20 in their 20s
There’s no minimum age for starting a business, making a difference in your community or darting up the corporate ladder—and these young professionals know it. Our honorees have let youthful energy, daring innovation and tenacity be their calling cards as they’ve struck out on their ambitious career paths.
Morgen Baldwin, 26
Project Engineer, W. W. Clyde & Company
It’s only taken Morgen Baldwin three and a half years to grow by leaps and bound in the construction industry. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio in 2013, she was offered a position at W. W. Clyde & Company and has worked exclusively on multimillion-dollar projects since. With each project, her role has grown, starting as a roadway field engineer, then as a supporting engineer, and now as a project engineer. She has managed $20 million of work, and one of the projects Baldwin was involved in—Utah Department of Transportation’s SR-20 Downhill Passing Lane Project—was the first fully 3D project in the country.
While Baldwin admits that rapidly getting new responsibilities sometimes felt like “drinking from a fire hose,” she says that having the opportunity to learn from mentors at the company has empowered her to realize that “growth only occurs outside of your comfort zone.”
“I do consider myself ambitious,” says Baldwin. “I have high expectations of myself and of others. Working in the environment that I do, we truly do work as a team. If I am not pulling my weight, it will inevitably affect others as well. I also really do enjoy a challenge.”
Netflix binge: “I am a documentary person. The most recent one I watched was called What the Health.”
Michael C. Hopkins, 28
Director of Group Sales, Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation
As life becomes increasingly digital, Michael C. Hopkins has built success on an old-fashioned principle: “In an age of text messages and email, I believe the most important facet of business is in our ability to build a personal connection, both internally and externally,” he says. “Far too many of my peers rely solely on digital communication as the primary means for doing business. I believe in the power of in-person discussion and think that this has been the single biggest advantage for me in my career.”
This personal touch has led to his success in his current role at the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation, where he oversees revenue growth and group experience initiatives for the Olympic Park, Utah Olympic Oval and Soldier Hollow. With a decade of experience in the hospitality and tourism sector, Hopkins has amassed connections throughout industry. He currently serves as a member of the board of trustees for Visit Salt Lake and as a member of the board for the Utah Blues Society.
How he unwinds: “I’m an old soul and to me, nothing beats a night out with a hot Blues band. Alternatively, listening to one of my Blues (Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters) albums works well after a long day in the field.”
Annie Leither, 28
Assistant Vice President, Marketing Officer – Sponsorships; Zions Bank
At the age of 24, Annie Leither was offered a newly created role at Zions Bank: that of managing the bank’s corporate sponsorships, which account for nearly 30 percent of Zions Bank’s marketing budget. Leither took initiative in growing the role she says began with just a stack of sponsorship contracts and nothing else—she now manages relationships, sponsorship fulfillments and executions, and brand management.
“Building a new position two years out of college was intimidating at first. I had moments of self-doubt over the first few months,” says Leither. “I didn’t even know where to start, so I immersed myself in research on the sponsorship industry and what best-in-class brands were doing to activate… It took time, but I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I grew in both my confidence and my skills.”
Leither also serves on the Bloom Gala committee for Utah Community Action’s Head Start program, and is on the board committee for WISE Utah. From 2012-2016, she helped raise more than $130,000 for Junior Achievement of Utah. Leither is currently pursuing her MBA at Westminster College and expects to graduate in spring of 2018.
Favorite social platform: “Instagram. I don’t post too often, but I enjoy engaging with brands and people who share the same passions I do through visual content.”
Ryan Stringham, 27
Front End Architect, Lucid Software
In the summer of 2012, Ryan Stringham became Lucid Software’s first engineering intern. Today, he is the front end architect on a team of nearly 60 engineers. In this role, Stringham has led many ambitious projects for the company, including redesigning the LucidChart editor using Angular 2—a project that then saw him invited to speak at the keynotes of ng-conf in SLC and AngularConnect in London.
“I seek to be ambitious in my endeavors. When I was in college, I took aggressive class loads in order to get a double major in four years,” he says. “In my professional career I have sought out challenging problems and looked for impactful projects. … Find opportunities to take initiative and ownership. Don’t wait to be asked to identify and solve hard problems. Work together with your team to find the best solutions for problems. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Favorite activity to unwind: “I enjoy solving Rubik’s cube-like puzzles and occasionally play video games like The Legend of Zelda.”
