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2023 Women Movers & Shakers

Remarkable Local Women Share Their Successes, Challenges and Love of our Community

Taylor O’Leary

Smooth Secret Waxing

smoothsecretsmedspa.com

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself. 

I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, but I have lived in Highlands Ranch since I was two years old. After graduating from Mountain Vista High School, I was actually in a pre-med program for dental and decided I wanted to go the Hygienist route. Unfortunately to the limited school choices and family health issues, I was unable to go in that direction. I ended up going with my plan B, which was becoming an esthetician. After finishing my program, I continued my education and went on to learn medical aesthetics services: Botox, Microneedling, Lasers, Medical Grade Chemical Peels, and Stem Cell Hair Restoration. I was recently married in December and love having the wife privileges of making my husband my personal guinea pig for aesthetics. I own a small business in the center of Highlands Ranch called Smooth Secrets- Waxing Studio & Med Spa. I also have recently opened two other businesses. One for skin/body care and my own wax line with post-care products. The other is called Gray Lily- Jewelry & Leather Goods, named after my grandmother.

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?

My biggest challenge has been learning to take breaks. My businesses are my babies; I will always give it my all to ensure they grow to their full potential. I am also very invested in my guests. I have guests with whom I have served for 5+ years, and we have built a deep bond. To the point that I don’t see them as just guests but as friends and or family, but because I am so invested in my guests and my businesses, this leads to burnout. Even after getting to that point, I will stubbornly keep going to the point where my husband, friend, family member, or even a long-time guest tells me I need to take some time off, and I’m starting to look ill. I probably blame this on my age. Since I am so young, I keep telling myself I have the energy and no excuse not to keep going. 

  1. What advice would you give your younger self?

First, who cares? Who cares what you think or how you dress or want to do. Just do it. Most of these people you will never see again except maybe a random post on Facebook. Secondly, don’t let your weight or appearance stop you from doing anything. Take that trip, wear that dress, open that business. Lastly, it’s okay to ask for help. I know we are scared to ask, and we want to shoulder all of the pain and the responsibility, but at the end of the day, it is not worth destroying yourself or burning yourself cause we are too stubborn.

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally?

My grandmother. She raised kids all by herself and got things done. We are incredibly close. I would tell her she was one of my soulmates, and she would say I was her heart. During her last two years on Earth, we called each other often and talked about everything and anything. She would always push me to be independent and go after what we want and how we are Aries women, and we don’t give up. I named the new jewelry  business after her and her favorite flower. She will forever be in my mind and help push me. 

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

In my free time, my husband and I love going to Denver to see the Botanical Garden. We have a membership, and we highly recommend getting one. We usually try a new cafe or small business that one of us saw online, get a small meal, take it into the garden, and have a mini picnic. For self-care, it would have be my nightly skin routine. It is ten steps and can take up to 45 minutes, depending on the night. I take my time and give myself facial massages, turn on some music, wear a bougie robe, and just decompress.

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

I love living in Highlands Ranch due to how close everything is and the number of walking trails. We are also very blessed to have beautiful views of the mountains.

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

I hit many walls due to my age and gender. Starting a whole spa at the age of 23 is no easy feat. Alot of people didn’t take me seriously or didn’t believe me as a business owner. All I could do was show up and give it my best. I believe everything happens for a reason. Just because someone says no or shuts the door that doesn’t mean there isn't another door for me to go through. I am very blessed to have friends, family, and my wonderful guests who helped me push through my lows and celebrated with me during the highs.


 

Lasinda R Lingafelter-Crane

Cranelli’s Italian Restaurant

Cranellis.com

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself.

