The diversity and importance of Black-owned businesses in Salt Lake City

Story by KAYLA LIEN

It is 5:45 a.m. and Timothy Horton Jr. has just started his day. He wakes up his daughters, 2 and 4, and gets them ready for school. After dropping the 4-year-old off, he then heads back home, toddler in tow, and starts to create.

A Chicago native and University of Utah alumnus, this father of two is the CEO and founder of Koda’Fe, a luxury streetwear brand based in Salt Lake City. 

An assortment of new products from Koda’Fe. Photo courtesy of Timothy Horton Jr.

Horton came up with the name Koda’Fe back in 2009, but didn’t really start putting his ideas down on paper until 2016, when he legalized it as a limited liability company (LLC). Koda’Fe is actually an acronym for “Keeping Our Dreams Alive For Eternity,” and with “fe” being the Latin word for “faith.”  Horton notes that “a lot of positive energy went into creating this name.”

This idea of positivity and growth is the base of Koda’Fe. It’s all about “bringing everyone together,” Horton said over Zoom. “Koda’Fe is a brand for every culture. …  Koda’Fe will be focused on uniting everybody and ending racism in general. … I say it every time, Koda’Fe is bigger than a fashion brand and I stand on that.” 

Koda’Fe boasts a substantial Instagram following, with big names such as Rayjon Tucker of the Philadelphia 76ers and Derrick Rose of the New York Knicks being seen wearing the brand’s clothing. 

However, the support hasn’t always been there.  

Growing up, Horton said his mom “didn’t really understand.” Having been in and out of fashion since he was eighteen, Horton always knew what he wanted. His mom, however, was strict about having a stable job that paid well. He has since earned a degree in economics. While certainly useful in the long run, Horton repeatedly pushes the concept of listening to “nobody but yourself.”

Koda’Fe is part of a growing number of Black-owned businesses in Salt Lake City. Minorities make up 22.3% of Utah’s population, yet a little under 7% of Utah startups are minority-owned. While that statistic looks bleak, as of 2013, three areas in Utah (Ogden-Clearfield, Salt Lake City, and Provo-Orem) experienced a growth of at least 40% in minority-owned businesses.

Mikell (far right) and Stephanie Brown (left) and their kids wearing T-shirts from Edify Collective. Mikell is the vice chairman and events committee lead for the Utah Black Chamber. Photo courtesy of Tabarri Hamilton.

Across the city, Tariq Staton puts in a nine-hour work day before going into his garage to get started on orders. Staton, the founder and co-owner of Utah-based clothing brand Edify Collective, juggles a full-time job to support his family on top of running a company that isn’t yet profitable. 

“We haven’t taken any money out of the company. Everything that we make is either donated or put back into marketing or apparel or new designs and things like that,” Staton said in a Zoom interview. “Our goal is to just put out good product and put money back into the community and things we believe in.” 

Edify Collective donates 15% of its profits back to the community through providing youth therapy sessions and supporting nonviolent movements fighting social inequality. Incorporating this message of positivity and unity was something the brand had wanted to do from the beginning. 

Within the first trial week, the company raised $1,000 for the NAACP. Six months after that, Edify Collective donated over $2,000 to the Utah Black Chamber.  

Moving his toddler out of view of the screen, Staton said, “When I was a minority youth, it was hard for me to express anything I was going through at that time to either my family or my friends. … Just speaking for the Black community, I know that it’s taken as a sign of weakness if you talk about … struggling with depression or talking about suicide and things like that … they’re shown as weak. So a lot of people don’t talk about it, but we want to bring that forward and say that it is OK.”

Edify Collective got its start in June 2020 after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were thrust into the limelight, having been killed by police. Staton’s wife wanted to do a photoshoot wearing shirts that were meaningful, with graphics depicting themes of unity and togetherness. After that initial photoshoot, Staton said, “We got a lot of people asking, you know, like where do we get the shirts and where can they get them.”  So, the Statons turned it into a business. Since then, Edify Collective has put out numerous T-shirts and hoodies, as well as beanies, the latter with a little help from a company called Embrogo.

