NOCO’s 30 Under 30 – 2021

By: Staff

By Angie Grenz | Headshot Photos by Christina Gressianu Photography and Nominee Provided

NOCO Style is once again celebrating youth, specifically those 20-somethings in our community who have harnessed the power, energy and enthusiasm that is intrinsic to being young. In April, we reached out to the community to ask, “Who impresses you?” We received an amazing list of local leaders, all paving their path for the future with a ferocity and focus that is admirable. From artists to nonprofit heroes to savvy businessmen and -women, we are impressed by their drive to grasp the reins of their future and shape it to their will, with some as young as 22 years old. We feature 10 in this issue and another 20 online at Get to know these young dynamos and be inspired by all they have already accomplished.

Sarah Brown

Age: 26 

Profession: Realtor 

Future focus: To start a travelling family.

Tell us about yourself: To understand where I am now, you have to understand where I came from. I was born and raised in Michigan and grew up in a one parent household. My mother passed when I was about 5 years old. She had a drug abuse problem. The rest of my family wasn’t around much, either. At a very young age I became independent and started working. I left Michigan at 19 to move to North Carolina for a new adventure. Little did I know I would be meeting my future husband there. He was in the Marine Corps at the time. When he was finishing up his last deployment, he was accepted into Colorado State. This opened up a world of possibilities for me. Before, I was a cosmetologist. I have always enjoyed cosmetology, but never LOVED it. I decided to take a chance and start real estate school. It wasn’t easy getting started, a lot goes in to being a realtor that most people don’t think about. Once I got going, I loved it! Helping people, making lifelong relationships, AND working for myself? I was sold!

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? To be completely honest what motivates me is the desire to have a better life. The way I grew up wasn’t exactly rainbows and sparkles. Building a life where I can thrive and enjoy my time is my biggest motivation. I love creating a happy, healthy environment around myself and extending that to others around me. I have just recently launched another business called Blais & Blossom, an online boutique where I sell handmade polymer clay/resin jewelry. This started as a fun little hobby, and it’s grown into so much more than that. Putting yourself out there with something that comes from your heart can be scary, but so rewarding. If I can bring happiness to someone buying/selling a home or making them a piece of jewelry, I am all about it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for real estate, as well as B&B.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My biggest influence in my life has got to be my husband, Drew. He is my number one fan, my biggest support system. He is always pushing me to be my best self. He never questions my crazy ideas. He just thinks how we can make them happen. When I told him I wanted to open another business even though I have been so busy with real estate, during a pandemic, he jumped at the chance to support me. We all have days where we don’t feel adequate or good enough, and those are the days that can make or break you if you let them. To always have someone in your corner rooting for you helps on the hard days. I really wouldn’t be where I am today without his love and support.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? I want to say a little of my social life….but to be honest I am kind of a homebody anyway. It does weigh on you when you haven’t had a day off in over a month…but that’s just being a realtor in the heat of a Fort Collins market. I know that all my hard work will pay off for our future. Although I do feel I could use a couple extra camping trips after this first half of the year. It’s been busy!

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In five years, I hope to have started a family of our own. Maybe we will be a traveling family. We’ve always talked about making an adventure van and taking it all around the US. In 10 years, I hope to own another business and teach my (future) children the value of being your own boss and making a name for yourself. I would love for this business to better the community around me and influence local youth. I hope to create a legacy and be able to pass down my businesses to my family someday.

Hudson Bloom

Age: 27

Profession: Executive Producer/Director at JETBLACK Film Co.

Ambition: To be a Hollywood movie director.

Tell us about yourself: When I was 8 years old, I became fascinated with filmmaking. I thought it was magic. My friends and I borrowed our parents’ video cameras and started making movies in the backyard. I knew from that moment that I was going to be a filmmaker. I made everything from short films, music videos, vlogs, you-name-it, throughout my teenage years. When I was 18, I got a job shooting and editing video for a Fort Collins based company. That job took me all over the country, from California to Chicago and even NYC. I created over 500 videos during my time there. In 2016, I started my own company, JETBLACK Film Co. We began producing music videos.

Through the years, we have grown immensely and focus most of our energy on higher-end commercial productions and brand content. We are currently dreaming up a few short film projects, but I can’t reveal too much about those now. Plus, everyone loves a good surprise. Our hope is to bring the Northern Colorado film community together to work on a feature-length film within the next couple of years.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I’ve been motivated by the same goal since I was eight. I knew even then that I wanted to be a Hollywood movie director. I wake up every day and work toward that goal, whether that’s producing and directing my own projects, working on film sets, or even watching “behind the scenes” of my favorite films. I’m always out finding new ways for me to learn and to grow, both in the arts and in my own business.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My parents are by far the biggest influence in my life. They are serial entrepreneurs and taught me at a young age that anything is possible if you focus and work toward it. They were never afraid of a challenge and watching them gave me the confidence to dream big and work hard.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? When I was 15, I read a book called, “How to Shoot a Feature Film for Under $10,000 (And Not Go to Jail).“ In one of the chapters, it says that in order to become a legitimate filmmaker, you must only wear black. So, I gave up all the colors in my wardrobe.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I would love to still be learning new skills behind the camera, and still be meeting and collaborating with other creative filmmakers. But mostly, I really hope to be directing and producing feature-length films while continuing to grow my production company.

How would you like to give back to your community? I want aspiring filmmakers to know that they don’t need to go to L.A. to start creating. I have colleagues from Fort Collins who are currently making feature-length films right now. It’s doable! The Horsetooth International Film Festival has done a fantastic job in bringing awareness and inspiration to local aspiring filmmakers, and I hope to help continue to expand on what they’re doing there.

Mariah Bryant

Age: 27

Profession: Fort Collins Club Manager at Genesis Health Clubs

Future focus: To inspire young professionals. 

Tell us about yourself: I was born in a small town to a non-traditional family. I grew up with somewhat limited resources and watched the people I love struggle to live the life they so earnestly wanted. Early on in life, my purpose was heavily influenced by a desire to watch the people that I care about thrive, not just survive. I am fueled every day by my passion to help others. I am where I am because of the strength that came from the struggle. I want to inspire others to rejoice in the challenges they face, knowing most triumph comes after pain and hardship.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? Motivation comes from many things for me, but my primary motivator is my desire to inspire others to overcome everything they face. I am passionate about leadership and personal development for the individuals I get to interact with daily. I believe your mind is a compass. It is important to take your thoughts in the direction that will propel you forward towards your vision for your life. It is crucial as a leader to light the path and lead the way for others to take charge of their life.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? The biggest influence in my life is my sweet dear grandmother. Her ability to overcome the struggles she has faced in her life is truly inspiring. Not only has she overcome hardships, but she has conquered her mountains with grace and selflessness. She leads by example and extends love and generosity to anyone and everyone she meets. She is a true example of perseverance and persistence.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? There is no winning without sacrifice. I left my family behind to pursue the dream I knew I could achieve. I believe it is my moral obligation to live up to my potential, and those who truly care about me will support the goals I have for myself. I enjoy the limited time with my friends and family, but my calling is to have the biggest impact I possibly can. In the end, when you win, the right people who stood by your side will still be there. There is also no love without sacrifice. Those who genuinely support you will understand your sacrifice as love.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In the next five to 10 years, my goal is to increase my impact. I want to be in a role focusing primarily on leadership development so I can help those at the helm of businesses and corporations direct the intention of the organization to have the biggest influence on the employees, customers and management at different levels throughout. I live to inspire and lead up and coming professionals. You are the future. Your influence matters. I will do what I can to show the world those truths.

Lacey Chaffey

Age: 28 

Profession: Marketing & Social Media Director at Gulley Greenhouse


Future focus: To meet creative people while she figures out what’s next.

Tell us about yourself: I just turned 28 this June, and I’m the marketing/social media director for the family-owned business, Gulley Greenhouse. I specialize in all things creative through social media and uniquely tie it into marketing. I was born and raised in Fort Collins and have lived back and forth between Fort Collins and the Bay Area in California throughout my 20s. I’ve always been a creative person and moving around frequently pushed me to find who I am artistically and creatively. I always loved making music and all sort of visual arts.  At the age 22, I really fell in love with videography/photography and decided I was going to use my natural talents and all my passions and put them to good use! With social media, I have found a way to mix content creating and marketing together and find my own style.

The last three years I have been working at Gulley Greenhouse and have had the amazing opportunity from my bosses Jamie Gulley and David Burleigh to create and become the marketing director. Through their support and trust, I have been able to create and grow their social platforms and presence. It’s something I’m incredibly passionate about, grateful for and proud of.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I’ve always been passionate about growing myself artistically and pushing myself to make art in different forms. With my current job, I use my passion for creativity and combine them with marketing techniques.