I am a very outgoing person who is not afraid to talk to anyone. I was born in Germany as an Army brat and grew up in Florida, where my dad was from. I moved to Colorado at 13 to be with my mom and have never left. I love Colorado, but I wish we had an ocean!  I’ve been with my husband for 30 years and married for 23 in October. We have two boys and one girl; our daughter Brittany came into our lives at 16 and never left; we officially/unofficially adopted her into our family. Brittany has given us three grandchildren - Brydon, who is 5 ½  months; Bethany, who is 5 ½ years; and Jaxon, who is 11. Our boys Connor - 26, are in the Navy and stationed in Jacksonville, Fla., and Niko - 20, is a sophomore at CU Boulder.  I started my career in the mortgage industry at 18 and enjoyed learning all about the business until my mid 20’s when I had my first kiddo, Connor. I returned to the business world in my 20s, but this time in the restaurant business, where I found my niche! I started as a server, and after several years of serving, I found my strengths in managing restaurants. I was able to take my experience and become a GM in the coffee industry, where I managed Peaberry Coffee in Cherry Creek Mall and the Ebar at Nordstrom in Park Meadows Resort. My passion is all about customer service and quality food and drinks. It is imperative to me to treat each person who walks through the door as the individual they are and recognize their importance to me and our business. 

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?

My biggest challenge does not fall under one category, but one of my biggest challenges was learning how to manage my family and work.  When you own your own business, you are in it 24 hours a day! I’ve learned so much throughout the years from my family and the family that we’ve hired to work at the restaurant. I still struggle occasionally with putting the phone down, turning the computer off, and just flat-out saying “no.” It’s hard, but I know that I have to take care of myself, so I can be the best mom, wife, friend, and manager I can be to those around me.  

  1. What advice would you give your younger self? 

Wow!  What wouldn’t I say…listen to your gut; the flags that go off and make your tummy feel bad are there for a reason. I would tell myself that having confidence allows you to pick the right people for your life because you can say “no” to those you probably shouldn’t hang out with. Friends will come and go; stop trying to hold onto the ones that need to go. I would absolutely tell myself not to try and live up to the expectations of others, but actually my own, and stand true to what I believe.

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally? 

I am so fortunate to have had many people come through my life that have inspired me, lifted me up, and flat-out let me down, but each event, and each person, taught me some much about myself and my path…I’m grateful for all of them.  My mom is the one who truly stands out for teaching me to be the best I can be, showing me that there will always be a way through, never to give up, and to always fight for what you believe in. My father was not the best part of my life, but he still taught me so much about being confident, proud of who I am, and always taking a stand and being “heard.” My husband of 30 years has been by my side in my ever-changing world of learning and growing. He has been and continues to be my biggest supporter!

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

I love to work out and frequent my local UFC, Cycle Bar, and Hot Worx. My days are not the same without my workouts, and I’ve learned over the past few years that self-care is crucial to keeping my family and business thriving. I love to travel with my husband to Chicago and any ocean!  

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

Oh my goodness… their commitment to keeping the smaller businesses alive.  One of my biggest goals when first opening Cranelli’s, was to be that “local Italian restaurant” where you know you belong, where we know your name when you walk in. We have been and continue to be supported by so many. The chambers in all of these areas are such an integral part of Cranelli’s success; it was essential to me to become a part of these structures to meet as many folks as I could, learning about other people's businesses and their successes, allowed me to be a better business owner.  

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

Over the past three years,  we learned how strong we are as a family and business owners.  There was no quitting for us…closing the inside of the restaurant and only doing take-out and delivery put us through many learning curves.  Having experience in the restaurant industry allowed us to pivot in many ways to keep our restaurant surviving. With the fantastic support of our staff, who were willing to do whatever was necessary to keep their job, we could not only stay open and survive but grow our business and expand.  The expansion process started prior, but we were able to make it happen over 1 ½ years.  We did not lose one staff member during the pandemic, and I’m very proud of that. We could reach new communities that had not heard of us; delivering within a 12-mile radius opened Pandora's box for Cranelli’s. Our staff was relentless in making sure that we upheld our vision of excellent customer service and food. Not at one time did we shrink our menu or reduce the quality of our food.  We have become a stronger restaurant family because of the pandemic, and our blessing is that we continue to thrive day in and day out.  


 

Pam Kelly

Senior General Manager for Park Meadows Retail Resort 

ParkMeadows.com

8401 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree, Co. 80124 

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself.

 I grew up in rural Nebraska and attended College at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.  I moved with my children to Douglas County to build and open Park Meadows in 1996.

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?

The Biggest Challenge is keeping up with the ever-changing retail environment.  It is essential to remain relevant and bring the very best stores, new to the market selection for customers to shop and dine.  I have dedicated my career to making the shopping center not just a place of commerce; but an extraordinary place where memories are made, people come together, a place to show your visitors from out of town, and a brief respite to all that is happening or needed in your life thus the “Retail Resort.”