Jeff Robinson, 28
Vice Presdient of Risk & Operations, Alpha Warranty Services, Inc.
A month before his 20th birthday, Jeff Robinson got a job as a claims adjuster at Alpha Warranty Services. Almost nine years later, Robinson is still there and has become a pillar in the growing company’s leadership.
Robinson worked while he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, all the while helping the company grow to nearly 100 employees. “I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn business best practices in college and immediately be able to apply them to my job. It was the perfect fit,” he says.
In his current role, Robinson created Alpha Warranty Services’ risk management system from scratch. And he quickly realized that crunching numbers was not enough. “The next step, which was just as vital as the first, was presenting my findings to our underwriters and executive team in a clear, concise and persuasive way,” he says. “As I started to see my predictions result in greater profitability for the company, my confidence grew.”
Last book read: “I am currently reading Charlotte’s Web to my first-grade daughter. Prior to that, I read The Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore and James Wood. I learned better techniques for staying organized throughout the life of a project and how to keep everyone motivated to see a project through to completion.”
Don C. Willie, 29
Managing Director, World Trade Center Utah; Co-Founder, Emerging Leaders Initiative
Don C. Willie believes in the phrase “if you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards”—and he’s chosen to always be moving forward. He credits working both smarter and harder with his success, of which he’s already had much. As a program manager for the state AmeriCorps program, Willie oversaw 10-12 AmeriCorps programs and a $3.2 million budget. He was then recruited to join World Trade Center Utah, where his responsibilities include financial oversight, program management and impact analysis. One of the projects Willie worked on is the WTC Utah Rural Outreach Program, which has seen over 5,000 individuals educated and assisted hundreds of rural Utah companies.
Willie also co-founded and is the chair of the Emerging Leaders Initiative, a nonpartisan nonprofit aimed at getting 18-35 year olds more involved with politics. The nonprofit urges millennials to vote, serve and run for office to make their voices heard. “Utah has zero millennials in the state legislature and only a handful in municipal office, yet we make up the single largest portion of the state’s population and are the largest voting block,” says Willie. “By engaging young leaders, we believe that we can create sensible public policy that better represents Utah’s unique demographics.”
Netflix binge: “West Wing, Madam Secretary … pretty much any political drama. Oh, and Ryan Hamilton.”
Jeremy Krause, 29
Vice President of Construction, Strategic Builders, a J. Fisher Company
Jeremy Krause grew up in the construction industry, beginning to work with his father finishing concrete at the age of 12. In high school, he and his brother ran their own concrete business. Krause has plenty of hands-on experience, but he also completed a Masters of Real Estate degree at the University of Utah to bolster his expertise.
While pursuing his education, he continued to work full time. He worked for five years for a large construction company, starting as a laborer but moving quickly into the role of project manager. In his current role with Strategic Builders, Krause has been involved in a wide variety of major industrial, retail and multi-family construction projects, some with budgets of $100 million.
Additionally, Krause serves on the workforce development committee with the AGC, helping communicate the valuable career opportunities within the construction industry to the up-and-coming generation.
“I do my best to work hard and work smart. If something isn’t working, I will change the process and get it right. I will not let obstacles or the day-to-day struggles stop me,” he says, adding that integrity is also important to him. “I decided early in my career that I will be true to myself, my family and my work ethic at all costs.”
Last book read: Barefoot to Billionaire by Jon M. Huntsman, Sr.
Joshua Moody, 28
Director of Research & Development, 97th Floor
Josh Moody joined 97th Floor in 2012 and quickly gained a reputation for his innovative, award-winning ideas. He headed a large enterprise marketing team, serving clients such as Salesforce, Discover, Progenex and Pluralsight. From 2012 to 2016, Moody handled nearly $3 million in business for 97th Floor—the most of any one individual in the company. One of his proudest moments, he says, is when his team won a Stevie Award for Marketing Team of the Year from American Business Awards.
In 2016, Moody was asked to start a research and development department in order to experiment with new tools, ideas and processes. “Within this role I run marketing tests, build marketing tools and train marketers, in addition to building marketing campaigns for onboarding and prospective clients,” he explains.
One example is a content ideation tool he created to help clients find the best content gaps within their niche within minutes. The tool lets users build out a full content marketing campaign based on keyword research, competitor analysis and within the parameters of what it will take for that piece of content to rank and generate traffic.