I’m motivated by the continuous support, encouragement and faith my employers have in me. Being allowed to have a creative vision for this position has been everything. Working for a wonderful business like Gulley Greenhouse is so humbling and I’m so grateful to be able to create in a beautiful space. Being trusted and believed in keeps me motivated and working hard to continue growing their social media presence, while creatively marketing.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? The biggest influence in my life changes as I continue to grow and learn as I get older. Currently, the biggest influences in my life are all the amazing people I work with at Gulley Greenhouse. My co-workers, my boss Jamie Gulley and her wonderful family that have created the beauty that is Gulley Greenhouse, has been such a huge influence on me and how I work.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? I wouldn’t say give up. I don’t think you have to look at it as giving up anything or sacrificing to be able to be successful. I rather look at it as, what have I had to change? I’ve had to change my mindset and work on myself entirely to be able to work hard and grow myself.  I’ve had to work on trusting myself and allowing myself to accept my accomplishments and know my worth. It’s easy to have imposter syndrome this day in age and self-sabotage but focusing on how far I’ve come and how far I will/can go is everything.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I like this question because I don’t know and that’s exciting!  Five years ago, I didn’t know where I would be now. I’m can’t wait to see where I am in five or 10 years. I know myself and my passions and see myself continuing to work creatively and expand my creative endeavors. I would love to work with other creatives along the way and always keep learning. Allowing myself to keep growing and always learning really has gotten me a long way!

Tony DeMario

Age: 27

Profession: Preconstruction Manager at Heath Steel

Future focus: To start a family.

Tell us about yourself: My family has been active in Fort Collins since the 1950s, starting with Heath Engineering and Farm Equipment, then Heath Construction (general contractor), and now Heath Steel (metal building contractor). I grew up in the construction industry, with my grandfather starting Heath Construction in 1977. Since age 16, I have worked for either Heath Construction or Heath Steel in some capacity or another, starting as a summer laborer. I attended CSU for both my undergraduate and master’s program in mechanical engineering and am proud to be a fourth-generation engineer. Three years ago, when I finished school, I decided to follow in my grandfather and father’s footsteps and join the family business. Since then, I have held every position in the company, from estimator to financial controller to project manager to operations manager to preconstruction manager, which is my current title. Today, I run the day-to-day operations of Heath Steel and directly manage our estimating and business development work.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? Building Heath Steel into the premier metal building contractor in Colorado. I wish to continue to learn and grow and become the best leader I can be. I believe that we should all give back to the communities we live in and in ways that excite and inspire us. The primary nonprofit that I am involved with is Realities for Children and specifically their Nightlights Event. It has been my personal joy to erect the 60 ft. steel Night Lights tree in downtown Fort Collins for the past 17 years.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? The biggest in fluence in my life has been my father. He has always encouraged me to be my best and has been my role model for being a successful, professional and ethical businessman. I am very fortunate to be able to work with my father every day as we continue to grow Heath Steel.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? I have given up a lot of my free time and sleep in my pursuit of running and eventually owning Heath Steel. However, I believe that having a balanced lifestyle is as important to success as working hard. I have an amazing girlfriend and I have been able to set aside time to enjoy traveling, mountain biking, sailing, rebuilding my grandfather’s old truck, finishing my basement and trying my hand at gardening. Having a balanced lifestyle looks a little different when you own a business because, while I devote time to my hobbies, my mind is constantly working on future planning and further development of Heath Steel.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In five years, I plan to be running Heath Steel with the help of my brother-in-Law, Damian Trost, and raising a family in Northern Colorado. In 10 years, I hope that I can grow Heath Steel into one of the largest metal building contractors in the country, with multiple offices, and to have solidified our engineering division, a reboot of Heath Engineering, as a top metal building engineering company.

Lincoln Ell

Age: 24

Profession: WomenGive Program Coordinator and jewelry maker

Future focus: To incorporate art therapy into rehabilitation.

Tell us about yourself: I was born and raised in Colorado and grew up in Loveland. Throughout my life, I’ve been drawn to two things: art and people. I inherited my love of art from my father, an artist, and compassion from my mom, who works as a doula. The support I’ve received from family, friends and mentors has paved the way for my success and the role I chose in my community. I recently graduated from Colorado State University with a double major in fine arts and social work. I continue to pursue art by creating my own jewelry, and through work at a local jewelry company. I continue my dedication to humanity through work at United Way of Larimer County as the WomenGive Program Coordinator.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I love the embracing nature of the Fort Collins community and the people who contribute to that wonderful trait. I am motivated by human connection and the way it creates a way to learn and understand other perspectives. I look forward to continuing to be involved and diversify the philanthropic opportunities I participate in and hope to become a leader for others. Art serves as an outlet for me that can be functional and fun. I am motivated by the way art allows you to express yourself while interacting with others on a personal level. To have someone wear your art is truly a privilege.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? I am grateful for the hard work and grit my father demonstrates and has passed down to me. He has created balance for his professional career while allowing time for creativity and passion. My mother inspires me with her patience and shows the importance of understanding. Her empathy shines through in the work and the way she fosters her family. My younger brothers inspire me with their spirit and resiliency; they radiate strength mentally and emotionally.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? To be honest, I have been very privileged and haven’t had to give up anything. Working through the pandemic allowed me time to focus more deeply on restructuring the program’s standard methods of outreach, program management, and building rapport with scholarship recipients and supporting organizations. I learned resiliency from the individuals I work with and their adaptability with the ever-changing conditions the pandemic brought. Through strategic planning and time management, I continued to create space for artistic expression.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In five years, I hope to have my master’s in the field of social work with a focus in art therapy. In 10 years, I hope to have a position as a facilitator for art therapy for rehabilitation and own a small handmade jewelry business. I hope to be well traveled, learn and see the beauty in other cultures and lifestyles. Although I do not know if I will call Fort Collins or Colorado home in the coming decade, they will always be my home base and have shaped me in a great way.

What life/business motto do you operate by when you run into new challenges or new opportunities? I like to approach life by the “Finding Nemo” saying, “just keep swimming.” It may be cheesy; life is unpredictable, and you get what you put into it so you might as well go with the flow with what may come your way. This motto shows my adaptability and the way I use reframing to look at the bright side of every situation. The unexpected is when you really need to push through and keep going to see what lies ahead because you won’t know until you get there.

Tell us something interesting or unusual about you that many may not know: My name is not from one of the usual Lincoln connections you think of like Nebraska, the car or Abraham. I inherited my name from a lost bet my mother had in college with a friend. This bet was not the name of her child but whether the name of a soap opera character was Lincoln or Laken. The character’s name was Laken, so she lost the bet having to pay her friend $20 and lunch but still loved the name Lincoln. She and my father agreed, and that’s how my name came to be

Selinna Ellsworth

Age: 28

Profession: Owner of Gem Salon & Boutique

Future focus: To always pursue her big ambitions.

Tell us about yourself: My name is Selinna Ellsworth, owner of a lash salon Gem Salon & Boutique. I’m from Chico, Calif. My travels after I lost my father brought me to this beautiful state. He was my home and after he passed, I went and searched for what is home to me. I didn’t just find a home, family and friends, but I found a career where I live by a famous quote: “Do what you love and never work a day in your life.” I found life when I thought mine was lost. Beauty can also be found in darkness. You just have to reach out and find that light.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? My family, friends, employees and clients motivate me to do more and be better. Performing lash extensions and providing for my clients makes me feel fulfilled. Being able to provide and create a space for my employees where they feel inspired and challenged for growth gives me a sense of purpose. There is so much growth in the lash industry. We approach every day with an open mindset, ready to learn. There are so many different styles and techniques to learn with lashes. It’s a beautiful art in its own way.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My biggest influence has been my dad. When he was younger, he got a scholarship for school to come to the U.S. from Malaysia. He had three kids and worked three jobs while going to school full time. He worked hard to provide for his family. He was the world, my home and strength. When I was 19, my world felt like it came crashing down when he passed away. I felt the need for change. My sister encouraged me to accept a position on a tour line as a chef in Alaska. When I left, I made a promise to myself: I will never move back to California, and I will never turn my back on myself.

In Alaska, I met someone that had similar goals as me to save and travel but my hidden goal was to set out in search of my home. That relationship led me to Colorado, which I never thought to look at. As time went by, I came to a crossroads: either quit school and go back to California or be homeless and live out of my car while going to school. But my stubbornness reminded me of my promise to myself. Instead of going backwards, I moved forward. In the darkness when I felt no hope, I met my husband. I found my sense of home. When we were dating, he helped me back on my feet. He encouraged me to go far and do more things. I graduated, gained experience in the industry and built my business. My dad has inspired me to work hard but live life because life is never guaranteed. You are the drop that make ripples waves. Start small but have big ambitions and you will grow. His wisdom will always carry me. From my journey, I’ve learned there is no cap, and for that I will keep growing.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? Through my experiences I have learned balance. You don’t have to give up anything; you must find balance.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In five years, I see myself opening a store front and growing my team. In 10 years, I imagine possibly opening another business.