  1. What advice would you give your younger self?

Slow down, enjoy the ride, and spend more time with your family, especially your parents.

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally?

I have, over the past 40 years,  had the opportunity for many people to admire as a muse; today, it would be Lone Tree Mayor Jackie Millet.  She is kind, brilliant, and a true collaborator and negotiator that doesn’t lose sight of the big picture.

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

I read, garden, cook, travel, often to see family and enjoy going out with friends or just spending quiet time with my husband, Jim.  I am a strong believer in self-care.   I exercise, laugh, and reset myself spiritually, and I diet to keep healthy, which I recognize isn’t that popular but a form of self-care that my daughter, Chelsea, a health coach, has taught me to do correctly.

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

My favorite things about the Denver South area are the people and the family values.

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

We wrote a variance submitted to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and the governor's office.  The state was very indifferent and challenging to work with; however, the Denver South community and officials hung in there with us (many late hours) to accomplish an approved variance for a gradual reopening which commenced  May 24, 2020. We were the first in the state and one of the first in the country to put together all the protocols and garner a variance allowing a gradual re-opening of stores with limited capacity and many extra sanitation measures.

I immediately shared the variance with all of the other malls in the state to enable them to do the same.  Noting Covid was difficult for all businesses, we continue to rebound, opening 28 new stores over the last two years with many new to Colorado.  I am forever grateful to work in and with such a progressive area, especially Lone Tree and Douglas County.

Amy Lunstra 

Owner of Festive Cup Coffee & Boutique  

Executive Director of WHIT - Working Hard Independently & Together

50 Springer Dr. Highlands Ranch, CO 80129

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself. 

I grew up, lived, and went to college in Hastings, NE., until I married at 22. I had an amazing childhood. I attended Hastings College and graduated with a degree in Elementary & Special Education in May of 1999. In the fall of 99’, I  completed my elementary student teaching in Nebraska, got married in October, moved to Lakewood, CO, and then finished my student teaching in special education in Denver. In 2000 began teaching in DPS at Traylor Academy, where I taught 4th grade, 3rd grade, kindergarten, & preschool for nine years. In August 2001, my husband and I welcomed our first son; in May 2003, we welcomed our second son. Our greatest blessings. After spending some time at home with my boys and teaching elementary school, I decided to make the switch to teaching special education. I spent eight years teaching high school students with special needs at ThunderRidge High School. That changed my life! Working with students with IDD (Intellectual &/or Developmental Disabilities) became my passion. Then in the summer of 2020, I decided to make one more change. I left teaching and became the new owner of Festive Cup Coffee & Boutique in Highlands Ranch, where I had the vision to support adults with IDD in employment and the community. Festive Cup currently employs 14 adults with IDD. In addition to owning Festive Cup, I started a PASA (Program Approved Service Agency) called “WHIT” - Working Hard Independently & Together. Through this agency, we will be able to offer more support for adults with IDD in our community.

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)? 

Honestly, going from teaching to learning how to be a business owner. When I assumed ownership of Festive Cup, I had ten days to learn the ropes! Everything happened very quickly, and I was new to owning a business. I have learned a great deal but am still learning after almost three years. I have a “teacher” brain, so it’s been challenging.

  1. What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t live your life doing what everyone else expects you to do. Take risks and learn from them.

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally?

I have 2! They have both been the BEST of mentors to me!

Tiffany Fixter, owner of Brewability & Pizzability in Englewood, CO. She is a force to be reckoned with! Just tell her something can’t happen, or give her a challenge…she will surprise you. I love her mission, passion, beer, and pizza! She is making the world an inclusive place one slice/pint at a time!!

The other is Bryn Baldassari, Executive Director of Stepping Stones Support Center. She started her PASA straight out of college and has been supporting adults with IDD in all aspects of their lives. The sense of community she brings to this program is top-notch!

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

I’m just now learning how to do this. I love to read, go on walks/hikes, and spend time with friends & family. Currently, my favorite thing to do is absolutely nothing!

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

I’m from a smaller town, and Highlands Ranch has a little bit of that small-town feel. I also LOVE the accessibility! I used to take my high school students from school to the mall, rec centers, and even downtown via RTD. There is also a little bit of everything; shopping, great restaurants, trails, and services.


