Forty Under 40 Class of 2015

Class of 2015

Akash Patel

akash-patel-3406gfAge: 24 | Founder and Executive Director | World Experiences Foundation

At just 24 years old, Akash is the founder and executive director of World Experiences Foundation. In addition to providing free professional development for educators, Akash is a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of Central Oklahoma, an ESL instructor at Oklahoma City Community College, a diversity coach and an international motivational speaker.

Awarded Educator of the Month January 2015 from the State Department of Education and 2015 Multicultural Teacher of the Year by the Multicultural Education Institute, Akash is no stranger to honors bestowed. The World Experiences Foundation model provides unique professional development opportunities for educators from across the state. Partnerships with international student bodies, using the foundation’s Skype in the Classroom program, allow teachers to easily host international events on their campuses. It all leads to a powerful way of promoting global citizenship.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
What I love the most about the city is its people. By and large, we are a kind, considerate and personable bunch, always willing to strike a conversation and treat others with respect. I absolutely love that Oklahoma spirit and that Oklahoma Standard.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
The day I founded my nonprofit. That day, I realized I had so much to offer the students in Oklahoma, and then I traveled to schools and classes from across the state to speak to them about my experiences of working with orphan elephants, sea turtles and other animals.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I’d like to see the state of education improve in the metro area. I’d like to see less standardized testing, no teacher shortages and an increase in teacher pay.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
You’re never too young to make a difference. All you’ve got to do is dream big, have an unflagging will and work hard and you will achieve anything you want in this great country.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
The World Experiences model has been the most significant contribution of my nonprofit to communities in Oklahoma. It helps children connect with people from different cultures, races and backgrounds. This is a powerful way of promoting global citizenship, building love and tolerance in the hearts and minds of children to foster world peace and collaboration.


Alice Young

alice-young-3524gfAge: 34 | Owner | Brown O’Haver of Oklahoma | Senior Professional Public Adjuster

Wearing many hats, Alice is owner, manager and a senior professional public adjuster for the insured with Brown O’Haver. She acquired her bachelor’s of science communication degree from Southern Utah University. Alice founded Brown O’Haver at age 25 with a desire to advocate on behalf of the insured’s rights. When a bill was proposed before the Oklahoma Senate in early 2015 that would effectively eliminate public adjusting, Alice campaigned speaking directly to each House Representative on the Insurance Committee and with the Insurance Department. Working closely with the committee, Insurance Department and the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, a compromise was made to put forth a bill that would benefit both the insured and public adjusters in the state of Oklahoma. Giving back to her community after the May 20, 2013 tornado in Moore, Brown O’Haver put on two free insurance seminars to assist homeowners with the insurance process and help families rebuild faster.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love being able to help people by adjusting their claims on their behalf. I love watching people succeed and come up on top of a devastating loss. Living in Oklahoma, I get to see this time and time again.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
When I was anticipating the arrival of my daughter, I had true anxiety about how our business would be the sole provider of our family. At that moment, I knew that God would take care of the business as long as my priority was always helping people first.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I’d love for more people to know what a public insurance adjuster is and that they have rights when it comes to insurance claims. They don’t have to accept what an insurance company says. They have the right to be paid fairly.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Think before you speak, even if that means that you have to think a very long time.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
Our personal property inventory service. Many people believe that if your home is completely destroyed by a tornado or fire that the insurance company will automatically pay out what the policy limit on your personal property coverage policy is. Not true. Having people walk in our office years after a tornado to pick up a check for over $100,000 never gets old.


Amanda D. Storck

amanda-storck-3442gfAge: 38 | Chief of Administration and Chief Financial Officer | Oklahoma Water Resources Board

Amanda received her Bachelor of Science degree in finance from Oklahoma State University (OSU) minoring in both accounting and Japanese in 1999. She went on to complete her master of business administration degree from OSU in 2008. In addition to mingling her love of Oklahoma with her love of spreadsheets at the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Amanda regularly serves as a liaison to legislators concerning those resources. She is tasked with budgeting, strategic planning and workforce planning as well as selecting professional development opportunities for Water Resources Board employees. In her spare time, Amanda teaches a variety of group exercise classes including BodyPump, cycling and Pilates, TRX and boot camp. She was an okc.BIZ runner-up Fittest Exec 2013 and one of The Journal Record’s Achievers Under 40 in 2014.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
The ease of access that Oklahoma City provides. To be so accessible to people in terms of things to see and do and opportunity is phenomenal.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
When I was working for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department during the Centennial Celebration, I traveled all over this great state and saw all it had to offer. That was when I knew.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like for us to continue adding recreational and wellness opportunities. The commitment to improving entertainment, recreation and quality of life is outstanding. I know that we will rise out of this current recession stronger and better.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
To keep an open mind and that life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned, but sometimes, it can turn out better than you expected. I would also tell my type A self to take it down a notch!

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
In my career, I play a large role in Oklahoma’s water agency. As a group exercise instructor, I people to lead healthy lifestyles. Those two roles collide, as I am also the agency wellness coordinator! At the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, we had a third of the agency sign up for events in the Memorial Marathon in remembrance of the two staff members we lost.


Annie Lillard

Age: 35 | Owner and Strategist | &compannie

Annie Lillard’s resume is chock-full of civic enhancement and community service. Annie has dedicated many hours volunteering and advocating for Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma City, Allied Arts and Positive Tomorrows and is the current president of Gold Dome Multicultural Society. Fearlessly, Annie embarked on self-employment in 2014, and fittingly, &Compannie provides team strategy, leadership and career coaching to help individuals and businesses achieve their work and dreams with intent toward their authentic purpose. Annie applies her team-building practices to &Compannie, as well; it has a monthly goal of creating and implementing three solutions that have high impacts to business objectives and employee happiness, changing the face of not only consulting but the way business operates.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
My love for the city has grown as its opportunities, events, districts and attractions have grown. Our people are what make this city buzz, and without their hard work, we wouldn’t have the incredible opportunities that this city has given to each one of its residents and businesses.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
My team inspired my magic moments. The majority of these relationships are based in Oklahoma City. How could I leave those relationships behind after their impact in my life and my business? The answer is that I couldn’t.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see support for local causes to be more balanced between corporate support and individual donors. At this time, individual involvement is a much smaller circle. If more of our city’s people donated time or money to the causes they are passionate about, the impact on our city would be tremendous.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Don’t wait. How many of us have waited on moments in the future to make changes, get innovative, find happiness, switch careers or follow our dreams? The moment is now; don’t wait.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
We remind our clients, partners, employees and friends to always look at what your business gives people first. When you start with the end, the rest easily works itself into a strategy that hits your goals and serves your clients.


Ashley Terry

ashley-terry-3328gf

Age: 30 | Project Administrator | Wheeler District

Community activism is no mystery to Ashley Terry. With a background in projects such as Plaza District Festival, PARK(ing) Day, Better Block OKC and H&8th Night Market, Ashley has been a major force, encouraging participation at a local level to build communities and districts. Ashley was awarded the OKC Beautiful Visionary Award and Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Program of the Year Award for Better Block OKC. She also received ULI’s Oklahoma Best Community Building Effort for H&8th Night Market. Ashley was instrumental in creating a charrette to help shape the Wheeler District. That weeklong event engaged hundreds of citizens playing a part in the direction of the Wheeler District development.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
We are rapidly embracing ideas that make us a big-league city, but somehow, in true Oklahoma fashion, we are still able to maintain the small-town feel that fosters community.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
Volunteering on the first Better Block OKC project was a “magic moment” for me. The Better Block OKC at Seventh Street and Hudson Avenue had a lasting effect on how Oklahoma City’s citizens view the urban environment and the processes that shape it. The event was proof that by redesigning a city space, you can transform the culture. The first Better Block OKC was a pivotal moment in determining my chosen profession.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would love to see Oklahoma City host a ciclovía or Open Streets event weekly. A ciclovía temporarily closes streets to automobile traffic so that people may use them for walking, bicycling, playing or socializing. Currently, a day-long Open Streets event is hosted twice a year in Oklahoma City.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Keep working hard! It pays off!