Carissa Finnegan

Age: 24

Profession: Founder of Social Butterfly Media Management

Future focus: To expand her knowledge base in coding.

Tell us about yourself: I’m a digital marketing professional from the beautiful little town of Berthoud. I originally started my career straight out of high school in real estate, but after a few years decided it wasn’t my passion. However, I LOVED the marketing aspect of the job. I decided to adjust my career aspirations and learned as much as I could about anything and everything digital. I pursued knowledge about marketing and design from lots of avenues, including certifications from Boulder Digital Arts, web research and self-teaching. In 2016, I opened my own business, helping other small businesses improve their current marketing and design strategies to increase their bottom line and improve their customer’s digital interactions with their companies. My company, Social Butterfly Media Management, has continued to grow, mainly from positive referral and word of mouth, and I also hold a marketing position with a local stone provider, Edward’s Stone. Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? One of my biggest motivations is the success that my clients experience. I enjoy watching their businesses grow and evolve daily. When I’m having a bad day and a client calls me with positive feedback about their online presence or a new opportunity that I helped to create, it can turn my entire day around. Being able to have a positive impact in helping them grow is very satisfying.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My dad. When I’m trying to brainstorm new ideas to grow the business, he’s the first person I want an opinion from. From the start, he’s supported my ambitions and he continues to encourage me to reach my business goals.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? I’ve given up days off, some evenings, given up many hours of sleep burning the midnight oil, and occasionally sacrificed some of my short-term sanity, but even with everything that I’ve had to give up I can say that I’ve gained so much more. I’ve met amazing business owners working on their dreams, I’ve gained more confidence, new experiences, and many positive, enjoyable moments shared with my clients. Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I can see myself managing my own digital marketing business on a larger scale with a trendy office and several employees. I also plan to pursue knowledge in UX/UI and coding to further my ability to grow, succeed and continue to help small businesses.

Sierra Goldstein

Age: 23

Profession: Co-Owner of H2a Botanicals

Future focus: To make her business more sustainable.

Tell us about yourself: I started H2a Botanicals with my mom at 14. I discovered a love for plant medicine and skincare and knew that my calling was to formulate products.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I am motivated by the idea that a successful business can do good for the people involved as well as the planet. Sustainability in business is incredibly important to me. So much so that I have decided to get an MBA in sustainability practices in business.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mother. She has fostered every curiosity and idea I have had, supported me in starting a business, and to this day works harder than anyone I know to make an impact in the world.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? There are always sacrifices when running a business and since I started so young, I definitely missed out on certain carefree aspects of my teens. However, it is worth it, and I am so happy that I took the road less traveled.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I see myself running and expanding H2a Botanicals out into different areas of the world. I plan on taking my knowledge in sustainability in business and implementing it into my own business as well as mentoring other entrepreneurs to do the same.

Eveline Goncalves

Age: 28

Profession: Business Owner & Personal Trainer

Future focus: To create a gym community that lifts each other up.

Tell us about yourself: My name is Eveline Goncalves, I’m 28 years old and a businesswoman, personal trainer and entrepreneur. I’m a Colorado native and love living here in Fort Collins. I have always had a passion for health, fitness and nutrition. After Covid-19 shut down the restaurant I had been with seven years, I pursued my certification as a personal trainer along with building my online business in nutritional supplementation. The pandemic fueled my inspiration to help people take care of their health and build knowledge on the importance of physical activity and nutrition, both for mind and body.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I believe my purpose in this world is to impact lives. Those words I carry with me in my day-to-day conversations with people. That is what motivates me every day–to positively impact someone’s day, no matter how big the act may be, whether that’s opening the door for someone, commenting on someone’s outfit, tipping more than just 20 percent, or showing someone how they can take better care of their body and health. I am passionate about making sure I put a smile on someone’s face that day. I strongly believe that small acts of love will have a big impact on someone’s life, as well as your own.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? Outside of family and friends, I believe it is important to have a mentor who has achieved the success we want to obtain. For myself that would be Darren Hardy. Darren Hardy is an American author, advisor and former publisher of SUCCESS magazine. Hardy is a New York Times best-selling author, who wrote “The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster,” “Living Your Best Year Ever” and “The Compound Effect.” Every weekday morning, I start my day with DarrenDailys, a quick, inspirational, positive idea or concept to carry with you and to apply to your day. Since bringing in Hardy’s training programs, reading his books and kick-starting my day on the right note with Hardy’s teachings, I have noticed a huge improvement in my positive mindset, being efficient in time management and applying successful tools to my business. I would not be the businesswoman I am today without Darren Hardy’s teachings.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? One of the most difficult tools I had to learn, specifically from Darren Hardy himself, was saying “no.” No to going out with friends or family when deadlines needed to be met, saying no to work that did not benefit myself or my business, saying no to Netflix, TV, social media scroll holes or anything that was not either helping me build my personal development or knowledge. Now does that mean I had to say no to everything to be where I am today? Absolutely not. Since opening my personal training business and my online business in the health and wellness industry, I have had more time freedom and opportunity to spend with family and friends than ever before.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? For what the future holds, my plans are to be the owner of a gym that focuses on empowering women and building comfort, knowledge and experience when it comes to gym equipment and machinery, as well as proper form and technique. I want to help build a community that lifts one another up, instead of tearing each other down. I am driven to continue to share an opportunity with everyone I meet on how to take care of the mind and body through fitness and nutrition. One of my biggest goals is to be a motivational speaker with my online business, traveling around the nation to teach people how to take care of their health and obtain financial freedom.

Kiara Gonnerman

Age: 22

Profession: Esthetician at Seven Trees Aesthetics

Future focus: To continue helping women feel like their very best.

Tell us about yourself: I’m a passionate esthetician at Seven Trees Aesthetics in Windsor. I was born and raised in North Dakota and have lived in Windsor for seven years. I met my husband here, and we have two pups that are our entire world. In my free time, I love being outside with my family and friends enjoying everything Colorado has to offer. I have always been passionate about helping others feel and look their very best, and that is why I could not be happier with my decision to become a licensed esthetician.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I am passionate about business and leadership. Coming into this industry at 18, it was very important to me to prove to myself and my clients that I am educated, and that it was my goal to find the very best products and services to allow people to feel confident and age gracefully. I put in a lot of hard work and time but learning how to best treat different skin concerns and hearing my clients positive feedback is what keeps me motivated to learn and do better each and every day.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My biggest influence in my life is my husband, Derek. Derek is my number-one supporter. He is always on my team. He pushes and motivates me every day to do my absolute best, and he is always encouraging me to go outside of my comfort zone to try something new. I met him when I was about six months out of school, and I wasn’t happy where I was working. Not long after we started dating, he gave me the courage to leave and start my own path. I left and now I could not be any happier working in Windsor at Seven Trees Aesthetics. Without his support and encouragement, I would not be where I am, doing what I love to do, and I cannot thank him enough for his consistent love and support.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? Being 22, I’ve had to give up a lot of free time, partying and weekends. When I started this journey, I was 18. I was still a young adult and had no idea what I was doing with my life. I knew if I wanted to be a successful esthetician that going out and picking friends over my work was no longer my place. I grew up quick and switched my focus to work. Yes, I have lost friends, missed parties and I now go to bed at 9 p.m., but I would not change a thing. I’ve grown so much as a person, and I’m so proud of myself and who I’ve become. I have made the best relationships with so many of my fantastic clients and our Windsor community.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I see myself working with my fantastic group of women making others feel their very best each time they come to the spa. In the future, I do see myself focusing more on managing a great group of licensed estheticians, so we can provide more services to the Windsor community. I’m so thankful for everyone who has been a part of my journey. I’m very excited for the future.

Andrew Guttersen

Age: 29

Profession: Insurance agent and Owner of 970 Insurance Agency

Future focus: To build a team of experts throughout all of NOCO.