 

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

Learning how to be a business owner at the beginning of a pandemic. I am not a risk taker, and this was a huge risk! 

Figuring out how to incorporate support for adults with IDD

Creating a vision/brand

Blessings: Community/Family


 

Erin Kane, Superintendent

Douglas County School District

dcsdk12.org

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself. 

I grew up right here in Colorado. When I was young, there was no Highlands Ranch, and Castle Rock was a tiny town that seemed very far away. I attended Arapahoe High School (although I remember attending a Prom at Douglas County High School) and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

My career did not start in education - in fact, my undergraduate degree is in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. I spent a decade in the high-tech industry in project development, project management, education, consulting, and practice management.

My career took a turn when I was a young mother of three looking at schools for my own children. My passion for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics led me to decide to start a charter school. I led the effort to open American Academy in 2005. Under my leadership, American Academy grew to serve 3,000 students across three campuses. Little did I know that the decision to start a charter school would foster a personal passion for education and public school choice, fundamentally changing the trajectory of my life and career.

For the last eighteen years, as a charter school leader and a school district superintendent, I have been a tireless advocate for public school choice and academic excellence for all students. Along the way, I earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Today, I have the incredible honor of serving as superintendent for the 63,000 students and 8,900 employees who call the Douglas County School District home. 

I have been married to my amazing husband, John, for 26 years, and we have three wonderful children, now young adults in college and beyond. 

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?

My biggest challenge has been bringing our community together during a time of political division. In our district, we are working to restore civil dialogue where we all talk to each other respectfully, listen to multiple perspectives without judgment, and, most importantly, remember that we serve as role models for our students. 

In DCSD, our funding challenges and the labor shortage have a significant impact on our work with students. These are areas I continue to focus our work around, as we want to provide the best possible education for our students. We have to be able to compete with neighboring school districts to have the best possible staff on board for our students:

And every day, I encourage myself and others to always presume positive intent and exude optimism.

  1. What advice would you give your younger self?

Dream big! This is one of my favorite quotes:

“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough.” 

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Dream big!

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally?

The 63,000 students I serve and the amazing people who educate them!

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

I enjoy spending my free time with my family and friends. And my husband and I love to travel!

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

Our students are so fortunate to have engaged families and community members who support their schools and teachers. Our community is incredibly involved in our school district and we are very grateful - having engaged parents is so important in education.

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

I am thrilled to return as the Douglas County Schools Superintendent a few years after serving as interim superintendent. I am blessed to lead this incredible school district out of COVID and into a very bright future! 

My biggest challenge has been working to bring our community together during a time of political division. In our district, we are working to restore civil dialogue where we all talk to each other respectfully, listen to multiple perspectives without judgment, and, most importantly, remember that we serve as role models for our students. I truly believe that Douglas County can serve as a model for the rest of the country - we all want what is best for our kids, our families, and our community.  

Every day, I encourage myself and others to always presume positive intent and exude optimism:

“There is a principle in philosophy and rhetoric called the principle of charity, which says that one should interpret other people’s statements in their best, most reasonable form, not in the worst or most offensive way possible.” – Jonathan Haidt

We are so fortunate to have engaged families and community members who support our students, our schools, and our staff. Together, we can ensure that our kids, and our community, have the brightest possible future! 

 It is an honor to serve the 63,000 students and the amazing people who educate them!



 

Corporal Deonna Weil

City of Lone Tree Police Department

Lone Tree Police Department, 303-339-8150 

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself.

My name is Deonna, and I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. I chose to move to Colorado after college due to my passion for camping and hiking. I applied to multiple police departments and sheriff departments in the Denver Metro area and chose to work for the Lone Tree Police Department based on the values of the community I would be serving.

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?

My biggest challenge has been working and living in a different state than my family. I grew up in a very family-oriented household where we sat down for dinner together every night. Working as a police officer requires a good work-life balance, and I have leaned on my family for love and support throughout my career. 

  1. What advice would you give your younger self?

I joined the Marine Corps at 17 years old. I would advise my younger self to take better care of my body so I could serve a full 20 years on active duty!

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally?

