s family came here from Dallas in 1999, a move that felt like culture shock to the then-sixth grader. But now, after graduating from Colorado Springs Christian School, earning a degree in English from UCCS, and living and working here for 20 years, she has a deep love and admiration for Colorado Springs. “I see community as extension of who I am, and I have a responsibility to it, and I think leaders in this community have a responsibility to it,” she said. In the next five years, she wants to see Altitude Hospitality Group expand into the “booming renaissance in downtown Colorado Springs. I see Colorado Springs as being just on the brink of something really great.” She also hopes to pursue another passion: writing. “I’d love to go back to school,” she said. “In five years, I hope I’m applying for a doctoral program. So I can teach. At some point, I’d love to teach creative writing at the college level.” — Jeanne Davant

CONGRATULATIONS from all of your “battles� at The Mission Continues! We are honored to have you as our leader and serve alongside you!

You deserve the best.

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CHAD ECKLES TMC Colorado Springs Platoon Leader

What makes Co lorado Springs home?

My husband and I and our family have grown roots deeper here. … I lo ve our community and I want to continue to mak e it a better place for m y family.

Aubrey McCo y


nyone who’s attended the Rocky Mountain State Games, Colorado’s largest sports festival, has witnessed the amazing efforts of Aubrey McCoy. As director of operations and marketing for the Colorado Springs Sports Corp., McCoy is responsible for all organizational and promotional aspects of the Sports Corp.’s biggest annual event. The games involve thousands of participants in more than 35 competitions each year. “Under her leadership, the Rocky Mountain State Games has surpassed 10,000 athletes in five consecutive years, including a record 10,874 athletes in 2018,” her nominator, Doug Martin, said. Born and raised in Laramie, Wyo., McCoy studied marketing and business at the University of Wyoming, where she met her husband, Brandon. “He was born and raised in Colorado Springs, so we ended up down here with his family,” she said. McCoy, 29, first came to Colorado Springs in 2010 for an internship with the El Pomar Foundation, which led to her selection in 2011 for a two-year leadership development fellowship. During her time as an El Pomar Fellow, she led a $1 million fundraising campaign for the Empty Stocking Fund and served as deputy director of the College Readiness and Success program, which engaged first-generation and military-dependent high school students in higher education opportunities. She also coordinated the Police Foundation of Colorado Springs’ annual Medal of Valor luncheon.

“I got connected with Sports Corp. because we’re really close partners with El Pomar Foundation,” she said. “I was kind of on loan to the Sports Corp. during the duration of my fellowship, because that one of the outreach ways that El Pomar supports the community.” She started in an administrative position nine years ago and then started taking on more responsibilities, including an internship program, media relations and the state games. She now supports the organization on strategic growth and management of all its events. Marketing and event management was a good fit for McCoy, who has always been detail-oriented and enjoys connecting the dots between problems and solutions. “My husband teases me that I’m not a big sports person, but I am very organized and I have that community-minded, relationship-building strategy that serves me well,” she said. McCoy said she’s been incredibly blessed to have had great guidance and mentorship along the way. “She is the ultimate team player and gladly serves in whatever role she is asked to fill,” Martin said. “She exemplifies the very best of what a leader should be and do. … She is also an incredible role model for our younger staff. … Her professional growth, career trajectory and community involvement are impressive on their own but even more so considering all that she has accomplished while being married and a mother to two young children.” — Jeanne Davant

Allison Moix What advice would you give to your younger self? I would have wanted to communicate that everything will be what it needs to be and that I do believe that God is working all things for good in the end.