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
One of my favorite things about my job is analyzing the effect that city spaces have on people’s emotions and behaviors. I enjoy working on a project that is creating a dense and stimulating urban fabric. This built environment will be enjoyed for many years by those who choose to live, work and play in Wheeler.


Audrey Falk

Audry-Falk_8654mhAge: 32 | Owner | Shop Good

As a National Merit Scholar, Audrey received her bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis on creative writing at the University of Oklahoma in 2005. And creative she is! Audrey and her husband opened Shop Good, a T-shirt and gift shop, in Automobile Alley in 2009. Not only do they source all of their products to ensure they’re from companies where human and environmental responsibility are a priority, but Shop Good also put together an in-store program called Give Back. From all Give Back items sold, Audrey donates 5 percent of gross sales back to local nonprofits in need, such as ReMerge, Positive Tomorrows and Sunbeam Family Services. On top of running a successful retail shop, Audrey also created the annual Mustache Bash. This pedestrian-friendly event receives over 5,000 attendees for music, food, fun and direct donations to a different yearly nonprofit.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love living in a big city that still has plenty of small-town charm. Oklahoma City has come a long way in the last 10 years, with fantastic redevelopment downtown, big improvements in walkability, family-friendliness and incorporated green space.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
My decision to become an Oklahoman (I’m originally from Kansas City) was solidified when my husband and I opened the doors of Shop Good for the first time. We got lured in by the people here. Oklahoma is home to the nicest, most generous, most helpful people in the country.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
Radical improvements in the availability and quality of our social services here in Oklahoma. Oklahomans are committed to generosity and caring for those in need. But we live in a state with the highest rate of female incarceration in the country, where 1 in 4 children is at risk of going to bed hungry and 1 in 6 people live in poverty. We can do better!

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
When you’re up against a tight work deadline, always go for the boxed wine.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
Shop Good is built on the ideal that generosity is most meaningful when it’s integrated into everyday life. I love that I get to learn about, donate to and advocate for community organizations through Shop Good’s commitment to giving back.


Azadeh Adlamini

azadeh-adlamini-3335gfAge: 33 | Data Strategist

Azadeh received her bachelor of business administration degree in management information systems from the University of Oklahoma. Not only has Azadeh put this degree to use, creating framework for a data governance program that identifies and remedies poor data quality and practices, but she also spends countless hours advocating for multiple sclerosis awareness and advancing legislation on behalf of individuals living with MS. Azadeh has received the Social Media Award from the National MS Society, participates in the Ladies on the Move Luncheon from the National MS Society and lobbies regularly on behalf of the disease. She is currently working to create federal legislation for advancing research and data collection to be used by the CDC to track and collect information on neurological diseases.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love the big-city/small-town feel of Oklahoma City and that we really do live by the Oklahoma Standard. People here really do care about one another. I also love that I am getting to experience Oklahoma City evolve and grow.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
Growing up, I enjoyed trying to solve puzzles. When I started my career in IT, I was always more drawn to find out why certain parts of the puzzle were missing. As I investigated those missing pieces, I would find the root cause and inform the people that they had missing pieces and how much it could cost the company if those things were not fixed. I am very passionate about that.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would love to see Oklahoma City continue to move toward an active and healthier lifestyle. With the help from the whitewater rafting on the river to the running and biking trails, we are on the right track.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Slow down and enjoy the ride. Stop trying to make it to the next milestone. It is okay to fall down or make a mistake.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
Giving back to the community in which we live and work. I know when I am volunteering and advocating with the National MS Society, I am bringing awareness to multiple sclerosis.


Barbie Smalley

barbie-smalley-3462gfAge: 32 | Community Organizer | Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma

A community organizer through and through, Barbie works to create safe, attractive and healthy neighborhoods throughout Central Oklahoma. Barbie received her Bachelor of Science degree in general studies from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2006 and her Master of Arts degree from Oklahoma City University in 2012. She has volunteered for the Windsor District, working as an ambassador for the district’s events; assisted NeighborWalks, an initiative promoting walkability awareness and access to healthy foods for elementary schools; and worked with I Heart My Neighborhood, organizing volunteers for a weeklong home rehabilitation in three neighborhoods. Empowering citizens to make a difference in their own neighborhoods, Barbie continues to work with people, and through that, she is able to experience and learn something new every day.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love that you are connected to multiple districts that envelop various events, eateries and, in general, fun places to meet friends within a 10-mile radius. Oklahoma City is growing at a rapid rate that is almost overwhelming to keep up with. You can literally find something of your interest to do every night of the week. Also, Oklahoma City is affordable and full of opportunities!

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I’ve been fortunate enough to grow and be involved in various communities in Oklahoma City. I love connecting and assisting people. But I’m not sure if I’ve hit the “magic moment” of staying in Oklahoma City. I will always have a gypsy heart, but Oklahoma will always be home in my heart, wherever I go!

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see improvements across the board in our Oklahoma City Public Schools.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
What a whirlwind my early 20s were! Probably to be more focused in school and spend more time with my grandparents and family.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
Connecting with various types of people across the board. Most people just want to be heard or have a listening ear on the other side of the conversation — we do that on a daily basis at Neighborhood Alliance.


Ben Davis

ben-davis-3342gfAge: 38 | Co-owner; Director of Planning | Urbane Home & Lifestyle; State of Oklahoma’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services

Ben holds three degrees, an associate’s in arts management, a Bachelor of Arts in communications and a master’s in regional and city planning. Prior to earning his scholarly track record, Ben served as a sergeant in the US Army, which included combat operations during the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Though managing the state’s Capitol improvements and the special zoning district surrounding the Capitol and medical centers is no easy feat, Ben states that his most significant business achievement has been starting his own business. In addition to bringing unique home furnishings to OKC, Urbane also hosts events to raise funds for charities and provides a space for artists to showcase their work.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
Our downtown and urban neighborhoods are flourishing. The city has great leaders who are working hard every day to improve our neighborhoods, transportation choices, social connections and health. It’s easy to get involved here, make a difference and meet some really great people.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
There were a couple. The first was when I worked at Neighborhood Alliance of Central Oklahoma and the sincerity I encountered, coupled with the work I was doing, inspired me to stay and pursue a graduate degree in urban planning with an emphasis on community and economic development. I put down deeper roots a few years later, when a local city councilperson inspired my husband and me to start our own business.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like the downtown development momentum to continue and to see reinvestment spread out to our older neighborhoods. Reinvestment in deteriorated infrastructure and neighborhood amenities is key to attracting more families to our core, which will keep our special places vibrant.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Borrow less, save more.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
Planning has a huge impact on the physical and social fabric of our city. At my job, we work to sustain healthy neighborhoods and promote economic development that, in turn, supports a healthy society.


Bethany Marshall

bethany-marshall-3346gfAge: 26 | Print Project Manager | Outlook Magazine

With a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication, it’s easy to see why you can find Bethany creating and managing the day-to-day aspects involved with writing, designing and circulating Outlook Magazine. When not at Outlook, Bethany can be found spending her time as the president elect of ZooTroop, an organization that promotes educational, conservation, research and recreational programs within The Oklahoma City Zoo, or working with young advertising professionals as Ad2OKC’s president elect or even recruiting new volunteers for Sunbeam Family Services Young Professionals Board, where she is a founding board member. Through a partnership with Oklahoma Nutrition, Information & Education, Bethany creates an annual recipe calendar with healthy, easy-to-make recipes. Approximately 250,000 free calendars are then distributed statewide to elementary schools, Oklahoma Department of Human Services offices, food banks and nonprofit organizations reaching financially disadvantaged individuals and families.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love the energy that permeates the metro. The future is springing up before our eyes. There’s always something new going on — a concert, an event supporting a local cause, a street festival or art show.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I never wanted to leave Oklahoma. I grew up here and fell in love with the community at a young age. I started my civic engagement in elementary school, volunteering at my local library. I could never leave such an inspiring state.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
A MAPS project that focuses on areas that haven’t shared in Oklahoma City’s progress. Everyone deserves the same opportunities to enjoy and thrive in their community. Oklahoma City needs to be connected by a public transit system that unifies all parts of the metro. Your ZIP code shouldn’t determine how much access to have to the city.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Buy Thunder season tickets now while you still can. But seriously, my advice would be to stay driven, but content. It’s good to want more; however, you shouldn’t let it consume you.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
I get to share stories that might not be told otherwise. Whether the stories are quirky or heartwarming, educational or inspiring, I find it my duty to share them with my community, highlighting what’s best about our people.


