GenXYZ: 10 more of Colorado's Top 25 Young Professionals
More rising stars in Colorado business
Erik Mitisek, 35
Co-Founder and vice president, Next Great Place Inc.
Path to success: Mitisek started his first successful business, Riki Wear, as a student at the University of Denver. He has been the first employee or early team member of four Denver companies, and he has been building companies and hiring employees here for more than a decade. Prior to co-founding Next Great Place Inc., he led firm-wide business development and corporate development activities for Exclusive Resorts, where he orchestrated partnerships with companies including Neiman Marcus, American Express, NetJets, Merrill Lynch, UBS, and Morgan Stanley. Before Exclusive Resorts, Mitisek was a pioneer in the online music industry supporting the founders of XACT Radio in building a world-class personalized music software company and was integral in the sale of the firm to PureTracks, a Canadian online music company.
Making an impact: Most recently, Mitisek co-founded Next Great Place, a curated vacation network, with leading Denver entrepreneur Tom Filippini, founder of Exclusive Resorts. The company has since grown to more than 15 employees and attracted investment from a top Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
Connecting with the community: In 2012 Mitisek organized and formalized Startup Mile High, an initiative to amplify entrepreneurship and innovation in Denver.The group’s membership now exceeds 225 entrepreneurial professionals. He is on the board of advisers for the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship.
Jessica Peck, 33
Open Government Institute, Executive Director-Legal Counsel
Path to success: Peck earned a B.S. with honors in Journalism from the University of Colorado, an M.A. with honors in government from Johns Hopkins University, and her law degree from the University of Denver on a public interest scholarship.
Making an impact: In addition to her work at the Open Government Institute, Peck is a principal-founder at Henley Public Affairs, and owner of her own law firm. Peck is a 2012 nominee for the Denver Business Journal’s "Most Influential Women in Business"award. Previous honors include selection as the Colorado Statesman newspaper’s political "Mover and Shaker," a top-three finalist for the Colorado Bar Association’s 2011 "Young Leader of the Year" award, the Phillip Foundation’s prestigious Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship, and the Pulliam Journalism Fellowship. She earlier served as executive director of the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative, and is on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission’s Colorado Advisory Committee, where she chairs the sub-committee on educational due process. In 2004, at age 25, she was a Republican nominee for the Colorado Senate, and was narrowly defeated by a two-term incumbent.
Connecting with the community: In June, she served as a mentor under the U.S. State Department’s Young African Leaders Initiative. She maintains an active commitment to donating her time and energy to providing free and reduced-cost legal counsel to indigent individuals and organizations.
Jasmine Peters, 36
Founder, Parenting Wellness Center
Path to success: Born in Atlanta, Peters is a Certified Life Coach and motivational speaker and a single parent of five children, ranging in age from 8 to 16.
Making an impact: Peters was selected to represent Colorado to promote healthy living for black women and girls by national nonprofit GirlTrek. Peters also is the author of "Move Or Be Moved" (Peach Publishing, 2009). She has provided professional coaching for nonprofits, including the Denver Community Resource Center, and in corporate settings. Peters is the founder of Single Parents United and S.E.L.F Leadership and Development for African American Children in the Cherry Creek School District. Peters also authors a Parenting column in Outfront Colorado magazine, which provides parenting tips and encouragement to single parents in the LGBT community. Peters was also a Class of 2012 Leadership Cherry Creek Graduate, an invitation-only program. She also conducts workshops and training programs at low-income housing complexes and Denver-area churches. In 2010, Peters spoke at the Colorado State Legislature on "Single Parenting and Self-Sufficiency."
Connecting with the community: "Jasmine is one of the most focused women I know," says LGBT community colleague Penny DeNoble. "Jasmine is willing to improve her own personal skill sets by taking courses, seeking out mentors and engaging in critique-related activities to ensure she is becoming the best at what she does and the services she provides to her clients."
Nicole Reeves, 35
Senior Vice President, FirstBank Northern Colorado
Path to success: Reeves graduated magna cum laude from Colorado State University with a B.S. degree in business management. She climbed the corporate ladder from a junior officer to a senior vice president and area manager of three branch locations in Greeley and Fort Collins.