rowing up in Tennessee, Allison Moix carried a small camera with 110 film on her keychain. The middle-schooler who was always taking photos of friends blossomed into an in-demand professional and owner of Stellar Propeller Studio. Besides helping businesses to succeed and capturing her subjects’ special days, she contributes her time and talents to numerous community projects and travels the globe, camera in hand. “I really love storytelling, whether it’s telling the story of a business, or telling the story of love between people,” she said. Moix has always viewed the world through the eyes of an artist. She grew up drawing, painting and doing music, and studied art in college. As soon as she graduated in 2005, she packed up her car and moved to Colorado Springs. “I spent some summers working at Eagle Lake Camp hear Woodland Park,” she said. “That was my first exposure to Colorado, and I thought it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.” Arriving here, she had planned to be a graphic designer, but she kept getting jobs that were related to photography. “I’m not a person who operates with a five-year plan,” Moix said. “I live my life a little more like Hansel and Gretel, and follow the breadcrumbs around.” Moix began earning a living with her camera around 2006 and started Stellar Propeller Studio in 2008. The studio became a full-time enterprise in 2015, and Moix

now has an employee who assists her, as well as several contractors. She has mounted solo exhibits at venues such as Poor Richard’s, COPPeR and Kreuser Gallery. One of her most moving shows was an exploration of grief, which grew out of a difficult year when she lost three people close to her. Moix’s work has appeared in publications including Colorado Collective, Springs Magazine and the Colorado Springs Business Journal, and she has produced ad campaigns for clients including Kaiser Permanente and Southwest Airlines. Her portraits for Springs Rescue Mission played a big role in increasing the agency’s financial support, and the brides whose weddings she’s photographed named her to MyWedding.com’s Best of lists for three straight years. Moix is active in community organizations, having served as a youth mentor with The Navigators and Red Rock Church, and a photographer with Restore Innocence, which aids victims of human trafficking. She volunteered with the Stranger Moments Project, which brought strangers together to highlight their commonalities, and journeyed to Haiti and Nicaragua with Project Help to photograph and print pictures of people, many of whom had never had a printed photograph before. “I can feel the love that Allison emits,” her nominator Samuel Thomas Elliott wrote. “She is so warm, so welcoming, so giving and so talented.” — Jeanne Davant

What advice would you give to your younger self?

o Always try to accomplish tw rn things on the daily. First, lea something new every day. There’s always something to to learn. Second is adding value e someone. I’ll go home and th of first thing I do is grab one work my children and say, ‘Let’s .’ on your reading or your math

s e t n o M o c s i c n a Fr


rancisco Montes has built his life around two bits of wisdom he received from his parents. “My mom said, ‘Cisco, I don’t care what you do — just be the best at it. You could be the garbage man, just make sure you’re the best garbage man,’” Montes said. “And my dad told me, ‘Continue to learn. Continue to see what else you can do.’” Heeding that advice has served Montes well as he rose from teller to branch manager in just three years at Academy Bank. The Briargate Boulevard location is one of the institution’s top branches in terms of growth and goals achieved — largely due to Montes’ dedication to serving both his customers and fellow employees, nominator Chris Long said. Montes is a wonderful example of what a young professional should aspire toward in Colorado Springs, Long said. “Francisco is focused on making Colorado Springs a better place for everyone by setting an exemplary example of work ethic, community involvement, mentorship and fatherhood,” Long said. Montes learned all those concepts the hard way. He was only a month old when his parents moved to Columbus, Ohio, from Mexico City. Montes’ father had a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but as few prospective employers would recognize a degree from a Mexican university, he initially worked as a hotel janitor and a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver to support his family. His father’s job with MCI Communications Corp.

brought the Montes family to Colorado Springs in 1996, and Montes graduated from Coronado High School five years later. He attended Hastings College in Nebraska for a year on a soccer scholarship, moving back to Colorado Springs in 2002 after a knee injury forced him to withdraw. Montes worked in the restaurant industry until 2006, when he applied for every position at every bank he knew of, despite having no previous experience. “I just wanted to get my voice out there,” Montes said. “I was willing to make a new change.” After stints with other local banks, Montes landed a job as a teller at Academy Bank in 2011. He was promoted to branch manager three years later. “Everywhere I went I said, ‘I want to be the best at it,’” Montes said. “I put my focus on continuing to educate people.” At a colleague’s encouragement, Montes dove headfirst into networking and community involvement after his promotion to branch manager. He has served on boards for the Academy for Advanced and Creative Learning, YMCA Garden Ranch and the PILLAR Institute for Lifelong Learning, as well as a mentor for the Rotary Club of Colorado Springs and an ambassador for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC. “My passion has to be continuing education,” Montes said. “That’s something I fell in love with when I became a manager.” — Erinn Callahan

What do you wa nt to be when you gro w up?