The Embrogo trailer camper at Ironsmith Coffee in Encinitas, California. Quinell Dixon (left) hands an item to a customer. Photo courtesy of Jenna McKay.

It’s a snowy evening in Salt Lake City and Quinnel Dixon has logged onto Zoom from his phone. “Can you hear me? My son busted my phone,” he says. Dixon sports a dark blue cap with the words “EMBROGO BRAND” stitched in bold lettering.

Quinell and Adrienne Dixon are the owners of Embrogo, a business founded in 2017 that curates  “personal embroidery on the go.” Embrogo boasts small batches of personalized baseball caps, beanies, tees, patches, and even shoe tongues. It was an idea for a “side hustle,” Quinell said, not intending to be much of anything. However, the Dixons realized there was a market for this type of embroidery, whether it be for a small business or an individual wanting items for themselves. 

Adrienne is the one sitting behind the embroidery machine, while Quinell is out in the community promoting the business. Their company saw a really positive impact once the Black Lives Matter movement took the spotlight, both in sales and customer support.

“People wanted to speak about what was going on, right, and they put it on their apparel,” Quinell says. “Another thing that happened, too, is people started to realize that, hey, we may not be able to do things right now when it comes to police brutality, when it comes to unfairness and injustice. But what we can do is support the people who are still around, who are people of color.”

The community has really embraced Embrogo, says Quinell, who adds, “We’re also glad that people are starting to really realize that small Black businesses is very far and few in between.”

Buying from small businesses has become a trend since the pandemic hit, one with gratifying results for many company owners.

Within the United States, there has been a tangible shift toward supporting local businesses, especially those owned by people of color and women. The U.S. Small Business Administration reports in 2020, the number of small businesses in the U.S. reached 31.7 million, which is 99.9% of all U.S. businesses. However minority-owned businesses make up only 18% of that, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  

Supporting small businesses is essential, Quinell says. “You put the money back into your own economy and your ecosystem thrives. Not necessarily with revenue, but thrive in areas of being able to take care of their families. … Small business is bigger than just another ticket or another dollar or another revenue. [The owners] support their families on it.”

How COVID-19 has impacted Utah’s live music industry

Story by SKY NELSON

You’re in a crowded room, bopping your head to the beat of the music as you weave your way through other dancing, sweaty bodies. Maybe you have a drink in your hand, and you are on your way to your friend’s table. Everyone around you is laughing and talking over the music, but all you care about is one of your favorite songs blasting through the speakers, being played live right in front of you.

You’re at a concert and you feel amazing as the energy around you surges through your veins. You feel the drums in your feet and the bass in your chest. You finally see your group of friends and make your way over to them, smiling as you exclaim, “What a fun night!”

George Kelly, founder of Keys on Main, during a live performance. Photo by Rita Mangum.

Except, you probably haven’t been to a concert in months. You are more likely to be in your pajamas right now, reading this from the comfort of your couch.

Since March 2020, the live music industry in Utah, as well as across the globe, has been struggling. Unlike other industries that keep the economy going, the live music industry’s hardships are unique because the product it’s selling isn’t a tangible thing, but rather an experience.

“Live performance puts an emphasis on people coming together and enjoying something that is spontaneous and is an experience and an event,” said Jordan Saucier, a Utah musician. He was speaking by Skype while he was driving to Elko, Nevada, with a colleague to do a paying gig.

Saucier is the definition of a working musician, meaning all of his income comes from performing live with his array of different bands he participates in, working in studio recording sessions, and teaching private guitar lessons.

Despite having a bachelor’s degree in commercial music from Snow College and a master’s in music technology from Southern Utah University, Saucier said his income took a hit “big time” when everything shut down March 14, 2020.