Making an impact: "Nicole spends a significant amount of time training, coaching and providing support to junior officers on topics ranging from work/life balance to loan documents," says supervisor Pat Brady. In 2005, Nicole brainstormed a loan concept that would help finance the purchase of real estate through self-directed retirement plans. The ensuing pilot program she managed led to a company-wide launch at all 125-plus locations that has produced more than $30 million in loan originations. In 2007, Nicole played a key role in the creation of the Northern Colorado chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women, a nationwide professional association with 8,000 members. She joined FirstBank in 1999.
Connecting with the community: "Nicole has taken FirstBank’s policy of encouraging officers to serve on a nonprofit board to a new level," says Brady. She has served on the board of seven different nonprofit organizations and has actively volunteered with 10 during her FirstBank career.
Chad Ronholdt, 39
Vice President of Strategic Development, LABS Inc.
Path to success: Ronholdt has worked in the medical devices and biologics fields for 13 years. While he is classically trained as a microbiologist, Ronholdt also holds an MBA. In his previous position as director of research and development at nonprofit tissue bank AlloSource, Ronholdt founded a college internship program that educated and trained undergraduate students in basic laboratory techniques and gave them a decisive advantage over their peers upon graduation. Ronholdt has held positions of increasing authority at LABS including senior manager of microbiology, director of research and development, and now vice president of strategic development.
Making an impact: At LABS, Ronholdt manages six R&D employees and empowers staff to push the envelope and look for the "next big thing." Ronholdt tells employees that failure is acceptable, because more is learned from failures than successes. At LABS Ronholdt is charged with identifying, developing and disseminating the corporate strategies and goals to ensure the long-term sustained growth of the company’s $40 million scientific testing laboratory.
Connecting with the community: Ronholdt currently serves as an adjunct professor at Colorado State University’s Microbiology, Pathology and Immunology department. He also speaks to biomedical engineering students about how to take a biologic product to market through the complex product lifecycle process.
Karen Rowan, 38
Owner, Fluency Fast Language Classes
Path to success: Rowan has been teaching Spanish with TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) since 1995. As the foreign language department chair at the Colorado Springs School she worked with department members to create a preschool through the 12 Comprehension-Based Methods curriculum based on the Colorado State Standards, and taught eighth-through-12th grade Spanish classes. Rowan has a B.A in Spanish from Colorado College and an M.A. in Spanish and pedagogy from the University of Northern Colorado.
Making an impact: Rowan is the author of the Comprehension-Based Methods supplements for "Paso a paso and Realidades," published by Prentice Hall. She is the co-author of TPRS Gestures and Mini-Situations for "Look, I Can Talk More," with Blaine Ray. Rowan was the director of the National TPRS conference from 2003 to 2006 and has presented TPRS workshops for Rowan Workshops Inc. and Blaine Ray Workshops Inc. since 1996.
Connecting with the community: Rowan discovered a need within Colorado Springs Young Professionals several years ago for a friendly connector who would meet first-time attendees and connect them with other attendees. Group founder Jon Severson created an ambassadorship position for her. Also, after having volunteered for many years, she has joined the advisory board of the Bob Telmossee Christmas Giveaway, managing the food giveaway portion of that event.
Andy Seth, 34
LotusGroup Advisors Managing Partner
Path to success: By age 13, Seth had started a disk jockey company and earned full-ride scholarships to Culver Military Academy and Boston College totaling more than $250,000. He also started and sold two firms: a Web design firm and Golfstore.com. Seth then co-founded the LotusGroup Advisors investment firm.
Making an impact: LotusGroup Advisors currently manages $75 million and works with more than 120 individuals and families nationwide. Seth also has launched a business in Costa Rica in 2012 that focuses on making investments in startups and providing microfinance loans.
Connecting with the community: Seth and his staff at LotusGroup also serve Minds Matter of Denver as donors, golf tournament chair, director of volunteers, and mentor. Minds Matter results include: 100 percent of sophomores and juniors went to summer college programs; 100 percent of seniors attended four-year colleges; 100 percent of seniors earned scholarships. Seth was personally responsible for having raised more than $100,000 per year to fulfill the nonprofit’s budget. Seth also has developed a plan to once again double the students MMD serves over the next four years. Seth provides supplemental advice, fundraising, and event planning to help KIPP achieve its mission. This year, Seth helped raise more than $85,000 in a single evening when he was the auction emcee.