Bonni Goodwin

Age: 34 | Counseling Supervisor | Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption Services

Whether through her music or therapy, Bonnie has dedicated years of her life enhancing the power and commitment that is family. Bonnie created and designed the counseling center at Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption Services. With a master’s degree in social work from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, Bonnie specializes in older child adoption. She works with adoptive and birth families and is dedicated to providing the best and most informed therapeutic services for anyone touched by adoption. Bonnie and her husband spend time strengthening families by providing support to marriages before they begin or during times of trouble with the Prepare/Enrich program.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I have never felt more connected to my community than I do living in Oklahoma City. There is a togetherness that motivates you to keep dreaming, keep creating and keep pushing the limits.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
When we moved here three years ago, I realized that I was joining one of the oldest and most respected ministries in Oklahoma. I am immersed in a world of helping kids and families who have experienced loss, trauma or transitions through adoption and foster care.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
What I long to see is one place for all of the city’s ministries and agencies to come together, not competing but collaborating for the greatest change across our state.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Relax and enjoy the ride! I used to be so afraid to mess up when I was 20. I was terrified that I would never recover from a failure of some sort. So, the fear bled over into an inability to dream big and take the risks necessary to make big change.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
The importance of a specialized perspective on the mental health treatment for those touched by adoption is a fairly new understanding, but an important one. This is what I believe my work brings to our community.


Cameron Brewer

Age: 29 | Director of Finance and Administration | Downtown OKC, Inc.

With a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship and a master’s in public administration, Cameron is a perfect fit to work with Downtown OKC, Inc. In what other organization can you be challenged to put together a hospitality services project? Cameron did just that, launching Downtown Guides, a downtown ambassadors program serving on weekends and at various downtown events, in April. When not enhancing the downtown experience, Cameron has been mentoring a young man as a Big Brother through Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Oklahoma. Cameron also serves on the Historic District Commission in Norman, providing a younger voice and enhancing the commission’s leadership.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love the people and the energy that is pouring out from people willing to take risks to add cool things here and there. Everyone seems excited to be here, and from everything I know, it has not always been that way.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I knew I wanted to be in the middle of the momentum, and when I was offered a job at Downtown OKC, Inc., I knew that dream had come true. There is so much stemming out from the center of the city, including the surrounding neighborhoods and commercial districts, and I could not be more fortunate to be a part of it all.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
An announcement that the Oklahoma City Energy FC is officially going to become an MLS franchise.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
If you think you’re going to get better at guitar when you’re 30 or older, think again. You’ve got more time than ever to figure it out now.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
We’re a team at DOKC, and continually moving the conversation about improving downtown as a place is our main objective. If we’re not making things better, we’re not doing our job.


Cary Anne Holton

Age: 31 | Owner | Cary Anne Photography

Currently a full-time environmental portraiture, commercial and lifestyle photographer, Cary Anne received her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and spent time teaching at Putnam City Central Elementary and Villa Teresa Elementary. Upon the closing of Villa Teresa, Cary Anne took a leap of faith and pursued photography as a full-time artist. Since then, she has not looked back. Aside from a full schedule of capturing special moments and life occasions from private clients and working with a number of local businesses building their brands, Cary Anne’s photographs have been published in The George W. Bush Foundation: A Celebration of Freedom coffee table book, SPIN Magazine, Brides of Oklahoma Magazine, Oklahoma Bride, Rock & Roll Bride, Oklahoma Gazette, Look @OKC and The Friday.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
The best and most kindhearted people I know live here. I love how everyone is so excited about where our city is headed and is so eager to participate in its success.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I don’t know that I ever had one single magic moment. It has been a process over the years, and everything has ultimately led me to where I am today, and I’m grateful for that every day.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I’d like to see Northwest 23rd Street continue to be rebuilt. I think it’s a really great location for, really, anything to happen. I like the idea of creating a place that people will want to visit and feel inspired when they leave. Transportation is going to play a huge part in that. I’d like our city to continue to build areas that allow for you to walk around and check out local business, museums and restaurants.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
You’re on the right track; don’t question that.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
I like how, through my photographs and social media, people are able to make connections with each other and form a more solid community of creatives. These creatives can then work together or inspire each other to make this city a more successful, innovative and efficient place to live and work.


Cayla Lewis

Age: 26 | Executive Director | Plaza District

As the current executive director of Plaza District Association, Cayla’s bachelor of fine arts degree serves her well. Cayla manages one of the most creative districts in Oklahoma City, and her resume reads like a dream and includes a work history with Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC), The Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc. Aside from advocating for Plaza District’s revitalization and coordinating the association’s activities, outside of work, Cayla is on the board of Classen Ten Penn Neighborhood Association and Eugene Field Elementary’s Community Action group. She is also an active member of Midtown Rotary, OVAC and Oklahoma Arts Council.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
Oklahoma City is home, a place to hang your hat, a place for family, a place to relax, a place to refuel. Also, there’s never reason to ever be bored.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I grew up in Yukon and always escaped to Oklahoma City and the Plaza District. The local artsy culture of the Plaza District lured me in, and luckily, I landed my job a few years later, after basically stalking the area while I was in college at the University of Oklahoma.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
Through 9th St. Braid and now Plaza Walls, I’ve seen artists and the city really struggle with adding more public art to the city. I’d love to see the process made easier for artists and for artists to become more educated on the process. We are very close to a better understanding between the two, which will result in more public art for this city.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Continue to work hard for what you want and serve what you love. It pays off!

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
As the Plaza District grows, so do the surrounding neighborhoods. Just as the Plaza was once a blight, its sunshine continues to reach outside of its boundaries. The association serves to promote the area, serving our neighbors, the creative types and the burgeoning entrepreneurs.


Christa Ryckbost

Age: 30 | AE Business Development Manager | Healthcare Division, Guernsey

Christa’s Bachelor of Science degree in interior design from Oklahoma Christian University has served her well. She has worked in interior design for the past seven years and was recently promoted within Guernsey to business development manager for the architecture and engineering healthcare division. Some of Christa’s design projects might seem familiar to you: Chesapeake Arena’s restaurants, bars, concourses and kids zone. And you might wish you were familiar with some of her other project, like the Oklahoma City Thunder locker room. When not designing, Christa spends community service time with Rebuilding Together, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, Tutoring & Mentorship for Students and Focus on Home.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
There is a great fusion of energy and community here. There is a level of small-town charm that hasn’t been lost as we’ve become a bigger metropolitan city.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I wish I’d had a magic moment of when I decided on what I wanted to do! I grew up in this industry. My dad holds a similar title at a large firm in Dallas. It’s in my blood, and it felt right.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
Continued development that is appropriate for the needs of Oklahoma City’s residents and businesses. The more I see developments with great thought and design, the more I see success.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Calm down. Good planning (and a dash of stress) have their place on the road to goal achievement, but sometimes you’ve just got to let things happen the way they need to happen.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
The architecture and design industry helps provide shelter, one of our most basic human needs. Our shelters greatly affect many aspects of our lives; how we feel, how we react and interact and the way we perform are all impacted by the spaces that we occupy. It’s exciting to think that I have an impact on the daily lives of people, sometimes without them ever even realizing it.