Tell us about yourself: I am the proud owner of 970 Insurance, in Windsor. I grew up in Eaton, graduated from CSU (go Rams!), and knew from a very young age that I wanted to own my own business. After college I decided to pursue a career as a financial advisor. Soon after, I was offered the opportunity to open an insurance agency in Windsor to help clients with their life, home, auto and commercial insurance needs. Five years, two employees and hundreds of clients later, I can say that this was one of the best decisions in my life, and that I found my true calling.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? My motivation is helping others learn, succeed and reach their dreams. My friends, family and clients look to me for solutions to their problems, and I can help. My passion to help also includes philanthropic giving and volunteering. As the chairman of Ducks Unlimited and a volunteer of The Boys & Girls Clubs, giving back to my community and helping a cause I believe in is a huge motivation for me.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? The biggest influence in my life is my grandfathers. I was blessed to be able to work beside them, both of whom were small business owners. In my family, hard work was not an option, it was a requirement. From an early age, I would carefully watch how they charismatically and professionally cared to their businesses, employees and families. They were not just another boss or business, those who knew them and associated with them because they were experts, treated everyone with respect and stood behind their word. The little things like owning and wearing a suit, holding the door open for strangers, giving a firm handshake and helping those in need has shaped me into the man I am today. Concepts I use daily I can accredit to their influence, including work smarter not harder, just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and if you make a mistake be the first to acknowledge it.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? I have had to give up a lot of my personal time to reach where I am today. As a business owner who started from scratch, it’s not uncommon that I put in a lot of late nights or work 80-hour weeks. I must fill all the roles of a business including marketing, sales, networking, office cleaning, accounting, technology, sales, customer service and education. There’s been times when I’ve had to cancel vacations and miss family events. I am fortunate that I love my job and helping others, so the sacrifice was worth it.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In five years, I see myself transitioning into a business development and leadership role. This would include more mentoring and training, and helping my staff become specialists among their insurance niches. This would allow me time to focus more on networking and establishing community relationships, which I truly love. My 10-year goal is to have a team of insurance experts across multiple communities.

Megan Hale

Age: 26

Profession: Club Director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County

Future focus: To be a leading voice in the nonprofit world.

Tell us about yourself: At 18 I decided to move to St. George, Utah, to start my education at Dixie State. I quickly outgrew that environment and moved to Fort Collins, where I graduated from CSU with a bachelor’s in communication studies and associate in business administration. After graduation, I was lost and decided to stay working with youth because I had a vast amount of experience in that field. I quickly worked my way up and began working at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Larimer County as a unit director in Wellington. I have since been in this role for almost two years and have now moved to a senior club director.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? Knowledge is my motivation. I enjoy learning, so in my role I am always trying to learn more about how our business operates and what new and creative ways I can inspire my workplace. I am passionate about leadership for both the youth we serve and the staff I get to shape and grow along the way. Community engagement is also a passion of mine, building connections with partners and just showing love to our community is something we try to spark into our youth as well. I grew up in Fruita. It was a very small town at the time, so when I think about my youth, I wish there had been a Boys & Girls Club in my hometown. The community of Wellington is similar in that sense, and I feel happy to be a part of the growth.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My dad has been my biggest influence. He has always told me that I can do great things. He opened his own business about 30 years ago and has since opened another. He inspires me to push my own limits and dream big.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? When I moved out of my hometown, I knew I was going to be giving up the close relationship I have always had with my family. Living and depending on myself has also forced me to give up some portions of my social life. It has all paid off.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I see myself in the next five years both starting a family and gaining more experience professionally. Within the next 10 years, I see myself either leading an organization in the nonprofit world or opening my own business.

Regan Heinrichs

Age: 26

Profession: Owner of The Wardrobe Edit

Future focus: To grow her business into a community for women.

Tell us about yourself: From a young age, I always knew I wanted to move to California and study fashion (despite being from Iowa and never having been to California or knowing anything about what it takes to work in the fashion industry). I moved to L.A. when I was 19 to study at the fashion institute. By 20, I was working in what was quite lite NYC where I lived before moving to Colorado. My city background and fashion industry experience led me to work for a few small businesses in Colorado, where I feel like I truly found my passion–helping women shop and style themselves to make them feel confident no matter their age, occupation, income, etc. The Wardrobe Edit (TWE) was born from this passion. I knew I wanted to focus solely on this and be able to reach women everywhere. I don’t believe there should be limitations on feeling confident and I love that I get to help women achieve this.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do within the fashion industry, but I had just the right amount of curiosity, passion and drive within me to know that I was going to make a career happen no matter what. I’ve always known I was going to do great things, and I don’t mean that in a bragging sense, I just knew my hard work tied with my passion would get me to where I want to be someday (and I’m still working to get there, I think I always will be). What truly motivates me about my current business is the fact that I’m matching purpose with passion, helping women achieve confidence through their wardrobes. I’m always motivated by working towards being a better version of myself every single day.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mom. For 30 years she’s owned her own business and has worked hard every single day to get to where she wanted to be. She still does. I’m inspired by her endless work ethic and zest for life. She knows how to work hard yet enjoy everything life has to offer. I’ve always wanted to have that balance and it inspired me to want to work for myself one day. Plus, I always loved playing dress up in her closet when I was young. Her seemingly endless inventory of handbags, shoes and accessories made it so much fun to dig through her closet. This is probably why it brings me so much joy to go through other people’s wardrobes today. I love to see the story behind their wardrobe.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? I wouldn’t say I’ve had to give anything up, it’s just been a matter of shifting my priorities. Sure, I’ve had to make sacrifices to follow my dreams (move away from home/live far away from family and friends, move across the country a few times to follow my dreams, take jobs I didn’t necessarily want so I could get to where I wanted to be) but you have to be willing to be a little uncomfortable in order to get to where you want to be and it’s always worth the sacrifice.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? As I continue to work hard on my passion and message with TWE, I can only hope that I’ll be able to reach more women and assist them to achieve confidence through their wardrobes throughout the years to come. I also hope to build a community of women who can lift each other up and empower one another through fashion. This will be my next goal with TWE as I continue to grow.

Kathryn Hutson

Age: 27

Profession: Owner, Kathryn Hutson Jewelry

Future focus: To connect with other small business and grow her impact.

Tell us about yourself: I grew up in a small town in Oklahoma in a close-knit family. My parents have been married for 37 years and I have a brother who is four years older than me who married one of my close friends. I was involved in our community through clubs, sports and philanthropy as I strove to connect with different people. I was voted best dressed as a senior, which geared me toward a fashion degree for college. I met my husband sophomore year at Oklahoma State University. After I graduated, we moved to Dallas. I worked as a senior fashion stylist for four years before my husband received a job offer in Fort Collins. We are currently building a home in Timnath, and I feel confident in saying we have found our forever home in Northern Colorado.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? Creating something beautiful motivates me. I have been passionate about fashion styling and design since I was a little girl. Helping someone feel his or her best and embrace their own signature style gives me so much satisfaction. I knew one day I would open my own boutique. During quarantine, I started making jewelry. After moving to Colorado, I thought what better time to start my brand. Along with creating my own brand and business, I wanted to pair with a nonprofit to donate a percentage of proceeds. Foster children have a special place in my heart, and I hope one day to be a foster parent as I benefitted from someone taking me in as a preteen. I live by the ideal, “be the person you needed when you were younger,” which is why I chose to partner with Together We Rise, a nonprofit helping youth in foster care.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? Many people influence our lives, and we often look to those who are closest to us at the most influential. For me, that person is my husband. I strive to have his work ethic and his constant need to learn. He is someone who has always supported and believed in my ideas. Having a person who believes in you and pushes you out of your comfort zone is so important as an entrepreneur.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? As a small business owner, I miss out on those family vacations and special life events out of state as I operate everything myself.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I recently started a permanent jewelry collection and in the next five years I hope to grow that side of my business. Permanent jewelry is custom fitted and spot welded onto your wrist in person so it would be fantastic to connect with other small businesses in Northern Colorado to provide local pop-up shops and support each other. In 10 years, I hope to open my own jewelry store in Old Town Fort Collins. Being a woman business owner, I would like to hire a few more creative women to teach, inspire, learn from and grow beside me. Personally, I will continue evolving as a human. My goal is to be happy, healthy and act upon my empathy toward others.

Courtney Isbell

Age: 29

Profession: Owner, Apricot Lane

Future focus: To find one…or maybe two French bulldogs to rescue.

Tell us about yourself: I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and from a young age I was immersed in the reality of owning a business. I always knew I wanted to follow in my parents’ footsteps and build my own successful business. Fortunately, I have been surrounded by incredibly supportive people who have helped me achieve this dream with Apricot Lane.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? My motivation comes from the pride that I have for Northern Colorado which has given so much to me. The comradery between all small business owners here is something special and something I hold very close to my heart. I have always looked for ways to give back to this community and I see no better way than becoming a source of inspiration for other young, aspiring business owners so that they can realize their dreams as well.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? This is an easy question for me: my mother. She started out on a hog farm in a small town in Eastern Colorado and now runs one of the most successful agriculture businesses in this region. She has never forgotten her roots and brings that small town work ethic and kindness into every interaction she has. I am grateful that she has always been there when I stumble, and I can only hope that I reflect this incredible woman.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? When you become a business owner you begin to truly understand what people mean when they talk about the long game. I’ve had to miss events with my friends and being able to do things at the drop of a hat because I have bigger responsibilities that require my attention. But I know that these minor inconveniences are setting me up for greater long-term success, not just for myself but my family and everyone at Apricot Lane. With that perspective in mind, I never feel like I’ve had to sacrifice anything.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? Over the next five years I am excited to see Apricot Lane become a staple in the Northern Colorado fashion scene and continue to support our incredible community in every way possible. Personally, I am looking forward to settling down and more likely than not finding another French Bulldog to rescue…or two.