In 2019, Saucier was playing three to seven gigs a week, every week, totaling 135 performances. One of his groups — No Limits, a party band — traveled all around the country for paying gigs. He said the money he made from those live performances accounted for about two-thirds of his income that year.

Now, Saucier only performs locally once or twice a week, which is much better than how he was doing last spring. Because of the pandemic, all his gigs scheduled throughout 2020 got cancelled, and he didn’t get booked anywhere for over 10 weeks. Teaching guitar lessons brought in some money for him, but a lot of his students quit lessons during the first stages of the lockdown.

In one month, he lost an estimated $5,000 and calculated a loss of about $30,000 for the remainder of 2020. Saucier said he realized he needed to “diversify” his income in order to stay on his feet as a working musician. He was able to start his own business called Casino Entertainment Group in which he produces, manages, and books bands for casinos.

Keys on Main, a dueling piano bar franchise founded by local musician George Kelly, has seen hardships as well. Kelly’s two locations in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, have been completely shut down for a year. The Keys on Main in California was forced out of business in the spring of 2020.

Thanks to government assistance and the fact that Utah has been “looser” regarding COVID-19, as Kelly said, Keys on Main in Salt Lake City, 242 S. Main St., was able to re-open in May 2020. Due to the new capacity restrictions, sales went down about 30 percent, and the company had to hire more staff because it had lost 23 employees while Keys on Main was closed.

The Salt Lake City Keys on Main has reopened to patrons for live performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Photo by Rita Mangum.

The local dueling piano bar managed to stay afloat throughout the summer and into fall, but on Nov. 9, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a mandate banning alcohol sales after 10 p.m. Keys on Main was able to get through those four weeks of the alcohol ban, but sales were down 50 percent, Kelly said.

This decline in sales isn’t just tough for the business, but for its musicians as well. One of Kelly’s friends, David Holloway, is in a popular Mardi Gras jazz band that played for high-paying, huge events before the pandemic. For Mardi Gras this year, the band performed in Salt Lake City’s Keys on Main for free because the musicians were itching to perform on stage and had no other gigs lined up, Kelly explained.

Of course, it’s not all about money. It’s about the music!

Excellence in The Community is a nonprofit organization that has been showcasing Utah musicians since 2005. “We’re trying to help Utah musicians, and we believe that by helping Utah musicians have better performance opportunities and more performance opportunities, and by having these concerts be offered to the public at no charge, we’re helping Utah communities,” said Jeff Whiteley, founder of Excellence in The Community and a musician himself. “The potential contribution of these fabulous musicians of all genres has generally been overlooked, so that’s where we come in.”

On a recent Friday night, Whiteley was at the Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, setting up for a livestream concert featuring the Xiné String Quartet. The performers and volunteering staff had their temperatures taken when they entered the building and then they filled out forms about COVID-19 symptoms. It showed the organization’s dedication to safety and health as it worked to put on a quality livestream performance.

A behind-the-scenes photo of Excellence in The Community producing a livestream featuring the Xiné String Quartet. Photo by Sky Nelson.

According to Whiteley, the organization has produced over 910 shows in total since it was founded in 2005. The Gallivan Center is the headquarters of Excellence in The Community and has hosted most of its concerts since 2006.

Before COVID-19, the nonprofit put on big band dance events every Tuesday night, where everyone could go to have a music and dance-filled night with their loved ones. Better yet, the local musicians got more exposure, a top-tier stage to perform on, and a regular paid gig to look forward to.

Excellence in The Community’s big band dance event. Photo by Lex Anderson, official photographer for Excellence in The Community.

Since March 2020, Excellence in The Community has had to adjust in order to continue helping local musicians. That support is needed even more now than it was before. Instead of cancelling concerts, Whiteley said the organization has doubled its shows and has put all efforts into producing livestream concerts.