Danielle McKenzie

danielle-mckenzie-3540gfAge: 32 | Assistant Director of Finance, Administration and Personnel | University of Oklahoma Advanced Programs

Danielle delivers graduate degree education to military service members and their families across the world and to nontraditional learners in the community. Employing her sharp organizational and clear communication skills, Danielle keeps the Advanced Programs on track at the University of Oklahoma. It’s easy to see why Danielle, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with a minor in business and a master’s degree in public administration keeps this program on track. Managing a large technology upgrade project to advance the information management system, Danielle is looking forward to the innovative addition to serving students. Investing in her community, Danielle is also the commissioner of the City of Moore Planning Commission, where she strives to make city government more accessible to the younger generation, encouraging involvement from the under-40 demographic.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
The Thunder and University of Oklahoma football! It’s incredible the number of sporting events, festivals and block parties that take place each weekend.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I was born in Oklahoma City. My plan was to go to college and then move far away. I wouldn’t call it a magic moment; I realized that there are ways to touch people and build a life here in Oklahoma City. As the first woman in my family to complete a bachelor’s degree, I have a deep appreciation of the benefits and power of education. Working at a university, I get to be part of one of the most memorable times in a person’s life: college.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would love to see a better system for public transportation in the coming years, whether it is an accessible rail system or safer bicycling, for Oklahoma City and our suburbs.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
It’s the same thing I tell my son: Attitude and effort can either make your talent seem meaningful or meaningless. It doesn’t matter if it’s a job, sports or school — your attitude and effort are always relevant.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
In OU Advanced Programs, we serve nontraditional graduate students. With many of our sites located on military bases, we have the unique opportunity to also serve our servicemen and servicewomen with an outstanding and affordable graduate education. That is pretty life-changing.


David Hardy

david-hardy-3431gfAge: 34 | CEO, Oklahoma Region | UMB Bank

Becoming CEO of UMB Bank, or any bank for that matter, by age 33 is no easy feat. But that is exactly what David has accomplished. With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration, David has set goals and worked to achieve them, and that has not gone unnoticed by UMB. David was promoted four times in three years and loves a challenge and is constantly looking for ways to grow. He attributes his success to always looking for opportunities to do what is right as well as assembling a team of hardworking, like-minded individuals. David serves on the board of Junior Achievement and on the planning committee for its Business Success Series Luncheon, a program to teach financial literacy to students.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
The thing that I have come to enjoy the most about Oklahoma City is the people. It is safe to say that the Oklahoma Standard is alive and well.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
This moment for me came five years ago, when my family and I decided to relocate to Oklahoma. After visiting the state and learning more about the potential to excel professionally and the high quality of life, my wife and I felt like this was a place that we could call home. All of those things have proved to be true. We are pleased to say that our third daughter Christina is a native Oklahoman.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
One of the competitive advantages of Oklahoma City is the public-private partnership that exists. Over the next three years, I would like to see this continue. With the down cycle in the energy industry, now, more than ever, is the time for all sectors to work together to keep the momentum we have.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
I would tell myself to ask for and listen to the advice of others.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
A big part of what we do is to provide financing so our customers can grow their businesses. This has a positive impact on the community as they experience success, expand, hire more people and contribute to the local economy.


Dustin Akers

dustin-akers-3411gfAge: 29 | Owner and Consultant | Redefine: Transformative Planning & Development Consulting

With a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and a master’s in urban and regional planning, Dustin opened Redefine just this year. It’s a transformative planning and development consulting firm. No stranger to urban renewal, Dustin has been shaping the landscape of Oklahoma. With membership in organizations like American Planning Association, International Economic Development Council, Congress for New Urbanism and Urban Land Institute, Oklahoma, Dustin has aided in the growth and development of what we see today and helped shape what we’ll see in the future. In 2014, Dustin authored a grant application for $1 million from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, requesting funding needed to attract one of eight General Electric Global Research Centers to Oklahoma City. The project is currently under construction.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I like to describe Oklahoma City as a “big, small town” because everyone seems to know each other. There’s a well-known “two degrees of separation” between you and everyone else you don’t know.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I’m a fairly recent transplant, so I’m not sure this question applies that much to me. I love what I do and love living in Oklahoma City, but I’m not one to limit life’s adventures and opportunities.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see Oklahoma City become a more equitable place. There has been incredible success with Oklahoma City’s evolution in the recent past, but many areas of the city have been left behind.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Figure out what’s important as soon as possible. My biggest regret is not spending as much time as possible with my grandparents before I lost them. They were and always will be my heroes. Life is not guaranteed, and you never know how short or long of a time you have to focus on what really matters.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
My work has the biggest impact when I have the opportunity to comprehensively refocus project approaches to benefit the end user: people. When you focus on people, the built environment becomes a better place for everyone.


Erin Cooper

erin-cooper-3368gfAge: 36 | Co-owner and Designer | CooperHouse

Erin cut her teeth on graphic design while serving eight years with the Air Force. Receiving her graphic design certificate from Defense Information School, Erin has developed and honed her artistic craft to oversee all design, including brand identity, website design, copywriting and photography, for CooperHouse. Living her dream, Erin’s work at the firm affords her the ability to be an engaged parent and active artist and still support her family. As a member of Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, Erin feels her most creative projects are the ones that involve the public, engaging the community and inviting them to feel pride of ownership. And you can do just that when you see her mural at NW 37th Street and Western Avenue, on the North side of the K&N Building. Erin served as lead project artist collaborating on one of six murals in conjunction with Western Avenue’s Taste of Western annual fundraiser event.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love our community here in Oklahoma City and the supportive environment for young creatives.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I think it’s really tough to pinpoint exactly when I became a creative director, but I think I’ve always been a visual artist. Both aspects of my life and my career have always been intertwined.

When my husband Tim and I launched CooperHouse in 2011, we knew we wanted to focus on websites. Soon, though, many local businesses became our branding and web clients, and those connections really cemented my relationship with Oklahoma City.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
As a designer, I’d like to see a tech community grow and rival the energy companies in terms of creating jobs for Oklahoma City. As an artist, I’d like to see more public art opportunities throughout the districts. I’d love to be known as the city of beautiful murals.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Pick up a paintbrush and practice every day. I think the professional trajectory I was on would have been even better if I’d practiced being more disciplined at a young age.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
It’s in supporting small businesses and communities. There are so many awesome people with big ideas trying to make things happen. With good design and guidance, we can help them meet their objectives and help our city grow.


Ersin Demirci

ersin-demirci-3548gfAge: 31 | Executive Director | Dialogue Institute of Oklahoma City

No stranger to hard work — and clearly possessing minimal sleep requirements — Ersin currently holds three positions at different nonprofit organizations. He is executive director of Dialogue Institute Oklahoma City, director of Community Engagement and Outreach at Raindrop Turkish House and vice president for Aerospace and Energy at the American Turkic Business Council. Ersin believes that empowering people through multicultural education is the key to positively impacting society for generations to come. And educate he does; he’s involved in over four additional nonprofit outreach boards and provides awareness and education through more than 17 multicultural events annually. With all his spare time, he founded a platform called the U.S. Drone Film Festival to demonstrate the important economic, environmental and public safety benefits of small UAVs. The festival is slated for December 5, 2015 in Oklahoma City.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
There is so much to love about living in Oklahoma City! And it all starts with people. Oklahomans living in the metro area are very kind, friendly, caring, compassionate, creative, enthusiastic, faithful and generous. Having a successful NBA team, dynamic downtown and new developments make Oklahoma City a great place to live.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
The best decision I ever made so far was to move to Oklahoma. After living in Austin, Texas, and Little Rock, Arkansas, I have decided to pursue a doctoral degree in aviation at Oklahoma State University. I made my initial career decision based one having the chance to work for a well-established, values-driven nonprofit organization and receiving a top-notch education in aviation. What I found here in Oklahoma City is so much more than what I expected.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
First and foremost, I would like the Oklahoma City Thunder to win the national championship.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
I would say have fun, smile, have a very positive attitude, don’t be afraid to take a risk, be disruptive and find a job that can help humanity.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
The biggest impact my line of work is creating a respectful, cooperative and peaceful environment for Oklahomans, one in which people of diverse backgrounds and faiths come together around shared values to promote common good and live in peace and harmony without fear of the “other.”