Sean Kelly

Age: 26

Profession: Owner of Kelly Hardwood LLC

Future focus: To own a storefront.

Photos by Wild Bliss Photography

Tell us about yourself: I am a Colorado native, born and raised in the Denver metro area. I went to college at CSU where I graduated and received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. From there, I started my journey in hardwood floors as an apprentice and employee at a friend’s hardwood flooring company and then started my own business in October 2019. I worked as a subcontractor until January 2021, when I became independent. I’ve always been a hard worker and perfectionist and put all my effort into everything that I do whether it be work related or a leisure activity.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I am motivated to provide flooring services to the community with transparency, integrity and purpose. I have been fortunate enough to meet a lot of other business owners and managers, some with the same values and some without. I always want to be able to hold myself to a higher standard through honesty and integrity.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My biggest influences would have to be my parents, seeing how hard they worked while I was growing up to achieve their goals, and my beautiful wife who has stood by my side through this journey and shown me patience, love and support.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? I have given up countless nights working late, either on a jobsite or at home writing estimates. I have also had to sacrifice being able to spend time with my family on the weekends because a project needed to be finished or I needed to meet with a client. There have been many hours of lost sleep and a few missed meals as well.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? Five years from now, I see myself running multiple crews with trusted employees and 10 years from now I see myself owning a storefront and providing high quality service to all of Northern Colorado and the Denver metro area.

Colleen Kennedy

Age: 29

Profession: Owner of Om Grown

Passion: To use the power of nature to bring joy and improve people’s mental health.

Tell us about yourself: I am originally from South Carolina and moved to San Diego, where I was in the Navy for four years. I faced a lot of adversity growing up. The cards were stacked against me during my childhood/early adulthood due to emotional/mental abuse from multiple family members, and later in life physical abuse in the form of an assault I experienced in the Navy. However, I decided to not be another statistic. I knew that owning my own business was a way for me to create a lasting impact and do good for others while also living the life I always envisioned for myself, full of abundance and financial freedom. I moved to Fort Collins two years ago and graduated this year with my bachelor’s in early childhood education from Colorado State University. I decided to start Om Grown Moss Art & Design. As of today, we have installed green walls from coast to coast, Miami to San Diego. Our green walls are maintenance free, with no light or water requirements and use preserved plants made right here in the U.S. We also work with local artisans to produce our green walls, which I am extremely honored to have the opportunity to do.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I am motivated by the understanding that you either are working to make someone else’s dream come true or you are working to make your dream come true. I am passionate about encouraging others to work hard toward their dreams and knowing that they have the power to live the life they see fit regardless of other’s opinions or beliefs about who they are, including their past experiences.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? The biggest influence in my life has been my cousin, Melissa Butterworth, who I am coauthoring a book with. She is a successful entrepreneur who has made millions in her industry, lost it all and earned it back plus some, all by never giving up and continuing to work hard toward her goals. She supports me endlessly and understands my growing pains of starting a business because she too has been there and encourages me to keep trudging forward.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? I have had to give up limiting beliefs about myself to focus on my goals. The mind is a powerful thing and due to the trauma I have experienced, I have to constantly work to challenge the narrative of “not being good enough” and learning from my failures. Trust me, as an entrepreneur, you have a lot of failures!

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? Within the next five years, I see myself flourishing at Om Grown, with a handful of moss artists working alongside me, and green walls being installed everywhere along the Front Range. I see myself helping to support others’ mental health by installing green walls in office buildings, spas, salons, restaurants, homes, you name it. Within the next 10 years, I see myself owning a few acres of land to live off of, traveling the world, holding seminars for women to attend to discover their purpose and find connection through community, and enjoying the abundance that life has to offer with my partner (and Chief Operating Officer of Om Grown) Ryan and our pup Watson (our Chief Morale Officer at Om Grown).

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime? When I am away from my work, I enjoy meditating, spending time with Ryan and our pup, traveling and spending money on experiences rather than material items. I enjoy being outside in nature, listening to educational podcasts and eating good food. Tell us something interesting or unusual about you that many may not know: I grew up singing opera and love performing on stage. I am coauthoring a book to help young women discover their life purpose and feel confident being in their own skin. I am working toward organizing workshops for women to attend, to find community amongst other women, in a safe space where they can feel comfortable talking about the challenges they are facing currently in their daily lives and receive support.

Abbi Lockner

Age: 28

Profession: Community Engagement Officer at Respite Care

In her downtime: Loves to travel and explore new cultures.

Tell us about yourself: I’m originally from Atlanta, but my family moved to the Denver area when I was 9. I grew up babysitting and worked with young children at a learning center in high school, so education seemed like a natural route for me to follow. In college, I worked at a childcare center while obtaining my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education with a minor in business administration. My original goal after school was to run a preschool, where I would have the opportunity to do the administrative tasks that I really excelled at, while also getting to fuel my passion for working with kids.

After school I lived and worked in Denver until my husband accepted a job in Loveland. I worked briefly in a traditional office environment, but it wasn’t fulfilling. In 2017, I began working at Respite Care and in 2018 moved into a role on the development team as the community engagement officer. Being new to the area, I was blown away by how deeply philanthropy is embedded in this community, and now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I am motivated by the idea of making the world a better place in any way that I can. With my current role in fundraising and development, I have a front row seat to see people rally together to make Northern Colorado such a wonderful place to live, which is so inspiring. Philanthropy is something I am truly passionate about, and I feel so lucky that I get to make it my career.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? This is a tie between my parents and my husband. My parents have always emphasized the importance of honesty, ethics and generosity in everything we do, which are traits that have stuck with me throughout my life. My husband is one of the most motivated and passionate people I’ve ever known, and his drive motivates me daily.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I hope that my future will include starting a family of my own, many more years at Respite Care, and finding new ways to make Northern Colorado a great place to live.

What life/business motto do you operate by when you run into new challenges or new opportunities? While it is such a cliché, I am a firm believer that when one door closes, another one opens. Whenever I run into a roadblock, I take that as an opportunity to look at the situation in a new way and see what different options might have opened up. Focusing on what you aren’t able to do can really hinder your ability to see what is possible and you could miss an amazing opportunity that wasn’t there before.

What is more important to you: Finding a career that makes you happy or one that provides financial stability and why? While there are some jobs I have taken in an effort to make more money or be financially stable, I have found that being in a career that fulfills my passion to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Every day I get to come to work knowing that my organization makes a difference in the lives of others, which is so rewarding. My overall quality of life has been so much better since I’ve found a career that I am passionate about.

Why did you choose your career path? While the career path I am on is not the one I expected or planned, I enjoy it for many of the same reasons that I enjoyed teaching. At Respite Care, I can see the impact we have on our families’ lives, and I feel so grateful to know that I am working toward making that impact possible.

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime? In my downtime, I love to travel. For a long time, I was not very adventurous and only visited places that I had been to before that I was comfortable with. My husband’s love for adventure has really brought me out of my shell and now I love experiencing new countries and cultures. When we aren’t traveling, I enjoy spending time at home with our pets and families. We are so fortunate to have most of our family nearby and we are lucky to get to see them often.

Blake Lucio

Age: 29

Profession: Regional Manager at Vatos Tacos

Notable: Family business employs over 350 people.

Tell us about yourself: I started working for the Lucio restaurant group in February 2015 following my college education at the University of Northern Colorado. I was a business management and communications major, and I knew midway through my college career that I wanted to be a restauranteur.

My family opened their first restaurant in Greeley in 1999, Coyote’s Southwestern Grill. We have expanded to four concepts and a total of seven restaurants since then. I started as an assistant manager in 2015 and grew into our marketing director and general manager for two of our concepts. In 2019, I became the regional manager for our Vatos Tacos in Loveland and Fort Collins. Opening Vatos Loveland in the middle of the pandemic was a challenge, but great ownership and knowledge gained over the years helped us open and survive the toughest months of the COVID pandemic.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? Motivation comes from passion for your craft and a great structured culture to thrive in. Deciding to join the family business was a tough decision, and the challenges of working with your parents is a huge responsibility that I was more than ready to take on. Providing jobs for over 350 people is truly special to me and my family, and this is the main fuel that drives my excitement for my profession. Opening more restaurants and being a steppingstone for young adults is a top priority of mine as we face this post-pandemic world with an entirely new set of challenges.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? The biggest influences in my life must be my parents, Richard and Brenda. They have provided me with great knowledge, guidance, and all of the tools I need to grow personally and professionally. Watching them work together and grow this company has been a pleasure.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? During my six-year career, one of the biggest challenges I have faced is the balance between work and home life. Finding the time to spend time with friends and family takes a lot of planning and commitment while focusing on growing our business and my career. I’ve had to sacrifice leisure at times and being a weekend business makes it hard to see my friends who work during the week. However, I have learned how to manage this challenge and I’m still able to live my life outside of the workplace.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In five years, I envision overseeing five Vatos Tacos locations as we grow to new communities in the Colorado region. I want to continue to facilitate our amazing culture and help shape young lives for their future endeavors while gifting our communities with great food, service and community involvement. Ten years from now, my goal is to become the Director of Operations and eventual CEO of our company. I plan on carrying on what we’ve built and continuing to steer this ship to new horizons.