Last book read: “The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan and Expert Secrets by Russel Brunson. I read them both in the same time frame.”
Joshua Goldsmith, 23
Culture Director, Mark Miller Subaru
A marketing internship after his freshman year of college gave Joshua Goldsmith a taste for marketing. Another internship connected him with Mark Miller Subaru, where Goldsmith found plenty of room for his knack for the craft to grow. The match between him and the dealership was so ideal that a position was created just for him. But Goldsmith says his success is more about hard-won respect rather than fate.
“Coming in to the position I did, it took a lot of time and hard work to earn and gain the respect of the people I work with, some of whom have been working in the industry for longer than I have even been alive. Without that respect, I wouldn’t be nearly as successful as I have been,” he says.
Goldsmith dove headfirst into his role and has crafted a culture that celebrates diversity; is more efficient and thorough in its training; gives room for employee to have continued growth and success in or beyond Mark Miller Subaru; and is designed to be an extension of employees’ homes rather than a daily grind.
“One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is the importance of taking advantage of every opportunity you can because you never know where that opportunity may take you,” he says.
Childhood hero: “My hero growing up was the tennis player Andre Agassi. I loved playing tennis as a kid and aspired to be like him!”
Molly Jones, 28
Sales Associate, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Some people have a job, and some people are their jobs—that’s what Molly Jones believes, and she definitely thinks of herself in the latter category.
“Those who know me would say that I emulate my job in everything that I do, and that is because I truly have a passion for real estate,” she says. “Whether or not someone is ever planning to work with me, I love talking to them about their home buying plans, renovation projects, and just discussing the market, because being around real estate makes me happy, and I love sharing that with others.”
Jones graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of San Diego and began her career in real estate, where she has flourished. She was honored as Coldwell Banker’s Rookie of the Year, and this year was one of Coldwell Banker International’s 30 Under 30 across Coldwell Banker’s 88,000 agents around the world. She and her partner are the top team within their office and No. 5 across Utah.
“Success is contagious—when you step back and realize someone else’s accomplishments don’t detract from your own, that’s where the magic happens,” says Jones.
Last book read: “Training the Best Dog Ever—anyone who knows my dog would tell you I need to re-read it …”
Genevieve Smith, 26
Chief Management Analyst, Columbus Community Center
Genevieve Smith moved Columbus Community Center “out of the dark ages of paper processing into an age of big data,” says CEO Kristy Chambers.
With a background in economics, Smith has helped Columbus Community Center develop key performance indicators and use that information to drive business decisions. She also worked with all of the organization’s departments to implement Six Sigma/Lean process improvement methodologies and stakeholder feedback loops.
As an example, Smith helped Columbus tap its database to determine the age of its client population and the fees for service each client generates for the organization, helping it pinpoint the services its aging population will need in the future and highlighting the need to emphasize programs targeted to young adults with disabilities who are aging out of the school system.
“We’ve come such a long way in re-forging our corporate culture to one that is proactive and data-driven—a fairly new idea in the social sector,” says Smith. “I believe in the power of good data and good public statistics to promote equity and access to services and to drive social change through influencing policy, public opinion and socio-economic structures.”
Favorite activity to unwind: “I started my post-secondary education as a cello performance major, and though I rarely play classical anymore, I play in several bands around Salt Lake and do some studio recording work.”
Nate Higgs, 28
President & Chief Strategy Officer, Evelar Solar
Four years ago, Nate Higgs started with three years of experience in the solar industry, very little capital and a goal to break into a booming sector. Today, Evelar Solar has expanded to four states, gleaned over $20 million in annual revenue and gained a firm toehold in the industry. But in the beginning, Higgs says he wasn’t sure if he was on the right path or if he should follow a more traditional track like his peers.
“As I saw my friends graduate and take high-paying jobs in various fields, it was difficult to continue building a business, putting in a ton of sweat equity, foregoing a salary for the first two years, and not knowing if there would ever be a return on that hard work,” he says.
But despite those difficulties, Higgs’ ambition kept him focused. “I think it’s important to start with the end in mind and always focus on the ‘why’ of what you’re doing. Once you figure out your ‘why’ and the end you want to achieve, the ambition to get there comes naturally.
Social media platform of choice: “Facebook has over 2 billion monthly active users. You can connect with a third of the world’s population. That’s mind-boggling to me.”