Hunter Wheat

Hunter-Wheat_8872mhAge: 28 | Founder | The Bleu Garten

With an associate’s degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon, and a background in the restaurant industry ranging from cook to front-of-house manager, it’s a small wonder Hunter Wheat had a vision for a different kind of concept. A first for Oklahoma City, The Bleu Garten, a food truck park, was eventually opened in Midtown, a reality after two years of planning and action. Hunter still credits the success of The Bleu Garten to the support received by the city, food truck owners, partner and girlfriend Lacey Pritchard, his investors, Midtown Renaissance and the responsive community. His concept received Urban Land Institute’s award for Best Small Infill Development and has been able to raise over $70,000 for partnered charities throughout 2015.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
We live in a city that is starting to push the bounds from ordinary to extraordinary. The youth have realized that creativity can be their careers, and the result is a local cultural renaissance.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I came home to spend some time with family after years of bouncing around and met my girlfriend Lacey Pritchard, who had also come home at the same time to spend time with family. I told her about the Bleu Garten idea, and together, it took us just over two years to go from idea to actually happening. So I don’t know the magic moment the idea happened, but I do know the girl who made it possible.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see more growth and new weird, eccentric, local ideas to our Oklahoma City entertainment industry.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Enjoy the ride!

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
I think The Bleu Garten has been good for our community! It’s a space that, depending on the day, night or time of year, can be a completely different experience from your last visit. Our mission statement is to show value to our investors and dramatically impact our local culinary scene by providing stability and exposure to the food truck scene. It is a thrill to have a front-row seat and watch all of these entrepreneurs start and scale their businesses.


J. Taylor Tribble

J-Taylor-Tribble_9265mhAge: 39 | President | Eduskills

Education and the access to it is what J. Taylor is all about. So it’s no surprise that he holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish, a master’s in bilingual education, a master’s in educational administration and a doctorate in philosophy. J. Taylor has dedicated years of his young life to the pursuit of education, so it’s easy to see his desire to make education more accessible to others. EduSkills, a cloud-based software program for Title III/Bilingual educators, enables teachers to increase instructional time between students and themselves. EduSkills currently serves 40 public schools and is soon to be serving over 100. From elementary to college-age, J. Taylor has been teaching students both Spanish and English as a second language, so he knows the hardships firsthand. His current challenge? Working to support Native American language revitalization efforts. As one of the most linguistically diverse states in the country, Oklahoma is a great place to campaign for Native American language heritage.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
Over the past five to seven years, the city has exploded with opportunities of all types for people of all ages. I love living in a neighborhood that has a small-town feel with all of the amenities of a big city just minutes from my front door.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
The magic moment was the birth of my first daughter, Veyana (age 12). Before that, I’d lived off and on in the metro area, and from the ages of 18 to 27, I traveled to over 20 countries. It was great, but I am grateful that Veyana’s birth gave me the opportunity to stick around.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see more opportunities for Oklahomans to learn languages other than English. To stay relevant in the global economy, we must foster more opportunities for children and adults to learn languages other than English.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Do exactly what you are doing!

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
We make life better for English learners and the educators who serve them by helping educators track students’ progress toward English language proficiency. Additionally, we keep educational funds in the state of Oklahoma that typically leave the state and go to organizations based in other states.


James Varnum

James-Varnum_8841mhAge: 31 | Founder and CEO; Co-Founder and Director of Vision | TradeShare; SixTwelve, Inc.

Graduating with a degree in architecture and film from the University of Southern California, James moved back to Oklahoma in 2008 to pursue his dream of designing and building, specifically, creating community learning spaces encouraging creativity and sustainability around the state. After experimenting with his own home, James purchased a dilapidated apartment building in the Paseo Arts District a week before its scheduled demolish date and formed TradeShare, a design firm specializing in the creation and facilitation of energy-efficient, sustainable and historically rooted spaces and endeavors within the community. James has since implemented a community garden project; a Paseo-wide recycling and composting effort that culminates annually at the Paseo Arts Festival; water conservation, rain barrel and planting workshops; and events; among many others.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
Growing up here, all of the growth and energy was outward, sprawling away from the center, and now, there is this amazing pendulum swing as energy rushes back to the center of the city, back to the old neighborhoods and buildings that have so much history and intrinsic community value, and I love being a part of that refocusing.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
It was actually a magic moment for me to move back to Oklahoma City. I grew up here and left to go to architecture and film school in Los Angeles. I had been looking for a property to be my first project, and it hit me that Oklahoma City would be ideal.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I’d like to see more community spaces. I believe the more spaces people have as a community to come together and share ideas and resources, the happier, more creative and more interconnected and resilient we become as a society.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Trust your gut. It is always right.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
My work really focuses on giving people avenues to experiment and grow, through design of the spaces people share; programming or events or outreach that offer the community new experiences; or the creation of online digital interfaces that enable people to freely exchange tools, services, ideas and experiences.


Jeff Dixon

Jeff-Dixon_8623mhAge: 34 | Chief Financial Officer | Provision Concepts

Jeff holds a bachelor’s degree in hotel restaurant administration with a focus on restaurant management. That, coupled with his tenure and experience both with Charleston’s and Upper Crust, makes it easy to see how Broadway 10 Chophouse and Sidecar Barley & Wine Bar are both hits. He and business partner Aaron Soward worked tirelessly to maintain the integrity of the Buick Building in which Broadway 10 Chophouse now resides. Early in the planning of the concept, Jeff knew he wanted to keep it in line with the original architecture of the building, and he is proud of the results. His motto for keeping employees happy? Treat others how you want to be treated.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love that it’s a city where one can make a difference! And because of that, I feel we’ve seen explosive growth as of late.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
The “magic moment” for me was discovering the hospitality business as a late teenager. I had always enjoyed serving, giving, being the host. I’ve tried to always put God first, others second and myself last. When I found that you could create, serve, have fun and get paid? Staying in Oklahoma was simple. After college, I met a gorgeous blonde named Jessica. She and I have been married for over 10 years now and have two incredible kids.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
That’s easy: A Thunder NBA championship!

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
The sooner you can buy a piece of commercial real estate, the better. Then, rinse and repeat.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
Growing up in a small town in western Oklahoma, I would say people appreciate having things to do. Having adequate places to dine is typically a part of the “what makes our city great” equation. We have been humbled and honored by the city’s acceptance of our contributions in the hospitality industry. Thanks, Oklahoma City! Let’s keep growing! Our third concept is coming soon and is centered around the wonderful meal of breakfast!


Joe Slack

Joe-Slack_8615mhAge: 37 | Sculptor

Ask Joe his most significant community achievement and he will tell you it’s getting to be a part of the ever-growing artistic landscape of Oklahoma. To know how true that statement is, you only need to look around you. Joe’s sculptures can be found at Earlywine Park in south Oklahoma City, on Classen Circle and in three areas in Downtown Edmond. Eight outdoor and two interior pieces adorn Infant Crisis Services on Lincoln Boulevard, and six outdoor and three interior pieces call Southern Oaks Library home. Joe even has an installation on Grey Street in Norman. He received his bachelor of fine arts degree from Oklahoma City University in 2001 and founded Line Gallery with his wife Angela Slack in 2007. Joe was the Festival of the Arts sculpture curator in 2013 and has done numerous deeds for Individual Artists of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition and ArtSpace at Untitled. And we would be remiss if we didn’t add that Joe and Angela have rescued nine stray dogs in the last 15 years.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I really love the ever-growing opportunities here in Oklahoma City and the generous nature of Oklahomans.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
For me, two things happened two months apart. When I was 26 years old, I was part of a two-person show at Individual Artists of Oklahoma (IAO), and then I was juried into Arts Council of Oklahoma City’s annual Festival of the Arts for the first time. The feedback and encouragement I received, combined with the fact that people bought my art, solidified that this is what I’m meant to do and Oklahoma is where I’m going to do it.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
In the next three years, I would like to see public art. More public art! And more public art!

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
The one piece of advice I would give is two pieces of advice. Trust your gut, and don’t sweat the small stuff.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
The main aspect of my work that I think makes the biggest impact in our fantastic community is being able to be part of the growing artistic landscape of Oklahoma.


