GenXYZ: Our Top 5 Young Professionals
Meet our under-40 business standouts
The GenXYZ top five were chosen based on professional achievement, as well as community involvement or impact, obstacles surmounted and each candidate’s personal story. The judging panel consists of the ColoradoBiz editorial staff plus two members of the business community, including one former Gen XYZ winner.
Jessica Acosta, 35
Principal/CEO, Environmental Consulting Services
It’s not easy starting high school. It’s even tougher when you’re 14 and speak no English.
For Jessica Acosta, that was just another challenge to be faced and conquered. She did it again when she worked her way up in the male-dominated construction industry to become a project manager.
“You are the only one who can determine the level of success you want to achieve,” Acosta says. “I learned this early in my career when I graduated with a communications degree and was faced with the reality of my bills and had to pursue a job in the construction industry. I thought, ‘What could I possibly do in construction?’ It was never an industry or career I had even remotely considered.”
Acosta not only survived, she thrived, along the way acquiring the knowledge to be in charge of all environmental compliance requirements. Laid off after six years, Acosta decided to take that knowledge and turn it into a new business venture.
Environmental Consulting Services (ECS) gives clients the storm water management and compliance tools, as well as water quality information they need, to focus on project success. The firm also facilitates risk mitigation and promotes a proactive approach to storm water compliance to protect client investments.
“When I started my business, I was afraid of the challenge because I had no idea how to start and run a business,” Acosta says. “But I was never afraid of learning something new. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to read plans when I first started. What mattered most was the fact that I didn’t see that as an obstacle to succeed.”
Jeff Casimir, 35
Executive Director, Turing School of Software & Design
Casimir started the Turing School of Software & Design in 2014 as a nonprofit to open the world of programming to motivated people who want an entrée into 21st century careers. Part of his mission is to create a more diverse, creative and socially minded tech community, Casimir created a diversity scholarship program for qualified students.
Chanda Hinton-Leichtle, 34
Executive Director, Chanda Plan Foundation
Chanda Hinton Leichtle became a quadriplegic at age 9, when an accidental gun discharge sent a bullet through her spine. Twelve years later, she weighed 59 pounds and was close to death.
Today, Hinton-Leichtle is living life to the fullest and changing other people’s lives as well. Through her foundation, she helps others with disabilities access the integrative therapies she credits with saving her own life, alternative treatments such as massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and adaptive yoga.
“I like to problem-solve and discover options that break down whatever is preventing us from having successful human experiences,” Hinton-Leichtle says. “With health care being a significant part of everyone’s experience, the gaps and barriers with that portion of life are so important to me.”
In 2009, Hinton-Leichtle worked with policymakers to pass the Spinal Cord Injury Medicaid Waiver, which evaluates the efficacy of alternative therapies and consequential cost-savings for people with spinal cord injuries in Colorado. The waiver recently was extended and expanded through 2020, and the foundation has been designated one of two provider locations in the state.
Hinton-Leichtle does it all, from managing the day-to-day foundation operations, to fundraising and development, to community outreach, to advocating for policy changes, to inspiring clients. So far this year, she has raised more than $3 million of the foundation’s $4 million capital fundraising goal.
Peter Melby, 35
President, Greystone Technology
Melby co-founded Greystone at age 20. In the 14 years since, Greystone has averaged 40 percent growth per year and now has 70 employees. Melby makes sure his sales team is also accountable for delivering results, and that model has been game-changing for the IT industry and clients such as the city of Centennial, Breckenridge Brewery, UCHealth, Colorado State University, Mad Greens and Union Station.
Jeremiah Owen, 38
President & CEO, Vivax Pros
In 2004, Owen started Vivax to raise the bar for customer service in the home-improvement industry. The organization’s core values include integrity, hard work, friendship, accountability, respect, perfection, enthusiasm, growth, service and community. “He created a family company of like-minded badasses who work hard and happily every single day,” says Marni Caicedo, Vivax’s head of recruitment.