The nonprofit produces a livestream concert every Wednesday and Saturday night, showcasing some of Utah’s best musicians in a variety of genres. Despite a huge loss of funding in spring 2020, the livestreams have proved to be a success. Since that March, the organization has reached over 7 million views in total, according to the website.

“Music is a spiritual experience. Music is a recharging experience,” Whiteley said. That’s why the volunteering staff with Excellence in The Community do what they do. Livestreams are a great way to keep local musicians in business during this pandemic, but they are not equal to live performances.

As musician Jordan Saucier said about live performances, “The musicians are reacting to each other, reacting to the audience, and the energy exchange between all these people is a unique thing at each event.”

COVID-19 boosted the earnings of a South Korean beauty company, while others faced bankruptcies

Story by YEH-RHYM CHEON

Masks have become essential to survive in this dark world.

It is now impossible to see the bright smiles of children or eat delicious food in crowded restaurants. We cannot even breathe in the fresh air of the coming warm spring at will.

After COVID-19 hit South Korea in 2020, life before the pandemic no longer exists.

Over the past year, the pandemic has changed many aspects of our daily lives. In particular, the high bankruptcy rate of small- and medium-sized enterprises harmed the economy in South Korea.

According to Gyeonggido Business & Science Accelerator, the business situation of companies in South Korea deteriorated in 2020. Particularly, hard-hit were small businesses, companies with less than $1billion in sales, and companies with fewer than 10 employees.    

Countless small- and medium- sized enterprises are suffering from extended social social distancing and lockdown due to the COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Francesco Ridolfi.

For small- and medium-sized enterprises that provide face-to-face service, the mandated social distancing and long-term shutdown systems make it difficult to operate and maintain the business.

Eun Kyoung Kwak, CEO of Norang EAT Academy (노랑EAT학원), has been running an education business located in Siheung, South Korea, for 14 years.

It was her pleasure to run supplementary classes such as art, mathematics, English, and Korean for elementary school students. However, her happiness will no longer exist.

“Because of the COVID-19, numbers of students have left our academy,” Kwak said in Korean over the phone.

To prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the South Korean government continues to extend the social distancing period, including the ban on gatherings of five or more people.

In order to retain students, Kwak has been offering online classes. Nevertheless, it was difficult to guarantee a high quality of teaching due to various limitations such as a lack of internet knowledge and difficulty controlling students online.

Kwak confronted financial difficulties as the number of students declined. There was no other option besides reducing the number of employees.

“I am now exhausted facing these situations caused by the pandemic. I should have dismissed them to maintain my business,” Kwak said. “I just feel sorry for the fired employees.”

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the unemployment rate in South Korea has surged as many small- and medium-sized enterprises have been going through hardship with the business operation.

Yuna Lee was one of the victims who lost her job due to the COVID-19.

Since 2019, Lee had worked part-time for six months at a mathematics academy located in Seohyeon, South Korea.

At the academy, she could take the first step towards her dream of becoming a teacher.

“Even though it was a part-time job, I worked hard because I love both children and teaching. Also, it was a great opportunity to build my career,” Lee said in Korean in a phone interview.

While she was working hard and doing well as the instructor, the COVID-19 hit South Korea, and the tragedy began.

Like other companies, her academy also suffered financial problems from the COVID-19, and Lee eventually got fired.

“After being fired, I had to find a new job to make a living,” Lee said. “But, the reality did not allow me to do it.”

She said that other companies are not hiring new employees but rather reducing the number of employees.

Lee could take this situation as she knew how COVID-19 affected society, but now she has to handle her financial challenges.

While many people are facing economic difficulties, there is a company that has benefited from the COVID-19.

OTK Corp. is one of the small beauty companies located in Asan, South Korea. Han-Jong Kim, CEO of OTK Corp., started his business in 2010 by selling facial sheet masks.

The facial sheet mask is a beauty product made of non-woven fabric containing essence, moisturizing the facial skin.

When COVID-19 just hit South Korea, there was a limit on the number of masks purchased due to a lack of mask supply.