Kylee Champlin, 26
Owner, ROOLEE Boutique
Kylee Champlin launched ROOLEE Boutique with her husband during their last semester of college. Over the past four years, the company has expanded from a small brick-and-mortar location to an online e-tailer that fulfills more than 750 orders each day.
“We started by leasing a small 900-square-foot location in a strip mall to now owning our own building and operating the new store in half of that building” explains Champlin. The Logan-based company now employs over 40 people.
Champlin relies on social media to gain traction for the brand and to garner real-time feedback from customers. The brand’s newest clothing line, ROOLEE Mom, was developed based on customer suggestions. The line features nursing-friendly styles designed with hidden zippers.
“I haven’t ever really thought of myself as ‘ambitious’ per se,” says Champlin. “But if ‘ambition’ is a willingness to do whatever it takes to make your business succeed (late nights, long hours, hard decisions, etc), and a desire to excel in our industry and to provide the best experience for our customers and employees, then I might be a little ambitious.”
Childhood hero: “My mom has always been my hero + role model. I have looked up to her since the get-go. She is the constantly finding ways to serve everyone around her.”
Brady Hansen, 27
Brady Hansen has been an entrepreneur for as long as he can remember. Though his ventures first started in the vein of painting curbs or selling pumpkins out of the back of his truck, at age 20 he launched his first big business. Seven years later, he’s been involved in multiple organizations, gaining experience in every facet of entrepreneurship along the way.
His most recent venture was Megalopolis, a company that created a community for people who want to bond over collectible figures, online events, social media groups and entertainment. And that market is huge. Hansen, who recently moved on to another venture, says Megalopolis has “barely scratched the surface” of its potential. “The most exciting thing in my eyes is the fact that this is only the beginning, there are many more big things on the horizon.”
Always on the move, Hansen is in the process of launching a new venture. “I have always had a love, better yet, a deep burning passion for business. I love to study every angle, every step in the process and every system of other great businesses and entrepreneurs,” he says. “To me, business and running a business isn’t a job, but a way of life.”
Last book read: “The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino”
Elaina Pappas, 27
Director of Marketing, Utah Jazz
Starting with a corporate services internship with Real Salt Lake, Elaina Pappas quickly worked her way up in Utah’s sports community. She is now director of marketing for the Utah Jazz, where she leads marketing campaigns for engaging the team’s fan base. Pappas helped make the phrase “Take Note” catch on with fans and players alike. She also helped generate awareness for the high-profile launches of the 2017 Nike jerseys, Utah Jazz app and Vivint Smart Home Arena renovation.
Pappas, who pursued sports in college, says she is proud to have worked for two major league sports teams. “It’s been great experience having helped build the brand of a young major league team in Real Salt Lake and reinventing the brand of the Utah Jazz, a team that has been around for decades.”
Pappas is also one of 12 members to sit on a Diversity and Inclusion Council for the Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment companies. “The council promotes awareness initiatives that combat unconscious cultural bias in the workforce, and provides a greater voice and platform for women and people with diverse backgrounds in company matters,” she explains.
Childhood hero: “Mia Hamm. I used to lay in bed every night and tell myself I was better than she was at soccer. Since that obviously didn’t work out, I figured working for a Major League Soccer team was second best.”
Meera Kansagra, 25
Assistant Controller, RizePoint
To say Meera Kansagra is ambitious is an understatement. She grew up in India, moving to the United States with her family as a child. But she didn’t let her unfamiliar surroundings hold her back—she set a goal to graduate from high school early while earning an associate’s degree at the same time. Because of that, she completed her Master’s in Accountancy at 20 years old.
After working for Wilson Electrics, Kansagra joined RizePoint as a senior accountant; she was soon promoted to assistant controller.
“Through my time at RizePoint so far, I have been heavily involved in implementing an automated process for collections, which helped our overdue accounts receivable decrease significantly. I have also been able to accomplish a decreased close time by building a close process around the new ERP system, which includes automated reports and automated journal entries,” she explains.
Kansagra says her experience moving to a new country has made her adaptable to change. “The adaption quality is helpful especially when I am trying to change processes to create efficiency and improvement in my work. Adaption has also been helpful in learning new things quickly.”
Favorite activity to unwind: “Spending time with my dog. I love hiking with him or even just playing fetch. This helps me disconnect from the daily stress and simply enjoy.”