Who knows? It ju st depends. … I know I’ll have to make a di fference whatever I do. I ca n’t just push papers ar ound an office.

Adam Morley


dam Morley stands out. He’s tall, so that gives the mustachioed 32-yearold an instant advantage when it comes to visibility. But mix in his eye for fashion (check out the socks), his involvement in the community and convivial personality, and Morley rises from mere standout to a 2019 Rising Star. Morley moved to Colorado Springs nearly 20 years ago and has made it his mission to impact the community through his ventures. But for the Illinois native, those go beyond businesses and organizations and border on passions. In 2012, Morley was working at a sales job for a cable and internet company and purchased a home downtown. “I knew that if there was anything good happening in the Springs, it would be downtown,” he said. Soon after, Morley quit his sales job and began focusing on providing freelance social media marketing. He found inspiration hanging out at Epicentral Coworking and Wild Goose Meeting House. “Other people around Epicentral got my wheels turning about doing my own thing and starting a business — using my talents in other ways,” he said. “Hanging around those people got me on a path of having my own business and quitting my day job.” Then Morley’s sister married the guy who would one day be his business partner. “Taylor Draper is my brother-in-law and business partner at Wolf & Key,” Morley said. “He has a background in

design and web development and lead generation, so we kind of combined efforts ... and decided to make Wolf & Key a real thing.” In addition to the marketing company he co-founded and operates, Morley helped give life to the local vintage motorcycle nonprofit Boulder Street Moto and, inspired by his support at Epicentral, was instrumental in launching the co-working space Welcome Fellow. Samuel Thomas Elliott, Morley’s nominator for the Rising Stars award said that Morley “strives to promote [Colorado Springs] as a great place to live, no matter what initiative he is a part of. He looks for ways to get involved in the city, serve on committees/boards where he can make a difference (not just fill a seat), and lend his expertise in any way that will help us as a … community. He is wholeheartedly involved in our city and seeing it thrive!” Morley said, when he moved downtown in 2012, “there really was nothing. I just kind of had this hunch. … There were all these different things that could be done here — there was room for it. “There is the camp that moves to the big city to chase opportunity. Then there are those who stay in a small town and create the opportunity. Both are really hard in different ways. But I’ve always been the stick-aroundand-build-something-strong type of person. “It may take longer and be harder, but if you stick around, you could be the face of this town and help it grow.” — Bryan Grossman

Deborah Myn att What makes Colo rado Springs home?

No. 1, it’s beautif ul. The other thing is this community loves law enforcement. Bein g in a city surrounded b y the military, they appr eciate those in uniform.


eborah Mynatt moved to Colorado Springs as a 13-year-old Army brat. The El Paso County Sheriff ’s sergeant hopped around from school to school before settling at and graduating from Sierra High School. Today, Mynatt heads the office’s community relations and outreach unit. For instance, the sergeant oversees the office’s Citizens Academy, taught in Spanish, which began in 2016. “This is an eight-week class one night a week and we teach you about different sections and what they do. One night we’ll talk about emergency services, what their vehicles look like. … Another night you might be at CSPD learning about their tactical unit. Another night you’ll be over here learning about investigations. “We’re trying to include them. Some groups we met with showed concern that immigration will be there to arrest them. The problem with that is, if they’re a victim or a witness to a crime, they won’t report it. We don’t want that barrier and want them to know we won’t do that.” Another important aspect of Mynatt’s position is youth outreach. “Recently we signed [a memorandum of understanding] … with Big Brothers Big Sisters called “Bigs with Badges.” We have 18 people (originally we thought we’d get seven or eight) willing to donate their time to these