Jon Haque

Jon-Haque_8933mhAge: 36 | Business Manager | Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre (CityRep)

Managing the office staff, company finances, contracts and marketing are all in the job description for Jon at CityRep. And much like being on stage, Jon makes it look fun. With a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Central Oklahoma, Jon has done graphic design and segment work with OETA/PBS and previously held the position of managing director and marketing director for Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park. Jon’s leadership with CityRep has led to national recognition from many directions. The American Theatre Wing bestowed its National Theatre Award, an honor given to only 10 theaters in the nation, and this past July, CityRep shared an Emmy Award with OETA for its nationally acclaimed production of The Grapes of Wrath.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
As a young actor/producer just out of college, every artistic professional I encountered said to leave Oklahoma because it lacked support of the arts. Today, we have done a 180. I would rather grow the arts and culture scene in my city than break into an established community in a larger city. Plus, Empire Slice House in the Plaza District.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
CityRep produced Next to Normal, a musical about mental illness and the dynamics of dealing with it. To do more than just inspire conversations after the show, we invited crisis counselors to be available in the lobby afterward and held “talk-backs.” People struggling with the effects of mental illness spoke up and shared their strength or even sought help that very evening. This was a game-changer for me.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
A permanent performing arts center accessible to all performance groups. Every major city has one. Why can’t we?

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Feed the wolf you want to live, like in the old story of the two wolves fighting within each of us. The one that wins is the one you feed. Go with the positive one.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
We shake the dust off the soul and make clowns seem like heroes for a day. Hopefully, one of these stories we tell will wake someone up to do something insanely amazing.


Jonathan Dodson

Jonathan-Dodson_8570mhAge: 35 | Partner; Founder and Partner | Pivot Project; Cenam Cousulting

You’ve probably heard of this guy, and if not, you’ve definitely heard of some of his projects. While Jonathan’s professional resume is large and varied, he has been on the move with his development partnership group, working to revitalize urban structures like Tower Theatre, Sunshine Cleaners and the many-named Mexican restaurant building on NW Classen Avenue and 16th Street. Jonathan has a bachelor’s of business administration degree in finance with a minor in marketing and a long list of professional finance training credentials. Jonathan is shaping the Oklahoma landscape not only with his business acumen but with his actions, like selling his car and using his bike as his main form of transportation. Founder of the Livable Streets Summit in partnership with Urban Land Institute, Jonathan embodies the “if you build it, they will come” spirit.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
The wonderful people and opportunities make Oklahoma City incredibly unique. I cannot imagine a better place to live.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
Most of my decisions regarding what to do and whether to leave Oklahoma City have originated out of personally difficult times. Clarity seemed to increase for me and my family during those times and ended up influencing my work and my appreciation for this place.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
A continued evolution in discussion is already occurring. We’re seeing race reconciliation, we’re processing smart growth within the urban core, our next MAPS will be underway soon and we are building a city that is safe for 8-year-olds and 80-year-olds. What I’d like to see happen seems to be happening, and I am thrilled.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Be willing to get involved in something bigger than yourself and give yourself to that work for at least five years.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
This sounds simple, but surrounding myself with people whose hearts and vision for Oklahoma City are much greater than my own.


Jonna Whetsel

Jonna-Whetsel_9077mhAge: 31 | Administrative Technician II | Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation

Currently at the OSBI, Jonna determines approvals and denials for Self-Defense Act applicants. Jonna received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2014 and currently serves as the Central Oklahoma Mensa president and local secretary. She has co-authored several research posters presented at Oklahoma Research Day and is among the 2016-2107 Who’s Who in Science and Engineering. Jonna has three diver’s certifications, (open water, whale shark, and manta ray) and has completed the Shark Reef Aquarium’s Dive with Sharks Program. Jonna’s most significant creative and business contribution was co-owning Wildfire Fine Art Studio with her mother. The studio held classes for kids to learn and create various art projects.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love the people of Oklahoma City. I also love how dynamic Oklahoma City is. I serve as the president of Central Oklahoma Mensa, and we are always on the lookout for new activities for our group to try. We never have to look far to find something novel, and we are never disappointed!

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay in Oklahoma City?
I was born in Oklahoma City, and it has remained my home port. My family has deep roots here, and it seemed only natural to take the next step in serving our community in law enforcement like my father before me.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see us become more dog-friendly. I have two Irish Wolfhounds that would love to meet everyone!

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Savor every second, because someday, those moments will be mere memories.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
I work with law enforcement agencies all over the country, gathering the information necessary to make certain that the appropriate determinations are made for Self-Defense Act licenses. Whether it is granting a license to an eligible citizen who now feels more secure or keeping a license out of the wrong hands, I know I spent my day contributing to the safety of our community.


Kalif Gallego

Kalif-Gallego-10kgAge: 28 | Owner and Director of Operations | Studio XII

Kalif manages the day-to-day operations of Studio XII, a marketing, branding and public relations firm and creative venue space. The firm side hosts a list of services like graphic design, audio engineering, photography and videography specializing in sports management. The creative space is designed for collaboration to support local arts endeavors, providing a space to assemble, innovate and thrive; a well-intended space to set up photo and video shoots, educational seminars or photography workshops. Kalif also hosts events from art shows and fashion showcases from local designers to music conferences, concerts and album releases.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I came here from the East Coast and noticed the positivity and friendliness of the people, and I fell in love with them. I also appreciate the opportunity for growth and advancement for the city. There is a lot of opportunity to make a difference and add to the community.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
When I graduated from OU, I was confused about where I wanted my life to go. I wanted to be in law, then finance, then marketing. I always felt I had that creative bug. I got involved in music, videography, fashion and the arts; found the right people; and started Studio XII. That’s when I knew.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would love to see us blossom into one of the most popular cities to visit. There’s a lot of talent in the city, and I want everyone to be noticed.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
To follow my artistic instincts and merge them with the corporate world! That I am able to have it both ways.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
We promote creativity in all aspects. We want people to embrace their talents. Our team of individuals is always willing to work with people to improve, whether it’s videography, photography, music engineering or marketing.


Kevin Daniel Bundy

Kevin-Bundy_8581mhAge: 36 | Senior Project Manager | HSE architects

Kevin received his bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Oklahoma in 2002 and, after many years of internship and dedicated studying, passed all seven of his Architect Registration Exams on the first try to become a licensed architect in 2014. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects and received the AIA Central Oklahoma Chapter Volunteer of the Year Award in 2013. Though he has an impressive professional career, Kevin claims his most significant contribution to the Oklahoma City community was and is his leadership in his neighborhood. Kevin reinstated the homeowner’s association and put together a board that has decreased the crime rate and improved the safety and appearance of Helm Farms.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
It’s the progressive state of mind that a lot of people currently have. There is a large push by residents to grow our city into the best in can be.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
Becoming an architect was in my genes. My mother is the most creative person and my father the most mechanically-minded person I know.
When I was in high school, we’d moved to McAlester. After deciding the house we had intended to rebuild couldn’t be fixed, we decided to burn it down and build a new one from scratch. The fire department came and burned down our house for us!
My dad and I worked through the design, and it felt so natural to me. I felt such pride and accomplishment when we framed the house.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
More parks and places for residents to enjoy being outside and exercising.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Don’t ride wave runners. Ever. I had an accident on a wave runner when I was 21. It took several back surgeries and years to recover from, and I now live with chronic pain.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
Architects directly impact our community. We solve issues that everyone deals with. I am the president of my neighborhood association, and my profession has given me the tools to be a community leader and resolve issues on a neighborhood level.


Lani Gunderson

Lani-Gunderson_8758mhAge: 27 | Project Manager | Timberlake Construction Company, Inc.