While everyone lined up to buy the masks, Kim turned this situation into an opportunity.

Kim produced masks out of his company’s sheet mask material. Thanks to the COVID-19, he was able to increase sales. Photo illustration by Pauline Yeh-Hyun Cheon.

“I could manufacture tons of masks with a non-woven fabric, which is a material of our sheet mask,” Kim said in Korean in a phone interview.

As a result, his product diversification strategy, applying the mask supply shortage situation, played a crucial role in increasing sales and income by 70%.

However, Kim was also worried about the situation after the end of COVID-19. He foresees sales and income to decline as the supply of masks increases over time.

Kim said that new problems arise with new social situations all the time. He added, “It is one of my challenges to resolve as a leader in an organization.”

Although Kim could generate more sales from the pandemic, he hopes for an end to COVID-19.

As an entrepreneur, Kim knows how difficult this situation can be for other companies.

He also knows that not only many companies but employees and consumers are struggling with COVID-19.

He believes that the economy of South Korea will recover when the pandemic is over. Hence, everyone will be able to live a better life than we are now.

“Even if it is impossible to take off the mask right now,” Kim said, “we will be able to breathe in the hot summer air that is coming up.”

Branches to bottles — A guide to Utah’s first hard cider distillery

Story by HANNAH CARLSON

First came the breweries to Utah, then the distilleries and wineries; the brewpubs soon followed. In 2014 Utah’s latest taste sensation arrived in Salt Lake City: Mountain West Hard Cider.

Owners Jeff and Jennifer Carlton share a drink in the distillery’s tasting room. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

East Coast natives Jennifer and Jeff Carlton began their careers in the hospitality industry. The couple then switched gears to the financial services industry, all before deciding to create something they could call their own.

During a work-related trip to Ireland in 2011, the Carltons found themselves in a small pub in the harbor city of Galway. That’s where Jennifer first fell in love with hard cider.

In addition to bottles and cans, Mountain West offers a growler option for guests to take their ciders to-go. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

“I just loved it,” she recalled. “I thought, wow, I found a product that is comparable in alcohol percentage and price to beer. I can finally drink it toe to toe with my husband instead of me having a glass of wine and falling off the chair.”

After returning home, Carlton tried as much hard cider as possible while her husband researched the ins and outs of the hard cider industry. He ultimately discovered the market’s double-digit growth year after year. 

“My husband read this article and he approached me and he said, ‘We’ve always wanted to get into business on our own and we’ve always talked about owning a restaurant, bar, or some type of hospitality and what do you think of hard cider?’” Carlton said. “I actually thought it was a great idea because there were no other dedicated hard cider distilleries here in Utah. There still isn’t.” 

So, the Carltons got to work.

Jeff Carlton enrolled in a cider-making course and the couple attended CiderCon, a cider convention whose mission is to provide information, services, and resources to its members. There, the Carltons were able to speak to some of the industry’s leading experts and gather the knowledge they needed to get a foot in the industry’s door.

A Belgian glass, a favorite way to sip cider for many people. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

One thing the Carltons didn’t find at CiderCon, however, was a cider maker to join their team. Luckily, they found Joel Goodwillie in the nick of time.

When approached by the Carltons, Goodwillie — then living in Washington — looked at the opportunity as nothing more than a free weekend trip to Salt Lake City. 

“Through my consulting business, I had met with dozens of couples who were bored with their lives and always thought it would be fun to open a winery,” Goodwillie said in an email interview. “It was usually people who just wanted to impress their friends by having a wine or cider with their name on the label.” 

While in Salt Lake City for the weekend, Goodwillie fell in love with the city. However, after meeting with Jeff and Jennifer, he also fell in love with their knowledge of the industry and their clear vision of a successful hard cider business. “I could tell that they were committed to producing a quality product and building a presence within the Utah business community,” Goodwillie said.

So, he loaded his truck, a few pieces of winemaking equipment and made his way to Salt Lake City to start his new chapter with the Carltons.