S. Brian Smith, 27
The Space Creators, President and Founder
Path to success: After receiving his education at Sewanee – the University of the South – and the University of Denver Daniels College of Business, Smith went to work for NorthMarq Capital, where he moved up to assistant vice president. However, he soon left to fulfill his entrepreneurial instincts. In short order he founded ForeclosureJet.com and the Space Creators.
Making an impact: The Space Creators opened Wazee Union in RiNo, Denver’s River North district in 2010.The building filled quickly, and he followed with Walnut Workshop in 2011 and Laundry on Lawrence in 2012. Now, the company represents more than 150 tenants across three buildings, and includes a real estate brokerage and building management group. Revenues have grown from $80,000 in 2010 to a projected $800,000 this year. Westword named Wazee Union and Walnut Workshop "Best Artists Community" in 2011, and Laundry on Lawrence was named "Best New Arts Project" by the paper in 2012. In addition, Smith launched Makers and Doers in 2011. Nearly 100 artists, creative businesses and entrepreneurs attend the monthly networking events, which are designed to cultivate a community of
Connecting with the community: Smith is chairman of the RiNo Neighbors District. Smith is also a supporter of the Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute, a nonprofit organization providing learning, lending, and coaching to grow community entrepreneurs who build businesses to advance along the pathway to self-sufficiency and self-worth.
Scott Van Daele, 34
Director of Operations, We Don’t Waste
Path to success: Van Daele in 2000 graduated from Metropolitan State College of Denver with a Bachelor’s Degree in journalism. After a stint in radio, and as director of marketing for parks and recreation for Los Angeles, he moved back to Denver in 2007. Van Daele was hired as the special events coordinator for Urban Peak, a nonprofit that serves homeless youth, raising more than $4 million in three years for the organization. There, Van Daele and volunteer Arlan Preblud noticed the quantities of food that caterers were throwing away. This inspired him to start We Don’t Waste.
Making an impact: Nonprofit We Don’t Waste in the past year has saved more than 500 tons of food from going to waste, instead providing more than 50 Denver nonprofits with food for the families and individuals they serve. Van Daele has created partnerships with some of the largest food providers in Colorado in an effort to help ease food costs for struggling nonprofits. Among others, these include: SYSCO, Aramark, Three Tomatoes Catering, Occasions by Sandy, CenterPlate, Epicurean, the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Avalanche, the Palm, Happy Cakes, Gigi’s Cupcakes, and King Soopers.
Connecting with the community: Van Daele is committee chair for Colorado Homeless Youth Awareness, committee chair for Denver’s Road Home PJ Day and Project Homeless Connect, annual events for which he helped to raise $3 million since 2008. He is the Denver Rescue Mission Gala Committee co-chair.
Zackary Lewis, 37
CEO and founder, Liquid Compass
Path to success: A graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder Leeds School of Business, Lewis also is a veteran of the Marine Corps’ famed "Walking Dead" infantry battalion. He has launched three successful companies, founding Genesis Marketing Group while still attending CU. After Genesis Marketing, Lewis founded GlobalTRACK Technologies, an asset-tracking technology company.
Making an impact: Lewis’ third company, Liquid Compass, also was founded in 2001. The Liquid Compass Streaming Delivery Network provides live and on-demand stream hosting and Web services, and also offers an array of stream hosting services for desktop and mobile applications. Hundreds of radio stations stream their programming through Liquid Compass Streaming Delivery Network. The company also is the leading developer of customizable media players and radio streaming applications. Through Liquid Compass’ newly released player, LC PRO 2.0, radio stations have more ways to offer advertising and monetize their stations. It is the only radio streaming platform that currently offers full player takeovers, in-stream couponing, full social media integration and consumer polling.
Connecting with the community: Lewis promotes philanthropy through his company, which has made contributions to the Colorado Make-A-Wish Foundation for many years. Liquid Compass has also been a sponsor of events including the Sean "Ranch" Lough Memorial Scholarship Fund.