How would you like to give back to your community? Community involvement has always been a top priority for my family’s business. Success is not limited to revenue; it is the impact we have on the people who support us and work for our brand. As I enter my seventh year in this company, I am finding more balance to free myself up to be present in our communities. Loveland has a special place in our hearts because they kept us alive when we opened our doors in the heat of the pandemic. The Loveland DBA has helped us grow our brand and in return, we have tried our best to help local events that create more awareness for this amazing city. This community truly works collaboratively, and the teamwork is second to none. My mission is to make people think about Vatos Tacos as a giving establishment that does everything possible to help shape Loveland.

What life/business motto do you operate by when you run into new challenges or new opportunities? My business motto is to adapt to generational changes in our society. Staying relevant and fresh is what gives every business longevity and success. Our culture is why we have great staff retention, but how we communicate our cultural changes with each batch of people entering college that grew up in a different way than the previous year is the key. Keeping our kids engaged and motivated comes through sharing our story and always answering the why is important. Generation Z are not job hoppers if they have the tools to succeed. Sharing our story from day one keeps them invested and instills the desire to grow with us.

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime? I love to be on the other end of restaurant service and be the CUSTOMER. I admire our fellow restaurants and receiving hospitality motives me to give it back when I am at work. Ideas and inspiration are born from my explorations of new restaurants.

When I am not consuming food, I love to run, hike, mountain bike, paddleboard and ski. Being outdoors performing physical activities is my happy place. I love catching up with old friends and try to spend time with my parents as their son and not always the employee. My goal for this next year is to spend my PTO traveling, which is something that I have not made the time to experience yet. I am 29 and ready to see the world.

Karly Mill

Age: 24

Profession: Sales Executive at iHeartMedia

Future focus: To stay open to any possibility, especially if that’s more travel.

Tell us about yourself: I am 24 years old, and I was born and raised in Loveland. I started working at McGraff’s American Grill at age 16 and that job made me come out of my shell. I learned people skills and it helped me be able to communicate with different people. From there, I worked a couple summers at Scott Barber, helping with fabric swatches for their shows in New York and L.A. I then went on to become a teacher at Bright Horizons. I randomly applied for my job at iHeartMedia and had no idea what I applied for. All I knew is that I wanted to be a part of something much bigger and radio could be that for me.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I am motivated by those around me. I have a lot of amazing supporters who have witnessed me at my lowest and my highest. I thrive when I can talk with strangers, get to know more about a community and help others. I hope to be a strong leader in the Loveland community, specifically, one day. I have already met so many leaders who share the same love for Loveland as I do.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? In my professional life, my boss Tracy Walker has been a huge influence for me. He started a month after I did at iHeartMedia and immediately took me under his wing. He knows everything when it comes to radio, our market and partnerships, and has 30 years of experience. I look to him for just about everything and he has guided me to be the best that I can for not only myself but for my team, clients and community. I would NOT be here or have survived the COVID year without him.

In my personal life, my mom has been the biggest influence in my life. I have watched my mom keep her career and job for 32 years. She is the strongest person I know and has taught me to never give up on what I am determined to do with my life. No matter what crazy decision I make; I know I can turn to her for anything I need. She is a hard worker, and it shows with the great relationships she has created within the company she works for.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? Life took an unexpected turn when I was starting my sophomore year of college. I ended up dropping out to help support my family and I worked two to three jobs to help. At first, I was sad and thought I would always regret not getting the full “college experience” like all my friends and high school classmates were getting. Looking back, I realize those things happened for a reason and I am where I am today because of it. College is not everything and ultimately, we create our own success.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In the future, I hope to see myself as a strong leader in my community, giving back to others as much as possible and traveling more. I plan on staying in the marketing industry and maybe even owning my own business. And in 10 years, I hope to be married with kids. But then again, at age 24, who knows what will happen?

Tallon Nightwalker

Age: 25

Profession: Director of Northern Colorado Wildlife Center

Future focus: Find a facility to house rehabilitating wildlife.

Tell us about yourself: I fell in love with the wildlife rehabilitation profession when I was 5 years old. This was when my dad became the director of a wildlife rehabilitation facility and began taking me to work with him after I got out of school. I started out by volunteering to clean dishes or sweep floors, but as I became older, I was able to do more. When I turned 18, I was able to finally receive my wildlife rehabilitation license in Colorado, and in 2016 I helped create my own nonprofit, Northern Colorado Wildlife Center (NCWC), to help wildlife in distress that had nowhere else to go for help.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? Being part of the solution rather than the problem is what inspires me. Nearly 90 percent of the wildlife in distress that our nonprofit helps are sick, injured or orphaned because of humans or human activities. I believe that trained wildlife professionals should be there to educate people on how to coexist and safely appreciate wildlife, while also intervening to help save wildlife that others are maliciously or unknowingly injuring and orphaning.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My father has certainly been the biggest influence in my life and has guided me to be the wildlife rehabilitator and leader that I am today. Working as a father-son team for the last 20 years has not only added to my network of support but has inspired hundreds of others around us to begin careers in the wildlife profession.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? The most challenging sacrifice of starting a wildlife rehabilitation nonprofit has been the loss of certain elements of my social life. I believe that to be a successful entrepreneur of any kind, you will have to trade many nights out with friends for nights in with your computer. Thankfully, it was easy to find a work-life balance because once I started following my passion, my true friends and family shined through and helped support me.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? While I am the only paid employee of Northern Colorado Wildlife Center currently, in five years I expect us to have multiple staff members under my leadership. I also expect us to not only have our doors open to the reptiles and amphibians that we currently rehabilitate, but also bird and mammal patients. With enough donations, in 10 years I see us with a dream facility that has innovative policies that allow us to sustain the 95 percent success rate we have currently achieved. With this dream facility would also come public accessed areas, indoor and outdoor classrooms, in-house radiology and diagnostic equipment, and rescue vehicles capable of covering all Northern Colorado counties.

What life/business motto do you operate by when you run into new challenges or new opportunities? When challenges present themselves within our business, I choose to use it as an opportunity to prove our team’s resiliency through adaptability. COVID-19 was probably the largest testament to this that our nonprofit has encountered thus far. At the beginning of the pandemic our team had to halt and cancel services, while simultaneously brainstorming and implementing new ones. While in the moment, this was highly stressful, our team bonded over this stress, and it ultimately led us to an improved education program that now reaches both local and global audiences.

How would you like to give back to your community? Hands down, my favorite thing about founding and leading my own nonprofit is the fact that we give back to our Northern Colorado communities and can be there when people and wildlife truly need help. I would love to be able to give back even more to the community through establishing rehabilitation services for birds and mammals in the Fort Collins area, establishing resources capable of responding to even more wildlife rescue calls, and establishing recurring, no-charge community education programs on coexisting with wildlife and humane solutions to human-wildlife conflicts.

Cecilia Reynolds

Age: 24

Profession: Alliance for Suicide Prevention of Larimer County

Current focus: To receive her masters while she travels overseas.

Tell us about yourself: My bachelor’s degree in psychology and minor in gender studies from Westmont College showed me the beautiful collision that occurs when you combine learning with action. During my undergraduate, I co-founded my college’s Feminist Society and worked at our local rape crisis center. Within this overlap of education, passion and action, I discovered my love for nonprofits.