Armed with a bachelor of fine arts degree in interior design, Lani began her career in construction at Design+Build Group. Honing her craft for business operations, management and estimating while completing her master’s degree in business administration, Lani helped earn the company recognition on the OKC Metro 50 list and the Inc 500/5000 list. Lani then took a position with Timberlake Construction, an award-winning, Oklahoma City-based commercial construction manager directing both local and national projects. She began as an assistant project manager, communicating between owners and subcontractors, overseeing document control submittals and maintaining the safety of workers onsite. One year later, Lani was promoted to project manager, taking a more holistic management position working with large-scale construction sites. Currently, women make up only 9 percent of the construction industry, which makes Lani’s accomplishments stand out even more.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love the commitment of the people living here to the constant improvement of the city. The community is always working toward making the city a place we can all be proud of.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I graduated during the recession and was hired into a position where I learned to manage construction projects. Working in Oklahoma has afforded me opportunities to grow my career, learn and advance. Constructing a building bolsters the local economy, unifies the community and instills pride in all parties who are able to participate in the process. I am happy to be a part of creating this type of legacy.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see the community continue to fund and support local projects that improve the quality of life for residents, support the local economy and magnify Oklahoma City in national reputation and population.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Don’t trust that things will simply work out on their own. Be your own advocate and ensure your own success.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
I strive to offer a strong female presence in an industry where women are historically underrepresented. I am a firm believer in education and working with students and young professionals to facilitate their growth and development. I hope to inspire other young women to join the construction industry. There is a great opportunity for fresh perspective.


Leslie Hensley

Leslie-Hensley_8977mhAge: 33 | Visual Art Coordinator | Boys & Grils Club of Oklahoma County

Leslie received her Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre performance in 2005 and has incorporated it into all aspects of life. Creative expression, whether through visual art or performance art, has been a defining factor for Leslie. From the Crappy Art Show, a showcase of art featuring toilet lids, to Balthazar’s Ladies of Wrestling body-slamming it out in performances at Farmers Public Market, Leslie is not afraid to experience life and amplify it or even make fun of it. Her work with Boys & Girls Club of Oklahoma is entrenched in art, as well; she coordinates art events, activities and performances with the kids. Leslie has also taken on special projects teaching art with Arts Council of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Contemporary (formerly known as City Arts). An avid volunteer, Leslie has worked with Other Options; Big Brothers, Big Sisters; St. Baldrick’s Foundation; Festival of the Arts; and deadCENTER Film Festival.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love Oklahoma City because I feel the strength of human acceptance and understanding. I love the strong community support of local arts and business, and I love the long line of volunteers at every event, waiting to lend a hand. When most communities would say no, Oklahoma City says yes and “How can we help?” These are just a few reasons I love Oklahoma City.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
Well, vacations are great, but I’d rather be in Oklahoma City, creating a new project. My creative drive is supported by this truly inspiring city. I feel at home and artistically accepted. It drives me and pushes me to constantly create, so every day is magical.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
A monorail and more roller coasters. And also more art in education.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Don’t be afraid to fail.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
I love aspiring to achieve my dreams, even if my dreams are ridiculous. The biggest impact I make is support. Whether I’m working with some kids at the Boys & Girls Club on art projects, putting out a “call to artists” for a Grease Trap Gallery show, teaching at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center or performing at a community center in south Oklahoma City, I believe my support of all artists is where I make my biggest impact.


Mallory O’Neill

Mallory-ONeil_8786mhAge: 31 | Bricktown District Manager | Downtown OKC, Inc.

Mallory cut her teeth managing events for SMG Facility Management, the group that oversees both Cox Convention Center and Chesapeake Energy Arena, which seems like a natural transition (and just about the same commute) to become Bricktown district manager. She uses skills she honed while receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations to manage messages to, from and about the district. She describes herself as a communicator, consensus builder and collaborator for the Bricktown district in downtown Oklahoma City. Mallory manages the website and social media for Bricktown and implements marketing and advertising campaigns while managing the annual budget. She works closely with business owners, property owners, retailers and vendors to keep Bricktown running harmoniously.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love the people who make up this community. I love Oklahoma City’s authenticity. It’s original, not trying to replicate another city.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
My four years at Oklahoma State University left me with a strong desire to stay in Oklahoma. The people and relationships I had built, combined with the opportunities, made it a no-brainer for me.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see continued growth on public transit. I would also love to see improvements made on pedestrian accessibility throughout Oklahoma City. Lastly, selfishly, I would love to see an Urban Outfitters here.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
I would tell my 20-year-old self to take risks, take chances and be willing to fail. When I was 20, I didn’t understand that. I was afraid to fail. Now I know that failure is a huge part of success.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
I am fortunate to work for an organization whose purpose is to advocate for downtown Oklahoma City. I go to work every day and work on projects with various organizations, boards and community leaders all striving to improve all aspects of our downtown community. I get to be the voice for stakeholders in Bricktown, listen to what they want out of the district and work toward making those ideas become a reality.


Marcia Gallant

Marcia-Gallant_8680mhAge: 34 | Project Architect and Senior Associate | MA+ Architecture

Marcia received her bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Oklahoma in 2004 and her architecture license in 2007. She currently manages projects for MA+ Architecture, from initial design through construction administration. Marcia was the project architect for Southwestern Oklahoma State University’s Pioneer Cellular Event Center, which won the American School and University Outstanding Design Award in November 2014. Marcia has been with the firm since 2003 and, through hard work, advanced from intern architect to senior associate. Marcia is a member of the American Institute of Architects, Oklahoma Uniform Building Code Commission’s Technical Committee, CDT, LEED AP and is a University of Oklahoma College of Architecture mentor as well as Canadian Valley Technology Center CAD tech mentor. And if you thought she didn’t have any time left over, Marcia also served on her children’s school advisory council, helping shape the decisions made by the school leadership.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love that Oklahoma City is always on the go and always on the grow. If you can’t find something to do, you aren’t looking! Yet, despite the rapid growth, people here remain friendlier than anywhere else that I’ve been in the country.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I had just graduated from OU and was in the pivotal moment of life when I could go anywhere and do anything. I chose to stay in Oklahoma to be close to my family and begin a journey with my husband, whom I had just started dating at the time.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
The first thing is to see storm shelters in schools. The second thing I would like to see happen is a bigger push for bicycle safety. We should not fear for our lives every time we get on a bike to get some exercise.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Be true to your heart and to who you are and you will be able to accomplish great things.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
When you enter a building, an architect has affected you. I take that to heart every day at work, especially as I design storm shelters, knowing that buildings have to withstand storms and add to the physical and emotional well-being of the occupants.


Marla Deann Cook

Marla-Cook_9281mhAge: 38 | Owner; Social Activist | Ladies & Gentlemen

Marla received her degree in art history and French from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 while working as full-time curator and director of the Brett Weston Archive in Oklahoma City. Four years later, Marla decided to pursue her interests in fashion and photography in New York. She continued to feed her education, attending the Fashion Institute of Technology and the International School of Photography. Combining those interests, she began working as a freelance assistant and stylist on high-end photography shoots. This pursuit introduced her to her millinery mentor and owner of The Hat Shop in Soho, Linda Pagan, and Marla’s love of hats endured. Marla and her husband returned home to Oklahoma, where Marla hosted a pop-up shop displaying her love of fine hats. After a successful event, in October of 2013, Marla opened Ladies & Gentlemen in the Paseo Arts District. All of the hats are handmade in the USA, and in addition to her own designs, you will find handpicked hats from milliners in Los Angeles and New York, a hat for every head.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
If you set your mind to it, you can make an impact.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
We made the decision to move back because Oklahoma City was growing so much and we wanted to be a part of the city’s renaissance. I had worked in a hat shop in NYC, and my dear friend, Dr. Joy Reed Belt, who owns an art gallery in the Paseo, encouraged me to open my own hat shop. She and my mother are my biggest supporters.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I’d love to see our state become blue and for people to live healthier, more active lifestyles.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Never be ashamed of where you are from. Follow your dreams even when they aren’t the popular thing to do. Cherish your friends.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
I have been working to add weather shields to bus stops, and I started the Umbrella Project: For each hat purchased, I give an umbrella to someone waiting at a bus stop. There is no reason anyone should be forced to suffer the elements without dignity in Oklahoma City.