kids. That will build better relationships than me going to do a talk on safety in a classroom.” Mynatt also created and teaches a women’s leadership development class. “It’s a course based on lifting others up, motivating others and giving compliments,” she said. “That’s sometimes an issue with women in law enforcement. You have to be so tough, equally as tough as the guys. “Then what happens is they become hardened to selves and other females. It’s good to embrace women in uniform, tell them they’re doing a great job and lift them up.” So what does it mean for the sergeant to be named a Rising Star? “I’m super honored,” she said. “The lady who nominated me [Elizabeth Kirkman] is probably one of the top five women I look up to. She was our county attorney assigned to the sheriff ’s office. ... Any time there was a concern I would reach out to her and be so comfortable about it. “For a person like that to nominate me feels immense. I asked her what I did that was so great. She said I absolutely earned this and said I’ve really inspired her. Wow! You don’t know until someone tells you. It’s a big deal and an honor. I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until I started doing some research myself. This Rising Stars thing is a big deal!” — Bryan Grossman

Congratulations to City of Colorado Springs Rising Star

Mattie Gullixson! Senior Analyst for Regulatory Compliance Mayor’s Office

Congratulations to City of Colorado Springs Rising Star

“It is our honor to collaborate daily with such a valued team member.”

Chelsea Gaylord!

– City Of Colorado Springs Staff

Economic Development Project Manager Economic Development Division

“Chelsea enthusiastically removes barriers to promote the success of all businesses. We are fortunate to have her on our team!”

– City Of Colorado Springs Staff



What did you want to be when you grew up? Believe it or not, throughout high school and in the Air Force, I enjoyed the basics of financial planning… I would like to think I knew I was going to do this for a long time.

Mark Perrault


ark Perrault’s interest in finance predates his high school diploma. He bought stock in the multinational technology corporation Intel in 2001 — his senior year. “I remember the whole excitement of following a company,” Perrault said. “I always had an appreciation for the stock market and investing.” Perrault’s early business savvy has translated into enormous personal and professional success in a relatively short time, nominator Carolyn Gust said. He has raked in accolades since joining Northwestern Mutual in 2009 as a wealth management advisor in 2009, including achieving Northwestern Mutual’s Forum Level designation within his first three years — a milestone most do not reach until after 10 years in the business, Gust said. “He truly is fueling the future of the financial industry locally and nationally,” Gust wrote of Perrault. “His active involvement in the community — from his volunteerism, board participation and creative fundraising, to his ability to engage and get people to participate and act — is exceptional.” Perrault moved to Boulder in 2001 to study operations management at the University of Colorado, where he met his wife, Lauren, a Colorado Springs native. He joined the Air Force after graduation and moved to Spokane, Wash., where he earned his master’s degree in finance from Gonzaga University while serving four years as a captain. “It was great to have a guaranteed job right after college and serve our country,” Perrault said. “It was a win-

win — a win for them, a win for me.” In addition to wealth management for clientele in and out of Colorado, Perrault also helps guide other junior advisors who join the business as growth development director for Northwestern Mutual Colorado Springs. He and partner Charlie Dunn launched Dunn, Perrault and Associates — now one of the most successful wealth management firms in Colorado Springs — in 2016, Gust said. Being a voice of reason for clients at their worst moment is the most rewarding part of his job, Perrault said. “Trying to reduce the emotionality of handling one’s finances is very helpful for people,” he said. Perrault also has a gift for connecting people and ideas, Gust said. Three years ago, he and Dunn organized the Dunn, Perrault and Associates Philanthroparty, inviting community leaders and influencers to come together for one night and raise funds for a common cause. The Philanthroparty has raised more than $250,000 in its three years for the Children’s Hospital of Colorado Springs, Atlas Preparatory Academy and Early Connections Learning Center. Perrault enjoys being a catalyst for change in both his professional and personal lives, he said. “I think a lot of us have good intentions. Acting on them is one thing,” Perrault said. “It’s good to be able to bring people together behind a common cause.” — Erinn Callahan

What makes Colorado Springs feel like home?