After returning to Colorado, I had the formative experience of being a part of a small nonprofit’s transformation. When I first started at the Alliance for Suicide Prevention (ASP) of Larimer County, I was their only employee. In the years since, the team has grown to nine. Through my role of educating middle and high school youth across the county, I had the invigorating experience of hearing young people share about their mental health and connecting them to resources. In my time at ASP, I had the honor of speaking to over 9,000 youth and co-creating our popular event, the Teen Self Care Fair (come check it out this fall). This summer I am closing my chapter at the Alliance for a new adventure and will be spending most of the next year focusing on my master’s in nonprofit management.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? The way I engage with the world has always been motivated by the belief that people are experts in their own experiences and to believe them when they say they are hurting. It’s a common phrase within nonprofits, but I truly believe the best of us are working to put ourselves out of a job. Having worked in the fields of sexual assault and suicide prevention, I dream of a day these organizations are no longer needed and know that any other vision causes harm to the people we serve. I believe in programs being run by the people who are most impacted and in centering lived experiences, collaboration and equity. These are guiding principles in and out of work.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? I am extremely thankful for my mother, who is my biggest supporter and loves so fiercely. In my youth, she advocated for my own mental health and wellness, which very much set me on my current path.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? I think more about my support system than I do my sacrifices. While there are times I have had a hard time balancing my job with my graduate program, or felt the sometimes heartbreaking impact of working in the mental health field, I mostly feel gratitude. The thing I am most grateful to have learned at a young age is healthy boundaries. While my work goals are important to me, it is even more important to me to take care of my mental health and to be present in my relationships.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? Life never goes quite as I plan (especially as a military spouse), so this is a tough question. We recently received orders to move overseas, so I am excited to find out what comes next. I hope to complete my master’s within the next year. My professional goals are to be in nonprofit leadership at an organization that centers on women’s lived experiences. I am very passionate about issues of equity and justice and am looking forward to chasing that passion wherever it leads. My overall hopes are to grow and learn as much as possible, and to be the best wife, sister, friend and colleague that I can be.

What piece(s) of advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? My 18-year-old self felt a lot of urgency that was not always necessary. What I am learning now at 24 is to take life a little slower, and to be okay with not knowing what is going to happen. More than anything I would probably want to give my 18-year-old self a hug and tell her she is going to be just fine.

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime? I love to spend time with my husband and friends, hang out with our dog, garden, cook and read. A lot of my work life can sometimes feel heavier, so most of the media I consume is very lighthearted. I’m in a “book club but for tv” with some dear college friends, which has been so important to my self-care, especially during the pandemic!

Tell us something interesting or unusual about you that many may not know: I have officiated a wedding! Shoutout to that internet certification.

Nate Shugrue

Age: 28

Profession: Director Of Business Development Brillity Digital

Future focus: To continue offering mentorship and guidance to those around him.

Tell us about yourself: I was born and raised in Arvada. Like many others, I fell in love in Fort Collins after attending CSU and never left. My first job was at an IT/digital marketing company where I cut my teeth in both the tech industry and the business community in Fort Collins. This is where I found the opportunity to become a founding member of Brillity Digital, where I work now. I have enjoyed being able to directly influence our success in the past four years through a lot of hard work, diving into discomfort and finding opportunity in obstacles.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? Since a young age, I had the desire to prove myself and find ways to do that in academics, sports, leadership or philanthropy. I was raised by a single mother and never met my father. To get the most of out of life, I was taught to try your hardest and if you failed you can rest assured in the effort given.

As I have grown older, my desire to prove myself has shifted to building inner strength with the goal of being able to increase the ability to support those around me. I am very aware of the feeling of being alone and the need to find your tribe of people who can help support your goals.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? I was fortunate to find an exceptional mentor after college. Derrick Kuhn has been an immensely positive and influential impact on my life, both professionally and personally. I have always been motivated to find my potential, but Derrick was able to inspire and push me to grow in ways I could not imagine. I would not be where I am today without his support. Derrick can do what only the best coaches and mentors do, which is inspire and cultivate potential. He can drive true growth in people. Not everyone is lucky to have someone who can push you into discomfort while also giving you the confidence to succeed.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? Flying by the seat of your pants isn’t a realistic option if you want to accomplish so much professionally and find a good work/life balance. Prioritizing planning has helped me minimize the things I have had to give up. I haven’t given up much in time with friends or family, but it has left out any romantic focuses. Weekdays are filled with work, friends and personal hobbies. The weekends with seeing the family or enjoying time to rest. I also have had to give up my night owl tendencies and do my best to commit to being a morning person.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I hope to continue building my own knowledge and strength to pursue my own goals and support those around me. In five years, I hope to see Brillity Digital continue its great trajectory of growth. We have accomplished significant goals in the first four years, and I can hardly wait to see what the future holds. I also hope to see my younger siblings excelling in life. We all have suffered from not having a great father figure in life and I have done my best to lend a hand in raising them (they would be 27, 23 and 17 in five years). In 10 years, I hope to be able to mentor and support others as much as possible, building strong teams and doing meaningful work.

Shelby Taylor-Thorn

Age: 29

Profession: Afternoon Host of 94.3 The X

Future focus: To keep rocking in the music world, whatever that looks like.

Tell us about yourself: I have lived in Fort Collins for the last decade. I spent half of that working in the kitchen at a local hospital, and the latter half on the airwaves on Northern Colorado’s alternative rock station, 94.3 The X. So, this has been the most eclectic chapter in my life, by far. Now, I program and manage two radio stations, organize local live events and have a blast working with artists and venues through Townsquare Media, where I started as a part-timer and worked my way up. Success at a young age is inspiring.

What motivates you? My love for music has driven my career this far, for sure. I’ve always been a rock girl at heart, but I never thought that I would be a radio host. I spent my early 20s wishing that Fort Collins had access to some of the entertainment that Denver does. I’ve gotten the opportunity to route artists here, introduce them to fans, book Taste of Fort Collins festival acts and host my own club nights. That connection to my community motivates me.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? Personally, I am fortunate to come from two very supportive parents, who I’ve always looked up to. Professionally, when I started working in radio, I also met my best friend, Madison Scruggs. I don’t think that I would have done most of the things that I have in the last six years without her by my side with her humor and creativity.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? Just a little sleep, probably. Nothing coffee can’t fix, though.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I am so bad at answering this question, I’m sorry! If you asked me this five or 10 years ago, I would have had no idea I would be doing what I am now. I’m unsure, but I can’t see myself not doing something in music, or with my other half, Madi.

What piece(s) of advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? Embrace ambition, but don’t put so much pressure on yourself to have your life be on the same timeline as your peers, both professionally and personally. “Comparison is the thief of joy”—and, you’re somehow not even going to get the invite to your high school reunion anyway, so there’s that.

What life/business motto do you operate by when you run into new challenges or new opportunities? “This better at least make for an entertaining story later.”

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime? I’m an avid quad roller skater, and I’ve been a part of the NOCO skate community for several years. It’s completely possible that more people know me from being a local rink rat than from the radio. Tell us something interesting or unusual about you that many may not know: I used to drive a big ’67 Ford, and I would invite artists who stopped by the station to hop in and do interviews.

Hours before one of them, I rolled the car backwards into a ditch. The car was fine, but days later, that band went to the Grammys, and they were all over TV. So, thankfully they never got in my car. I recently sold it, and now I drive a ’19 Honda. I’ve never had any rockstars in it, and I have not crashed it into anything. Yet.

Sergio Torres

Age: 25

Profession: Owner of Rocky Mountain Coqui food truck

In his downtime: Loves watching food documentaries.

Tell us about yourself: I was born in Puerto Rico and lived in the Caribbean until about 2007 when my family moved to Fort Collins. I spent my adolescent years growing up in Fort Collins and stayed to complete my bachelor’s at CSU. I moved out of state for a short period to complete a master’s program and then moved back to Fort Collins in 2019. Toward the end of 2019, I had the opportunity to work with my family and open a small food trailer selling Puerto Rican food named Rocky Mountain Coqui. As a new food business, 2020 was a difficult year. We never opened full time, but I was lucky to find work using some of my other skills and am now working for the Larimer County Dept. of Health and Environment.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I think I have a variety of intrinsic motivators, interests and passions. This ensures I’m never bored and that whatever I do, I try my best. I do believe we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can definitely control how we respond to it. I was raised with a sense of community and caring for those around me. Nothing is achieved truly alone so uplifting those around me has always been important.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My parents and my family. I have been privileged to have parents and family members that have always supported me. Even when things aren’t going right, they have been a safety net at times, ensuring I can get past whatever hurdles present themselves.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? Sleep…kidding. Sort of. I can’t say I haven’t lost some sleep to achieve my goals. There have definitely been situations where I’ve made some sacrifices to get where I am, but I hardly see them as sacrifices if the resulting situation is worth it.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I think the pandemic has really emphasized the importance of being flexible. The pandemic has exacerbated issues in our communities that have existed for many years but were being ignored. I think the next five, 10 years and more should really be focused on building our communities so we can all thrive. I hope I can use any skills I have to return favors to those that have helped me get through some tough times and help others get the opportunities I’ve had to achieve some success.

What piece(s) of advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? Don’t be so hard on yourself. I think when I was 18, success needed to be a certain way and, while a little bit of self-criticism is OK, there is too much out of your control, you will definitely fail sometimes and you should know that failure is not a permanent condition if you continue working towards success.

What is more important to you: Finding a career that makes you happy or that provides financial stability and why? Maybe my answer might change as I get older, but to be happy you need to be doing work that makes you happy, especially since this is where you spend most of your time. So, a career or job you’re passionate about is first then some financial success will follow. I think financial stability is still an outcome of the privilege each of us has or doesn’t have. It is an important goal to achieve a financial situation that gives you the life you want. However, we’re all starting in different situations.

