Spotlight: Arvada Women

Inspiring us with leadership and passion for what they do

Cleo Lewis

Founder, Central Park Mortgage

“I love being able to see people obtain home ownership,” says Cleo Lewis, the founder of Central Park Mortgage. It's a challenging market, but Cleo says she loves seeing families change their lives financially and be able to start building generational wealth. Cleo has three daughters. When her youngest was born, she decided to start her own business for more flexibility. “Clients always come first, but it's also important to take care of ourselves and our families. You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.”

To those looking to find success in the industry, Cleo says “Work hard. Never give up, and every second counts. Be honest, and authentically show people you care about them. And most importantly, give back. You'll get way more in return if you genuinely give.” That giving spirit extends through past programs Central Park Mortgage has developed guiding families from underserved communities through financial recovery and helping them become homeowners.

Cleo says, “It doesn't matter what color you are or how much money you have. Work hard, and you can do it. Don't let anything hold you back, including hearing nos. The next one might a really great yes.”

Lorie Gillis

Arvada City Manager

Arvada City Manager Lorie Gillis has worked in finance and business operations throughout her career. She served as finance director for the City of Golden and chief financial officer for Jeffco Public Schools.

Lorie was deputy city manager for Arvada for eight years before being appointed the Arvada City Manager in 2022. “People are the best part of the job—the employees and the community,” she says. With the community facing a few tragic events in recent years, Lorie says, “Our entire employee base has been through a lot. It's time for some healing and growth.”

Lorie has three adult children and two grandchildren. She credits a lot of her success to her supportive husband and family.

For young women looking to take a similar career path, Lorie suggests being open to learning, and bring your grit and tenacity. “Don't let things get in the way--make it possible. You have to power through challenges and changes to get to the good outcomes, so look for what makes you happy and what you're passionate about doing.”

Karen Kristopeit-Parker

General Manager, The Butchery

Karen Kristopeit-Parker is an Arvada native and a culinary rock start in Colorado. She's in the Colorado Restaurant Association Hall of Fame and was the association's first female chairman. Karen started at C.S. Goodberry's in Arvada as a teenager, was the dining room manager for Mount Vernon Country Club, and was co-owner of the Fresh Fish Company and Proof NiteClub.

In 2021, the owners of The Butchery brought Karen in as general manager. “They really just let me run with it. I took three months to make sure we had the right team, so we would bring success to The Butchery.”

Education is one of Karen's passions. She's involved with the ProStart Program in Colorado for culinary learning, and she works with an apprentice—a young woman working at The Butchery in conjunction with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation and the Colorado Restaurant Association Education Foundation. Karen says, “The restaurant industry is a lot of hard work, and you've got to have passion and grit to work in the field.”

When people come to The Butchery, Karen treats it like they're coming to her home. “I want you to have an amazing, memorable experience.” Taking care of employees is a priority, as well. “They're part of my family. We're on stage together all the time, and we set the atmosphere for the entire experience. The Butchery has such a great vibe, and that's the people.”

Alana Anzalone

Managing Partner, Anzalone Law Offices in Colorado

Alana Anzalone, Managing Partner of Anzalone Law Offices in Colorado, comes from a family of attorneys who have dedicated their adult lives to fighting for victims injured due to another’s negligence. As a woman and a mom she has built a practice rooted in balancing the compassion for the injured and the relentless fight for justice. Alana has been a Colorado Super Lawyers Rising Star since 2017 and a Top 40 under 40 National Trial Lawyer since 2016.

It is a constant struggle for women to be seen as equal. “There are many things we cannot control, but what we can control is how we make our mark,” says Alana. “Prove yourself, and stay true to your word. Be great at what you do, and commit to continually learning. This creates credibility, and that can't be taken from you.”

Alana has made it her mission to promote and support women to be leaders within her industry. Although Colorado tends to be more progressive than other states, Alana says female lawyers around the U.S. are still mistaken for the paralegal or court reporter and often expected to clean a conference room after a meeting. They are cognizant of their attire and, unfortunately, suffer harassment and pay discrimination. Through her work empowering other women to become more confident in their own practice and knowledge of the law, she has observed the instances of discrimination are becoming less prevalent.

For Alana, it's all about connections and caring about her clients. “I'm representing a human being, and it's so important to get to know them and understand why their lives are negatively affected by whatever conflict caused them to be uprooted.”


Aimee Charlton and Micki Nelson

Co-owners, Great Harvest Bread Co. in Arvada

From aerospace engineer to running a bakery, Micki Nelson has seen a lot of interesting workplaces and accomplished a great deal. Now considered retired, she is co-owner of the Great Harvest Bread Co. in Arvada with her daughter, Aimee Charlton. “I just love working with people,” says Micki.

Aimee was working in nonprofit management prior to owning the bakery, but she knew she wanted something different. “I prefer to work in people development. I love taking an organization to the next level and helping people grow.” The bakery has become a well-oiled machine with great management. Micki does the behind the scenes work including bookkeeping, office management, and logistics while Aimee is focused on catering and converting their POS system.

“Aimee does everything to move us into the future and grow,” says Micki, “And I make sure all the finances are straight and organized.” Micki says she loves what they've been able to build through the bakery. “We've tripled our sales and developed an amazing group of employees and dedicated customers. It's just a nice place to be.” The mother-daughter team had a 5 year plan to become a million dollar bakery, and they expect to hit that mark within the next 6 months.

Micki has dealt with a lot of difficulties in her career as a woman while also seeing amazing success. “I was the only woman in my engineering team. I was turned down by my favorite college, because I was told I'd be taking a job a man who needed it to support a family—but not me.”

“Because of trailblazing women like my mom, we have more opportunities today,” Aimee says. She advises women to remember to support one another. “It's important to mentor each other and not see others as competition. Cheer for each other's successes.”

Micki 's advice to young women is, “Don't worry about the risk, just do it.”

“When one of us is down, the other is there to pick her up,” says Aimee. “And that support means everything.”


Meagan Miller

Co-Founder and Vice President of Talnua Distillery

Talnua Distillery is the first distillery outside of Ireland fully dedicated to making single pot still whiskey. The name Talnua comes from the Irish-Gaelic words talamh which means land and nua which means new. It's representative of the distillery's passion to bring an old-world style of distilling to America. The distillery opened to the public St. Patrick's Day 2019.

Vice President and Co-founder Meagan Miller and her husband were inspired to start the distillery after experiencing single pot still whiskey during a trip to Ireland. They decided to develop their own American version of it. “We're at a high altitude with a dry environment, which is very different than Ireland where it's humid, and they're at sea level.” Talnua is doing a project with an Irish distillery in which both companies will use the same resources and methods to make whiskey and then compare the results based on the different environments in which they were produced.

“My mentality has always been that I wanted to start a business of my own. Even when I was a kid, I tried to sell anything I could,” explains Meagan. For those considering a similar path of entrepreneurship, she advises, “The best thing you can do for your career is to work on leadership skills. Continually grow and learn, and be ready to stand up for yourself and your morals.”

Meagan especially enjoys empowering other women who work with her. “If they are facing a challenge, I always encourage them to ask for help. It's okay to not know the answer. Don't be afraid to ask.” She also recommends people starting their own businesses be open to hiring those who know the things you don't. “We have an amazing team. The people you surround yourself with is crucial, and it's that team we've built that has made us successful.”

 “You've got to have passion and grit to work in the (culinary) field.” --Karen Kristopeit-Parker

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