Upon arrival in Salt Lake City, Goodwillie had come to the Carltons with an impressive resume and over 30 years of experience in winemaking. 

“When you think of cider making, it is winemaking,” Jennifer Carlton said. “Just instead of grapes, it’s apples.”

The distillery’s fermentation tanks, where all the cider magic happens. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

Next up, the team needed a location and found theirs in central Salt Lake City at 425 N. 400 West. The couple’s urban warehouse serves as their cidery, office, and tasting room for visitors. 

“So, we secured our cider maker, we found the location — now we needed apples,” Carlton said.

While Utah isn’t usually considered an apple-growing region, the new team eventually found a small orchard in Santaquin, roughly an hour south of Salt Lake City. 

“They were a perfect partner for us,” Carlton said. “They had the resources and manpower to be able to pick the apples, but more importantly the commercial equipment to be able to juice the apples into apple juice for us.” 

Mountain West Hard Cider was finally born.

Plenty to go around

Today, Mountain West Hard Cider offers four regularly stocked products including Ruby, 7-Mile, Cottonwood, and Desolation. All of Mountain West’s ciders are named to honor various canyons throughout Utah. Every three to four weeks the cidery also features what it calls its “little orchard series” cider, which is available on tap to customers who visit the warehouse. 

The “little orchard series” on tap. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

The series is a chance for Goodwillie to experiment with flavors and try new recipes — 100 gallons at a time. Although, once the 100-gallon batch is gone, it’s gone for good.

“During my first visit, I sampled all the different products available and fell in love with Sweet Alice, one of their smaller batches available a few weeks ago,” said James Stephenson, a new Mountain West customer. “I’ve gone back multiple times since to refill my growler. I look forward to trying their new small batches in the future as well.”

However, Mountain West’s most popular cider, Ruby, is always available and ready to be poured. It is described on Mountain West’s website as “a crisp 6.8% alcohol by volume hard apple cider for year-round enjoyment and everyday get-togethers.”

When asked what his favorite cider is, Goodwillie compared it to a parent being asked which one of their children is their favorite.

“I’m proud of all of the Mountain West Ciders but what’s really great is that we’re having new children every month now with our small orchard series of small batches,” he said. “Unlike children though, if we don’t particularly care for one of these small-batch ciders we just get rid of it and produce something else.”

Jennifer Carlton identified the two leading determining factors of each product’s final and unique flavoring. First, Mountain West doesn’t receive a specific blend of apples in the apple juice that it receives from its distributors. 

A fridge full of Ruby, waiting to be taken home and enjoyed. Photo by Hannah Carlson.

“We don’t have that luxury of choosing a specific blend of apples like some of the bigger names, but I also like that because it does make us craft,” Carlton explained. “The flavor might vary slightly every time. It all depends on the blend of apples in that specific batch of apple juice we receive.”

The second thing that makes Mountain West stand out is the cidery’s partnership with a local flavor lab. The team discusses its desired flavor outcome with a lab technician, who then recommends a specific strain of yeast for Goodwillie to use when fermenting the ciders.

“Take Cottonwood, for example,” Carlton said. “We reached out to the lab and we said, ‘We’re adding Centennial hops, which tend to be very floral. What would you recommend as a yeast strain that we can use to really highlight the juniper flavors or that little bit of citrusy that pulls forward?’” 

Once the team decides on the right strain of yeast, it will continue to use that same strain in every batch throughout the product’s lifespan.

Anytime, anywhere, anybody kind of drink

Since Mountain West opened its doors in 2014, the team’s hard ciders have continued to grow in popularity around the state. However, the Carltons and their team still make an everyday effort to educate and inspire every consumer who wants to learn more about hard cider.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions when it comes to hard cider,” Jennifer Carlton said. “Men often think it’s a woman’s drink, or everybody thought it was going to be super sweet. So, we intentionally made our ciders dry, like what I originally had in Ireland.”