Why did you choose your career path? I think I needed some diversity in my career, but I knew I liked food and health which led me to get educated as a registered dietitian. Becoming a registered dietitian involves a lot of education in food service operations and food science, which helps me run my business. A registered dietitian is also a health professional and much of my education is in the public health sector, which gave me skills for my job with the health department.

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime? Watching food documentaries, fixing or riding bicycles and social Latin dancing every once in a while, to get out of the house.

Mona Tolleson

Age: 28

Profession: Owner of MCT Marketing

Future focus: To continue fulfilling her purpose, starting a family with her husband and growing her business.

Tell us about yourself: I grew up in the DC Metropolitan area. My family is originally from Lebanon and my first language is Arabic. I went to school in Newport News, Virginia, to study business management and leadership. Upon graduation, I moved to Virginia Beach, where I accepted a job in the defense contracting industry. My job allowed me to travel around the world at a young age and develop international program management experience. I was very fortunate to have life experiences that people don’t usually get until mid-late in their career.

After being promoted to VP of program management, I realized that marketing was my true passion. I started my company, MCT Marketing, when I was 25, and now we have a team of specialists that help clients nationwide. Our specialty is social media management and growth. I moved to Windsor last year with my husband and we are enjoying all of Colorado’s beauty. We are blessed to be a part of such an amazing community in Northern Colorado. Success at a young age is inspiring.

What motivates you? My biggest motivation is driven by my passion for people and business. I love helping businesses grow through social media and develop a thriving brand. The relationship aspect of my business is my favorite part. I can honestly say that all my clients have become my friends and have impacted my life in some way. My clients can tell that I love what I do, because it is easily reflected in my work.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My mom has had the biggest influence in my life. She was a single mom and taught me how to put God first and work hard. Her work ethic was inspiring, and I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for her. She currently lives in the DC area until I can convince her to move to Colorado.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? I would say I have given up a lot of my weekends and free time. When you are driven to achieve your goals in a certain amount of time, it feels like you are in hustle mode 100% of the time.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In five years, I hope to have started a family with my amazing husband. Of course, I would love for MCT Marketing to keep growing and expanding in Northern Colorado without losing its personal touch. In five years, I would also love to help more young women find what they love to do and focus on making it career. It is very easy to get stuck in a job where you are passing time and not fulfilling your purpose.

Kelsey Vance

Age: 24

Profession: Co-owner of Fit5 Studio

Future focus: To make Fit5 Studio a household name in NOCO.

Tell us about yourself: I am co-owner of Fit5 Studio, a Lagree Fitness Studio in Fort Collins. My passion for health and fitness started when I was 14. I knew I wanted to own a gym. During my senior year of college, I was introduced to Lagree and instantly fell in love. The killer workout and the uniqueness of the method is why I was drawn to it. I was given an opportunity to get certified and instruct classes at a studio in California. From then on, the hard work began and I was determined to open my own Lagree Studio. In September 2019 I made my move to Colorado after graduating from college with a degree in elementary school teaching. Once in Colorado, I was offered the opportunity to teach Lagree at Fit5 Studio.

My New Year’s resolution in 2020 was to write a business plan and to work towards opening my own studio. I wrote down every day that I owned a Lagree Studio as if it already happened. My resolution evolved from writing a business plan to actually purchasing and owning Fit5 Studio in November 2020. I was able to do this because I started to talk about my dreams with everyone. This led to finding two clients at Fit5 (Kelsey Miles and Wendy DiMartino) who had the same dream and we were able to come together in a business partnership and turn our dreams into a reality.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? My passion for teaching fitness, my family and creating my own financial freedom. My hard work and time is paying off for my family.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? If I had to choose someone, it would be Nikki Cummings, a family friend and longtime mentor. She has been there for me on both personal and professional levels for advice and has cheered me on and told me to go for it every step of the way. Without hesitation, she always knew I could do it and she still pushes me to go after it and do more.

What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? I have had to give up the security of the traditional path most of us are told to take after graduating from college: find a career that provides a stable salary, retirement, etc. I took a risk and choose to put my time and money into building this business.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? In five years, I see myself with a family, a flexible schedule, two studios with a staff of 20 and the Fit5 Studio brand a recognized, local NOCO name. In 10 years, I see Fit5 having four studios with more planned.

What piece(s) of advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? The advice I’d give myself at 18 is that dreams are more than just dreams and that I am capable of doing more and creating the life I want for myself. I don’t have to depend on others to do it.

What influence did your parents or the generation before you have on your decision-making and goal-setting? My parents have been my number-one fans my entire life. They set me up with all the tools I needed to build the life I wanted. They taught me that attitude is everything. Life can get hard and having a bad attitude is an easy way to deal with those hard moments. My parents always insisted I hold my head up high and get back at it!

What do you enjoy doing in your downtime? I really enjoy quality time with my family and friends, sitting on a patio and enjoying the sunshine, going for a drive or floating down the river.

Hannah Wurster

Age: 28

Profession: Owner of Marriage & Family Clinic

Future focus: To expand the reach of her business and provide education on therapy.

Tell us about yourself: I had always been interested in child development. I got my undergraduate degree in child psychology at the University of Minnesota. From there, I wanted to get a graduate degree that would allow me to directly support families. That is how I came to CSU, where I got a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and a Ph.D. in applied developmental science. During graduate school, I refined my interests and developed my passion for social-emotional development, especially parent-child attachment and the impacts of trauma. In my first couple years out of graduate school, I worked at a few places where I got important clinical training and experience. In February 2020, I had been working in another county when I got the opportunity to dive full-time into private practice to start addressing the needs of young children in our community.

Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I am passionate about creating communities and societies that promote the well-being of families and young children, where babies can grow up feeling safe and their parents are supported. My work is motivated by this passion, and I have two main goals: providing therapy to individual children and families and collaborating with others around systems change to address the upstream factors that prevent parents and children from reaching their full potential.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life? My dad is a psychology professor, and he has supported me every step of the way through my education and career development. He is the first person I call when I need help making a big decision or working through a problem. My mom worked in elementary schools, and she taught me through her actions how to be empathetic and caring toward everyone you meet, recognizing that their story usually goes beyond their behavior. Finally, my husband has challenged me to grow, soothed me when I am distressed, and given me a reason to laugh daily.

What have you had to give up focusing on your goals? I have given up the traditional 9 to 5 schedule and predictability that comes with working for a larger organization. This comes with some challenges, but for the most part I really enjoy the flexibility and openness that being self-employed provides.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? With the support of a colleague, I have created a group called the Willow Collective, which is a network of providers committed to infant and early childhood mental health. I hope for the Willow Collective to continue growing so that we can capitalize on the expertise of our members and provide unique services in the community. Within my work there, I hope to continue providing individual and family therapy to clients. I also plan to expand my work into bigger-picture work, such as providing training and consultation to agencies, teaching courses, supervising clinicians and developing prevention programs.

Hunter Wylie

Age: 24

Profession: Owner of Beyond Blue Media

Future focus: To create momentum around the projects he’s passionate about.

Tell us about yourself: My entrepreneurial spirit has been alive and well since I was in elementary school. I remember wheeling and dealing candy alongside my fellow classmates. Most of my career has been in marketing, sales and business development. Beyond Blue Media, the company I co-founded, was a culmination of my working experience and desire to lead. I have always been a learner at heart, so stepping into an uncomfortable role of CEO, I became obsessed with understanding all the business processes and creating a healthy, fun working environment.


Success at a young age is inspiring. What motivates you? I’m the definition of a business nerd. Whether it’s consuming podcasts, books or connecting with people who are better at business than me, I simply can’t get enough. Since I’ve always had a passion and zeal to create and grow something, my brain explodes at the idea of seeing an idea move from dream to reality.


Who has been the biggest influence in your life? Hands down, my wife. Not only does she push me to make leadership decisions with integrity, but she also challenges me to be a leader who values work-life balance. We just welcomed our first child this year and being a dad has given me an even greater reason to excel in my business and my personal life. Having my wife and son at my side has been a launching pad for me. Because at the end of the day, business success is meaningless if I don’t have time and energy to play a meaningful role at home.


What have you had to give up while focusing on your goals? Since growing Beyond Blue Media, my priorities and goals have only solidified. Keeping my relationship with Jesus first, my family second and the business third has been really grounding. Other than the occasional sleepless night, I’ve fought to ensure that my business aligns well with my goals and values.


Where do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years? I see myself in the next five to 10 years continuing to create, grow and live sustainably. As cliché as that sounds, growing something that has momentum is the thing that gives me life. I’m not motivated by how many zeros are in my bank account. As long as I’m a part of something that is positively impacting people’s lives, I’ll be happy