There are two men in the police community that have inspired me for different reasons, and both of these men have inspired me to pursue leadership opportunities at Lone Tree Police Department- focusing on the mental and physical well-being of the officers I work with. Lt. Joe Deland inspires me to work hard, have patience, and remain resilient while presenting new ideas and concepts to our command staff. He inspired me to pursue leadership opportunities at Lone Tree Police Department- Sgt. Joe Cummings inspired and helped me establish the Lone Tree Police Department Mounted Patrol Unit, which allows me to bring my horse partner Groot to mingle with the Lone Tree and Denver Metro Area communities at events. 

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

I spend my free time with my partner exploring the mountains of Colorado, traveling, backpacking, camping with our horses, snowboarding, and exercising. Self-care is very important to us as first responders who require a healthy work-life balance to give 100% at work.

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

I love the City of Lone Tree for its culture. Lone Tree is a community that promotes health, fitness, and service. The Lone Tree Police Department remains committed to Community Policing, which helps us build relationships with the community and makes us approachable and receptive to residents. This helps residents feel comfortable enough to approach police officers on patrol with their personal perspectives and ideas.
 

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

The past three years have been challenging for us all. I would not put my challenges above anyone else’s hardships. The hardest thing for me was to remain positive and healthy. I live an active lifestyle and try to maintain that because it helps me manage stress. I am consistently working to find balance in life, but what helped me the most over the last few years was building stronger relationships with my friends, family, and community. I make a larger effort to visit family more often, do wine nights with friends, and participate in community events, parades, and fundraisers. 


 

Charlotte K Jay

Financial Advisor and President/CEO of Jay Financial Group, Inc.

Jay Financial Group, Inc.

jayfinancialgroup.com

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself.

Hi, I’m Charlotte Jay.  My husband, David, and I own a Financial Planning practice, Jay Financial Group, in Littleton, CO.  I grew up 100 miles north of the Mile High City in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on a little farm surrounded by horses, cows, sheep, chickens and tons of springtime kittens and dogs while enjoying my dad’s gardening labor of love.  I am the third in a family of four girls.  I went to a small school with a graduating class of 35 students, and we are still a very close-knit group of friends.  I worked in the telephone industry for many years prior to becoming a Financial Advisor, which is how I landed back in Colorado via Arizona.

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?

Integrating technology to better communicate with our clients and our community is one of our main priorities, ensuring our clients can access their financial information on our platform.   

  1. What advice would you give your younger self?  

Believe in yourself.  Do more of what makes you happy.  Make health a priority in every way.  Play and rest.  

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally?

I have many people who have influenced me in my lifetime professionally.  Judy Kuplic is the woman who inspired me to have the confidence to speak publicly - which then launched me into so much more as a female business leader.

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

What’s that?  🙂  I love spending time with my family.  Currently, my son is in college at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs and on the rugby team.  I get excited about watching him play the sports he loves!

My self-care routines include practicing Spiritual exercises such as meditation, laughing with friends, family, and clients, my love for books, spending time with my book club gang, and regenerating my energy with my family.

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

My favorite thing about the area is the forethought that was put into the community planning, including the wide roads! 

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

Because everyone was initially working from home, it was challenging not being able to work as a team face-to-face with my employees.  Due to that, unfortunately, I had to let one of my newer employees go because lack of supervision was an issue.  

 Out of that situation, I moved a part-time employee to a lead position which is now one of the best blessings of my life.  As the world opened up, yet we were still not back in the office, we were able to work together despite being remote and the Covid obstacles the world was facing.   

 We provided constant communication to our clients during a world crisis. Our goal was to inspire continued confidence from our clients, the same trust and loyalty that they have always put in us.  Our clients knew we were working tirelessly to invest their money and manage their accounts despite the pandemic.

Ana Yacaman

Founder/CEO - The Best of Cartagena Travel, a trademark of PMJK Services LLC

thebestofcartagena.com

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself. 