Colorado Springs is the best I city I have ever visited, and am very well-traveled around e America and the world... Th people are cool. They’re chill… They just want to have a good life, and they just want to be happy here, and they don’t bother nobody.

Lana Rodriguez


ana Rodriguez didn’t become one of the best Realtors in Colorado Springs by paying for sources or leaning on gimmicky sales tactics. She was rated the seventh-best Realtor in the city in 2018 on referrals alone using the strength of a simple secret. “You work for people, you follow up with people, you stay in touch with them,” she said. Personally, she describes herself as relatable, getting on the level of anyone she’s working with, no matter who they are, what their circumstances are or where they’re from. She hasn’t come up alone, either — her team’s been ranked the top 1 percent team in the Springs area in the last two years. “When she sees a need, she figures out how to fill it,” wrote Martha Marzolf in her nomination for Rodriguez. Marzolf is Rodriguez’s boss, the managing broker for the region. “She has given away [thousands] of pumpkins to military families, she hosts deserving families during the holidays, she volunteers at her daughter’s school, she is [a youth minister for Stephen Ministries] and will randomly go shopping for food and home goods for families in need,” Marzolf said. Rodriguez has been in the Springs for five years now, having moved with her husband, Bryan, from Austin, Texas. She’s originally from Riga, the capital of Latvia, having first visited when she was a year away from grad-

uating college. She said she and her fellow students were encouraged to see more of the world. “A lot of kids went to countries like England and Holland, but I had a passion for America,” she said, adding that shortly after coming here, speaking barely a word of English, she decided to stick around and she’s lived here ever since. It was hard, and she had to work multiple jobs while learning a new language, but not only has she built a foundation for herself, she’s made enough money to move her parents into a home in the Springs, where they’ve lived since 2015. Rodriguez considers herself to be a professional saleswoman, having worked in customer service jobs since she was 14. In Texas, after a period as a dental assistant, she got into retail sales for Puma, Kenneth Cole and others. When she isn’t using her relatable personality to sell real estate, she’s raising two kids and likely volunteering somewhere. Under her supervision, her team has made charitable donations to Springs Rescue Mission and TESSA. She volunteers at the Ruth Washburn Cooperative Nursery School, which her daughter attends. “I feel like it’s my duty to give back to this community as much as I can,” she said. “Other people don’t have this easy, and with what I’ve worked for, with what I have right now in life, I cannot take it for granted.” — Griffin Swartzell

What advice wo uld you give your younger self? Always be authen tic. Always be yourself . Don’t always just be wh at people expect you to be.

Bree Shellito


overty means more than not having money. It means lacking education on how to organize one’s personal finances, and it means being stuck in patterns of behavior that help with survival but make it difficult to escape poverty. Rising Star Bree Shellito knows that better than many — she grew up in a family impacted by poverty. But she’s gotten out, and now, she’s going back to share what she’s learned. Shellito works at Ent Credit Union as the financial institution’s community education coordinator. Day-to-day, she organizes presentations and resources for schools and organizations seeking to teach young people about finances, mostly targeting high school and early college students. “I think that that’s the trouble is that parents often think that schools are teaching [about credit and finance], and schools think the parents are teaching it,” she said. “Then there’s this big gap where even if the parents are teaching it, parents often learned their financial skills from their parents.” That doesn’t just affect young people who have learned finance from parents who survived poverty. Some people with more make bad assumptions about their financial needs. And given that she says 61 percent of Americans have under $1,000 in savings, an amount that even a minor crisis could wipe out, her work is needed. Shellito is the first person to have her title. While Ent has received requests for financial education materials,