Camille Van Wagoner Hawkins, 29
Executive Director and Counselor, Utah Infertility Resource Center
Infertility is a difficult journey for any woman or couple to have to face—but, thanks to Camille Van Wagoner Hawkins’ Utah Infertility Resource Center, they don’t have to face it alone.
Van Wagoner Hawkins is a licensed clinical social worker with a Masters Degree in social work, and has been a child and family counselor for the past five years. When she and her husband struggled to build a family, Van Wagoner Hawkins longed for a support system of other women who would understand to turn to, only to find that it didn’t exist. So Van Wagoner Hawkins created what would become the Utah Infertility Resource Center in her own living room.
Creating a nonprofit takes “telling your story and building relationships around you,” says Van Wagoner Hawkins. She has since adopted two toddler girls and has embraced her dual roles of mother and nonprofit executive director. “The relationships I have built with my team are strong connections, where we work our tails off and wonder why we do what we do—then, when we hear how our work has deeply helped someone, we look at each other and smile, knowing that we provided that support to someone so they didn’t have to suffer alone.”
Favorite activity to unwind: “A hot bath.”
Thiefaine Magré, 28
Founder and COO, Prouduct, LLC
Thiefaine Magré is nothing if not adaptable—a quality he learned emigrating from Paris, France, to rural Vermont as a kid. Today, that skill helps him quickly adjust to new teams, atmospheres and responsibilities. His multilingual abilities don’t hurt either; in addition to French and English, Magré is also fluent in Mandarin.
That international experience comes in handy as Magré now travels the world visiting factories, tradeshows and exhibitions looking for products and suppliers for his customers. He launched Prouduct, a sourcing and supply chain consulting company, two years ago with one client. The firm now has customers across the United States and in Germany, French Polynesia and Australia.
Along with a hefty dose of ambition, Magré says little can top a strong work ethic and good listening skills. “I like to roll up my sleeves and work hard,” he says. “I believe I am a good listener and know how to ask the right questions, which allows me to focus on the root of the problem and work towards the right solution. The combination of these two qualities allows me to see projects through to their completion.”
Childhood heroes: “Asterix and Obelix has always been my favorite. I don’t know if they count as super heroes, but the comics are amazing!”
Bradi Hill, 25
Owner & Director, Rhythm Works Dance
Although Bradi Hill has always loved dance, it was in high school that the bug bit her hard. Today, that love is the driving force behind her thriving dance studio. Hill studied at Rhythm Works Dance when she was a child, continued working there as she attended college, and ultimately bought it from the studio’s co-founder—and Hill’s childhood instructor. Despite her youth, Hill embraced the challenge. Since taking over in 2014, Hill has increased enrollment in the 25-year-old business by 25 percent despite competition from other studios, and is proud of the studio’s growth and its commitment to its values.
“In the dance world it has become common for dancers to become sexualized at a very young age. Rhythm Works is known to be a more conservative studio with modest costumes, clean moves and age appropriate music,” she says. “I have seen growth in numbers at my studio each year and I know it is because the challenge of other businesses around keeps me working harder.”
And Hill says she’s just getting started. “I have a lot of goals that I have already accomplished at my age and I feel like I can continue to do bigger and better things. I don’t like to quit on something if it doesn’t work out, rather I keep working toward my end goal.”
Netflix binge: “I love to watch cooking shows and cooking competitions.”
Kory Stevens, 28
CEO and Founder, Taft
Kory Stevens and his wife Mallory started Taft as a Kickstarter for men’s socks in 2014. Since then, the brand has grown into a luxury direct-to-consumer shoe company, with shoes crafted from high-quality materials by artisans in Spain. Stevens designs all of the shoes himself, visits his manufacturers abroad frequently, and has seen his brand featured in Forbes, GQ, Business Insider and other publications. Taft reached $5 million in revenue this year.
Even with his success, Stevens would not call himself entrepreneurial. “I am ambitious, but not particularly entrepreneurial. I avoid taking risks and thrive on predictability and stability,” he says. “Running a business is anything but those things, so it’s a daily battle to be ok with how my life looks right now.”
Stevens says instead, he focuses on the positives in his career: he tries not to compare his own business to others, finds time to be there for his wife and two children, and has been using the influence he’s been gaining to raise awareness about mental health issues. When he can, he interacts personally with Taft’s customers to bolster his brand’s loyal followers—some with as many as 50 pairs of Taft shoes, he says.
Childhood hero: “Thierry Henry.”