Megan Radford

Megan-Radford_8812mhAge: 29 | Marketing Strategist | VI Marketing and Branding

When you think of Megan, you think of Mad Men — except, you know, she’s a woman. Instead of smoking cigars and knocking back highballs, Megan is responsible for developing and executing strategic marketing plans for various clients. And she has been doing it with style. One of her most significant projects was launching and marketing the documentary Oklahoma City: The Boom, The Bust and The Bomb. In addition to managing a team of art directors, copywriters, media planners and buyers and social media marketers, Megan and her team planned speaking engagements and a Hollywood-style premiere, showed the film for four weeks at Harkins Bricktown theatre and offered both DVD purchases and instant rentals. When not pulling off movie premieres with gusto, Megan advocates for the special needs community, volunteering weekly at Miracle League baseball games.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love the community. I love how time and time again, we’ve rallied around each other to move our city forward. The energy of our city is vibrant, growing more so every day.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
For me, there wasn’t a magic moment. Oklahoma has always been my home, and I am proud to build my career here and someday raise a family. People often forget the grass isn’t greener on the other side; it’s greener where you water it.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
MAPS 3 coming to fruition. We’ve been raising money since it passed in 2009, but in the next three years, we should really start to see some things come to life like the whitewater facility at the Oklahoma River, the downtown public park and the modern streetcar.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Start saving money sooner rather than later. Focus on the present. Enjoy time with family while you have it.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
In my career, I have worked with numerous nonprofit and for-profit businesses to help them reach their business objectives and move forward within the community. Building strong brands builds a strong community.


Paije Fauser

Janice-Paije-Fauser_8806mhAge: 37 | Director, Office of Academic and Student Services | University of Oklahoma College of Allied Health

Paije has been with OU Health Sciences Center for 15 years, and in that time, she has received her Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies. Paije has been promoted from a secretary position in the Office of Admissions to director of Student Services for the College of Allied Health, all the while overcoming significant health challenges. After suffering a severe brain aneurism at the age of 21, Paije later found out she had cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that affects the lungs, stomach and intestines. Through drive and determination, Paije is defying the limits pressed upon her. She helped create and served on the OU Health Science Center Community Outreach Committee for several years, collecting art supplies for the Cavett Kids Foundation, preparing and serving meals at Ronald McDonald House and donating supplies to OK Kids Corral.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
As Okies, we are known for our strong family values, perseverance and strength.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I was thrown a curve ball my senior year of college: A massive arteriovenous malformation (AVM) on my brain burst and started bleeding. Part of my brain was surgically removed. I was told I probably wouldn’t be able to go back to school or work, but I have held a job with the OU Health Sciences Center for 15 years while earning two degrees. My position allows me to lead but also inspire prospective students who are considering a profession in allied health. This is a passion of mine, and I am eternally grateful to have it.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would love to see the Sooners and the Thunder win national titles.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
If you have a dream that might seem impossible, go for it. Never give up, never give in and give it your all.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
It is being able to help others reach their educational goals while pursuing a healthcare profession. Healthcare professionals are vital in our society, and without them, we would not be where we are, and I certainly would not be where I am after my massive brain aneurism.


Sean Evans

Sean-Evans_8949mhAge: 34 | President and Co-Founder | Serve Moore

If you would have told Sean 10 years ago that he would run a nonprofit that started out as an idea, turned into a Twitter hashtag, become a movement and finally morphed into a real nonprofit organization, he would not have believed you. But today, Serve Moore, which was started by Sean as a disaster relief effort after the May 2013 EF5 tornado, has turned into a nonprofit with over 34,000 volunteers pitching in to revitalize the city of Moore. The nonprofit plans community gardens, playgrounds and public art to enrich the city and runs the Serve Moore Community Renewal Center, a workspace and nonprofit incubator.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love seeing and being a part of the growing-up of this beautiful community of ours. We’re like a teenager figuring out who we are and what we want to be when we grow up right now. So much momentum is happening in Oklahoma City and the metro, and it’s breathtaking to watch all of the moving parts coming together to create a place that people want to create in, to stay in and to get jobs and to raise families in.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
I loved Moore and Oklahoma City long before the storms of May 2013, but when we accidentally started a nonprofit to respond to disaster and work for community renewal, I knew I was in for life.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I’m excited to see the continued resurgence of Oklahoma City, and specifically, I’m thrilled to see a reimagining of its south side. Good things are moving across the river, and I can’t wait to ride a Ferris wheel.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Don’t be afraid. God has given you passions and desires, and the only thing left to do is run toward them. Do what you love and people will work beside you rather than try to stop you.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
The greatest impact of my work is empowering people to realize what can be done together. I really want to be a part of shining a light of hope in neighborhoods where people previously have only known darkness and isolation. Neighbors who know one another and volunteer together make their own communities great! If we can be one voice encouraging the garage doors to stay open a few minutes longer and the cookouts to move into the front yard, I think we’ll see relationships that build strong neighborhoods and strong cities.


Tony Meazell

Tony-Meazell_8711mhAge: 39 | Sales and Marketing Director | TimberCraft Homes

Tony received his bachelor’s degree in English and criminal justice from Oklahoma City University. Aligning strategic sales and marketing goals with the company’s business practices is what keeps TimberCraft Homes among the top 10 home builders in the metro area. Tony’s passion outside of work is volunteering for Pet Food Pantry of Oklahoma City. He delivers food and medicine to pet owners who either can’t afford it or need supplemental help. Typically, they’re older pet owners without much company, so Tony is able to bring smiles, comfort and companionship to them and their pets!

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
I love the ride up! As a native, I can say this is the best time in my more than 30 years to be in Oklahoma City. We’ve been on a roll, and it’s great to be a part of that.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
Like a lot of people, I moved away for a few years. In my case, it was Santa Barbara, California. It’s only when you go away that you realize what you’re missing. I could never afford to own a home and put down roots in Santa Barbara, but I could have the house, the yard and the picket fence in my own hometown. Easy choice.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I’d like to see us continue to diversify our economy. Most people haven’t gotten the memo, but we are not dependent on the energy sector like we were in the ‘80s.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
As much fun as college is, you will never meet a potential employer who gives more than a passing acknowledgement of your degree. What matters is relevant experience and success, so go get some.

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
We’re building homes with luxury amenities and the latest green energy technology, and we’re making them affordable for the middle-class buyer. We’re making homes that are top-of-the-line and actually achievable for the vast majority of working families.


Zane Z. Woods

Zane-Woods_8888mhAge: 35 | Founder and CEO | ZZW Global, Inc.

Zane started his business the old-fashioned way: with elbow grease and the integrity to see a job done right. And he hasn’t changed that, even after growing ZZW Global as quickly as household names like Zappos, GoPro and Patagonia, according to inc.500. Zane doesn’t plan on slowing down at all; his spirit and self-starter attitude are ready for the next challenge. He is currently taking on the crude oil export ban and working to help make the U.S. a global provider in the market.

What do you most love about living in Oklahoma City?
As a native Oklahoman, I have always loved the warmth and openness of the people of this great state. Oklahoma City remains a dynamic, community-oriented place to live, work, raise children and enjoy unlimited opportunity.

What was the “magic moment” in your life when you decided to do what you do and stay here in Oklahoma?
In 2010, when I started ZZW Global, Inc., I believed if I worked hard, maintained my personal integrity and developed my professional reputation, then I could really create change and leave a legacy for my children’s futures and leave a footprint. My goal is to create a positive impact on our community.

What’s the one thing you’d like to see happen in Oklahoma City in the next three years?
I would like to see the end of the outdated and harmful ban on the export of crude oil to the rest of the world. We need to become free from dependence on foreign oil. Lifting the ban will be the defining direction for our nation and will determine who will be the next superpower of the world.

What’s one piece of advice you would give 20-year-old you?
Surround yourself with people who can mentor you, both emotionally and professionally. Embrace fear, and know that “what you think is what you are.”

What aspect of your line of work do you believe makes the biggest impact in our community?
The creation and retention of jobs for hardworking citizens of our community, the ability to contribute and be active in civic organizations and being involved in Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association (OIPA) and Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA) in order to support our industry in Oklahoma City.

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