the credit union did not have any employees dedicated to handling such requests until January 2018. Shellito is also planning larger events to reach more people and teach them about things like how credit scores work. That all ties into decisions she made for herself early on in life. Shellito wanted stability and the opportunity to chase bigger dreams than someone in her parents’ socioeconomic range could. She wants better for herself, but she also wants better for the communities she’s part of. Recently, she completed Leadership Pikes Peak’s LeadershipNow! Program, integrating herself with local nonprofits and community and business leaders, and she’s now part of the organization’s steering committee, adding to her responsibilities as a member of the steering committee for Ent’s Young Professionals group. “Bree believes in the power of women and leadership,” said business banker D’Andre Johnson, who nominated her for the Rising Stars recognition. “She exemplifies what it means to be a go-getter. Bree continues to grow and enrich the lives of everyone she meets… It is amazing to watch her work hand [in] hand with the many initiatives her job requires.” Currently, Shellito is attending UCCS and seeking a degree in communication, expanding her skill-set and further embodying a favorite quote from Albert Einstein: “Be a voice, not an echo.” — Griffin Swartzell

What do you wa nt to be when you grow up?

When I grow up, I would like to be an inspiration.

Meghan Stidd


r. Meghan Stidd can’t remember a time in her life when education wasn’t important. The Ellicott home she grew up in was always full of books on any subject she could imagine. And when she wasn’t learning, she was teaching — she recalls tutoring first graders while she herself was in third grade. “In high school, my math teacher actually gave me an award because I spent a period in the library just tutoring other students in math,” she said. “She joked that I was her unofficial teachers teacher’s aide.” Today, Stidd is the assistant dean for external relations at the UCCS college of business, a job she was promoted to in late 2018. Previously, she was the program director for the college’s career development center, a challenging position at the time. She was the program’s fourth director in two years, and she found the department underutilized and at a near standstill, with what a lot of broken relationships with the community, she said. A mere 30 percent of the student body used the center’s services. But in two years, she boosted student participation by 30 percent and established 100 new connections with employers, providing access to internship opportunities and more, according to Samantha Meyer, the college of business’s marketing and communications coordinator, who nominated Stidd for this award. “The biggest reason why we started developing the program is because the our industry leaders, employers that we work in the community have talked about the need for

the students to really have their soft skills developed,” she said. “There’s communication skills, their ability to manage conflict, customer service skills, and just the things that we may not necessarily teach in our curriculum, but that are essential for students that want to enter the workforce.” Stidd has a long history with UCCS. She moved from Ellicott to the Springs in 2000, dual-majoring in human resources management and marketing at the college of business. She earned not only that, but a master’s in public administration and a Ph.D. in educational leadership, research and policy from the school. During her undergraduate years, she worked with the mountain pacific branch of an organization called Troops to Teachers, which helps military service members transition into teaching careers. She said she held just about every job possible in that organization, including her nine-year career as associate regional director and seven months as regional director. Since 2010, she’s also been a board member of Forever Learning on Wheels, a mobile tutoring service that targets low-income students. “I think it’s really important that we help support those students [whose] families might not have the capacity to be able to give them that extra support that they need,” Stidd said. — Griffin Swartzell

What makes Colorado Springs home? I think it’s that no matter where you go, it always seems like you know someone, and if you don’t, someone will make an effort to make you feel included.