 My family and I arrived in the Denver area in 1999. We were relocated from Colombia by a multinational software company that hired me to be part of a Software implementation team at Boeing in Seattle, WA. The base was Denver for us, and we loved it and stayed! I am originally from Cartagena, Colombia. I am the youngest of 6, and my parents (RIP) were always my inspiration. My Mom passed on the dedication, love, care, and attention to detail which showed in everything she did on a daily basis. My father was an entrepreneur and a very business-savvy man. Their lives inspired me to be who I am today. My academic background is in IT and Business. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a minor in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana.  I also have postgraduate studies in artificial intelligence from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL. Over the years, I accumulated a great deal of experience in both IT and business, which s why I decided to become an entrepreneur and started applying my skills, discipline, and passion to my own business. My business has two brands: IT Consulting and Travel. My focus and full-time dedication are on the travel agency. Our agency offers an advanced technological edge to our customers, and our prime destination offer is Cartagena, Colombia, via air or sea.

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?

My biggest challenge has been allowing myself to prioritize wisely to be able to help my travel agency grow more and more every day.

  1. What advice would you give your younger self?

Be more patient with yourself. 

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally?

My Mom! Since I was little and up to the day she passed. She was a very loving, peaceful person and, at the same time, a very strong woman. She taught me perseverance, discipline, and a great love for what I do. At a time when women could not really find opportunities to study and work, she went to school and worked in the courts. She accomplished a lot, and yet, when she started to have her kids, she decided to dedicate her whole time to us without any regrets. She was an avid reader and an extremely intelligent, cultured person. At age 72, she returned to school to learn English as a second language while visiting us in Denver. When it came to setting goals for herself, age was never an obstacle.

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

My all-time favorite hobby is hand-making things with fabric or yarn. I love knitting, crocheting, and sewing.  My Mom taught me to crochet when I was ten, and I self-taught knitting. I can safely say that I knit or crochet daily. I also love to walk with my husband after work. My two other hobbies are gardening and cooking.

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

I have five kids. The two oldest came with us from Colombia, and the three younger ones were born here in Colorado. My favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch area is the close community environment. My kids went to school at Cougar Run Elementary, then to Platte River Academy, and then some to Highlands Ranch High School and others to STEM Highlands Ranch. The school community is very welcoming. The area also offers business opportunities for entrepreneurs and more established companies. All year round, our family finds things to do and places to go, great food options for weekends, and more, which means I don’t have to drive downtown on the weekend to have fun and relax!

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

For sure! Our family was impacted by Covid with a death in the family, sadly!

Regarding business opportunities, it was a blessing in disguise since IT and remote work were revamped like never before. My IT consulting business attracted more customers since remote work was now more possible! Regarding the travel agency, we are now facing what the world of travel calls officially Travel Revenge! So we are literally seeing more family reunions, destination weddings, and simple self-care/recharge travel booked by our customers.


 

Marilyn Manning 

Director of Franchise Development

Payroll Vault Franchising

payrollvault.com

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself.

 I grew up in Lakewood and received my bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication and Broadcasting from Colorado State University. I worked in the broadcasting and advertising industries and found my passion in sales and marketing. In 2007 I pioneered speed networking in the Denver business community with my company Rev Networking. People loved my tips for networking which then catapulted me to become a national speaker teaching audiences my art of networking to build their personal and professional brands. In 2008 my CPA husband Sean founded our company Payroll Vault when he separated payroll from his accounting firm to run as its own business. The business grew so successfully that we launched as a franchise concept in 2012. We are unique in the franchise industry, which is so much fun! I am the Director of Franchise Development, and we have 65 locations growing across the USA, supporting businesses with payroll and workforce management services. Sean and I have two sons in college, and we have been residents of Highlands Ranch for 31 years. I have contributed to our community with volunteer work founding two charter schools in Highlands Ranch and fundraising for the schools my children attended. I was a mentor for inner-city high school students for Goodwill Industries. I have served on several boards and hosted fundraisers for charities. 

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?  

Technology is ramped up like no other time that we have experienced in history, and AI will revolutionize all that we have known. But with change comes opportunity, and finding ways to adapt, keep agile, and focus on the positive are critical. The sense of what was “normal” in our lives has changed to what is described as a “new normal,” but that keeps changing too, so we are really in a “now normal” – whatever is happening for the moment.

  1. What advice would you give your younger self? 

Everything has a purpose or reason for happening.  Good or bad, we learn from our experiences and can shape our future from them. 

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally? 

My sister Lucy Roucis would love to know she is my muse and inspired me personally and professionally. She was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at 27 and was an aspiring actress in Los Angeles in the ‘80s. She lived with Parkinson’s for 34 years and died in 2021, leaving a legacy for the people that were fortunate to know her. She was featured in major motion films, notably “Love & Other Drugs,” and coached Anne Hathaway, whose character gets Young Onset Parkinson’s disease. I always encouraged her by saying her brain would make her famous, and it did. She met all the cool “Parkinson’s people” like Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, and Janet Reno. She knew how to network her way for anything! She was incredibly talented: actress, model, singer, dancer, comedienne, and writer. Given her odds, she kept a positive outlook on life. 

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care? 

My husband and I love to travel, and with our business, we can work remotely, so we are on the go quite a bit.  I love being outdoors to hike through the many trails of Highlands Ranch and the Rocky Mountains. I recently started practicing meditation, and physically I get in a great workout six days a week. Top that all off with gazing at our gorgeous Colorado sunsets while sipping fine wines. 


 

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?  

I love the forever views that we have on this end of the metro since we sit up a bit higher. Every day I appreciate the beauty and grandeur of our great state, the Rocky Mountains, and the friendly communities in this area.  

7. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?  

Interestingly, everything with the pandemic has directly affected payroll, and our company has flourished over the past three years, so we have been in full motion. We have stayed on top of all the legislative changes to support our franchise owners and the businesses they provide payroll services for, to keep their employees on payroll, and keep their doors open. We have helped many businesses achieve stimulus funding, Employee Retention Credits (ERC) to help them recover from the pandemic. I love the business of business. All the networking we did over the years prior to 2020 all paid off as we connected immediately with business owners and our political leaders to support and collaborate with each other. The isolation during the pandemic was the worst part. We must remember that people need people; no matter how much technology we have, we need the human touch.  It is wonderful to be back in person at conferences and networking events, nurturing relationships. I always say, “Best business is done on a handshake.”


 

Nikki Adams

PEAK Golf Academy

nikki@peakgolfacademy.com
 

  1. Tell our readers a little about yourself. 

Hometown: Highlands Ranch

Education: Mountain Vista High School- CSU Fort Collins

Ended up in Denver: Golf Industry starting out as a GOLFTEC Cherry Creek and 

have moved all over the Denver Metro Area.

  1. What has been your biggest challenge (other than Covid)?

Being a female in a male-dominated industry

Having to start my clientele base over a couple of times

  1. What advice would you give your younger self?

Be who you want to be and look how you want to look, and as long as you are professional and carry yourself with high regards

Take chances!

  1. Who is your muse, or tell us about someone who inspires you professionally?

My father Jason Inspires me professionally. My father grew up in Greeley and is self-made with his success and education. Now owns his own CPA firm in Cherry Creek. He told me always to give %100 no matter what. He was there for me when I had doubts and was there to cheer me on with my successes. Growing up to see my father grow and become successful was the most inspiring.

  1. How do you spend your free time? How do you practice self-care?

I exercise 4-5 days a week and love reading about spirituality.

I practice Yoga and my fiancé and I established and run a BMW car club to engage in our community.

  1. What is your favorite thing about the Highlands Ranch/ Lone Tree/ South Metro Denver/ Northern Douglas County community?

I love the feel of community in Highlands Ranch. I was raised there, and I will have to say that, looking back at my life this was a great upbringing, and there was so much opportunity for extracurricular activities.

  1. The past three years have been personally and professionally transformative for many. What challenges did you face, and most importantly, how did you overcome them, and what lasting blessings have you discovered?

 The past 3 years have been wonderful, however, there have been challenges. Some of those challenges are starting over. When COVID hit, everyone took a hit economically, and I had to restart.

 It took many months to rebuild my book of business; however, met many new people along the way (client based and professionally in the industry).

With new connections came new opportunities!

 My latest blessing was meeting Katie Milstead at the Women’s Colorado PGA Championship last year. Later that year, she invited me to join PEAK Golf Academy and help grow the business with my individualism, enthusiasm, and drive for success!

The people and the family values are my favorite things about the South Metro area.

I grew up on a little farm surrounded by horses, cows, sheep, chickens and springtime kittens, all while enjoying my dad’s gardening labor of love.

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