Alexis Thompson


f anything defines Alexis Thompson’s approach to managing client accounts and marketing efforts at local IT company Amnet, it’s her focus on customer service. She worked as a server at The Broadmoor hotel for six years, which she says ingrained good customer service practices into her DNA. Though Thomspon is a Springs native, she grew up in Denver before attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins, intending to study veterinary medicine, her dream since she was 9 years old. She transferred to UCCS, where she found an obstacle she couldn’t overcome: chemistry. Three failed attempts later, she decided to change majors. “I decided to try business because that’s a practical degree and you can do anything with it,” she said. She found a taste and a knack for marketing there, and she ultimately earned her Bachelor’s in marketing in 2018. She’d already been working part-time at Amnet for two years by then; graduation simply meant going full-time at a job she already enjoyed. Thompson is by no means shy about shaking things up, either. She recently revamped the company’s entire client account management process from the ground up. “In revitalizing our client account management process, I’ve been able to find ways that I can bring more value to our clients and make sure that when we get together, we’re talking about things that are important and not just going through a checklist that’s been the same for 20

years,” she said. That’s a bold accomplishment for anyone, magnified by the fact that Thompson is a mere 25 years old. It’s no surprise, then, that Amnet founder and CEO Trevor Dierdorff offered effusive praise for her in his nomination. “She takes initiative to find solutions for our team and our clients,” he said. “She frequently goes above and beyond in doing her job and taking on many tasks that are not specifically anyone’s job. If she sees something needs to get done, she jumps in and does it.” That’s defined how she operates at Amnet, yes, but that’s also characterized her extracurricular activities. One of her significant business accomplishments has been the revival of Amnet’s Engineers with Beers, a monthly event she’s hosted in the Springs, Castle Rock and Denver to facilitate networking in a professional field she says tends to be insular and less-than-social at times. Typically, they draw between 10 and 25 attendees per event. She’s also started a group called Aspiring Change Makers, a small organization meant to foster deeper connections among young professionals by facilitating quarterly events with expert networkers, as well as regular networking events and meetings with profession-specific “tribes.” “I hate seeing things fall through the cracks,” she said. “Any time I see a hole, I try to find a way to fix it.” — Griffin Swartzell

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Sophie Thunberg What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell myself not to be afraid, to be myself and to walk with purpose.


o matter who’s doing it, no matter how supportive their surroundings, coming out is difficult and scary. It was true for Sophie Thunberg, a Manitou Springs native, which might surprise some, given Manitou’s liberal reputation. But she had help. She found Inside Out Youth Services while looking for resources. “I went in for drop-in hours one day and met some really supportive adults there,” she said. “For me, part of my journey in coming out as a young queer woman is realizing that my gender and sexuality is something I don’t have to be ashamed of.” Now 28, Thunberg works as an outreach educator for Inside Out. She’s primarily in charge of the organization’s Trusted Adult Training program, which helps adults start difficult conversations with young people. That includes gender and sexual orientation, yes, but it’s more than that. “We want to inform our young people about the choices that they’re making,” Thunberg says. “We acknowledge that young folks take more risks, and that’s also typical in adolescence.” She adds that LGBTQ youths are two to three times more likely to get into dangerous situations. Her particular focus is on substance abuse prevention, which she calls Inside Out’s second priority behind suicide prevention. She tends to work with organizations that have

greater access to potentially at-risk kids, such as schools and Urban Peak. While Thunberg has always wanted to do good for the world around her, initially, she set her sights much higher. She intended to go into politics or work for the United Nations when she left Colorado to attend New York University in New York City. There, she earned a bachelor’s degree in global liberal studies — like international studies, but acknowledging boundaries beyond national boundaries, she said. She earned a Master of Arts degree in French studies at NYU before returning to Colorado, seeking to apply her skills at a more grassroots level. Volunteering at Inside Out only made sense; she did that while working as a substitute teacher across El Paso county. “Every time she started in a new school, she would bring [Inside Out] brochures to the counseling departments at schools to let them know about services that could benefit their LGBTQ youth,” said Jessie Pocock, Inside Out’s executive director, who also nominated Thunberg. “She was an ally in the strongest sense, and in many ways, she was putting herself on the line for her advocacy.” “As someone who grew up in the Springs, I’ve always been a hardworking, passionate individual,” said Thunberg. “I’m trying to help change the climate in our community and our city. … Being LGBTQ is OK, and it’s more than OK. It’s something we need to accept.” — Griffin Swartzell

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