Carlton also wants to clear up the common misconception that hard ciders can only be enjoyed in the fall and winter months. 

“Historically, the ciders are fermenting during the winter months, they don’t actually come to drinkable conditions until the spring or summer,” Carlton said. 

Eric Montgomery, part of Mountain West’s “cider slingin’” crew, as he says. Photo courtesy of Fathom Croteau.

As much as Mountain West seeks to inspire and educate the community, it has also created a space where it can be inspired and learn from others. Mountain West service employee Eric Montgomery’s favorite part of working at Mountain West is the exposure to others who are passionate and dedicated to their own crafts and talents.

“Whether it’s those of use behind the bar who are responsible for service, or the professionals we contract with for entertainment,” he said in an email interview. “Everyone in our little community has so much talent to bring to the table and I feel like I have the space to learn and grow in my own strengths.”

Mountain West offers free tours of its cidery and $6 cider tastings. Tours can be scheduled in person or over the phone.

Grief work: the process of loss against a backdrop of chaos

Story and gallery by ALEXIS PERNO

When you walk into the small front lobby of the Serenicare Funeral Home, the first thing you notice is the pleasant yellow walls. 

The second would be the dark wooden desks opposite each other. 

The third is a small, yet striking detail; next to the ubiquitous tissue box is a new fixture — a bottle of hand sanitizer. 

Francis Mortensen, funeral director of seven years, sports a surgical mask as he stands alone in the Serenicare Funeral Home’s small viewing room.

Francis Mortensen, Serenicare’s funeral director of seven years, is wearing a blue surgical mask as he speaks to a client on the phone, mid-interview. I pause the recording as he talks. When he finishes, I smile, thinking back to his earlier comments about the upcoming weekend.

“You weren’t kidding when you said a funeral director’s job never ends.”

Mortensen laughs in agreement, and we speak for 20 more minutes. 

The pandemic hasn’t changed Serenicare’s process all that much: when a death occurs, the home, located at 2281 S. West Temple, is notified by a hospice nurse or social worker. Then, the home contacts the family to learn their desires and arrange pickup of their loved one. A time to meet with the family is set, and plans for a service are put into motion. 

However, this face-to-face collection of information between Mortensen and a grieving family has been replaced with online forms, emails and phone calls. Precautions are taken that weren’t before. Instead of simply straightening up the meeting table for his next client, Mortensen spends time sanitizing before returning the ever-present tissue box and hand sanitizer to their respective places. 

“We do have to have different precautions,” he said. “When we are going to a facility, I used to never ask, ‘Do they have an infectious disease?’”

Early in the pandemic, Mortensen and his team would suit up in complete protection gear to even step foot into a room with a deceased person, regardless of if the person had died from COVID-19. Now, greater precautions are only taken if the deceased was positive at the time of death. 

“That comes down to not only a time thing and a stress thing but also a financial thing because of purchasing all that protective equipment,” he said. “It’s just going to be thrown away.”

Although the death rate in Utah has remained low compared to hard-hit places —  773 deaths as of Nov. 20 compared to New York City’s 19,517 — changes still have made themselves known.

With the sudden lack of in-person, open-casket viewings, embalming is not taking place. To comply with social distancing guidelines and church closures, funeral services have been replaced by graveside services at the cemetery. More families have begun to choose cremation, causing changes in the revenue stream. 

But for Serenicare, Zoom funerals have worked well. During one service with over 100 attendees, Mortensen was completely alone in Serenicare  — save for the casket. 

“All of the speakers did their talk from a different location, so [Zoom] worked very well in that aspect. It was different not having anybody here,” Mortensen said. 

Preschool teacher Shanna Beesley lost her mother, JoAnn Peirce, on June 15, 2020. While her mother’s death was unrelated to COVID-19, the family decided to limit the number of people who could attend the service to just Beesley’s siblings, their children and Peirce’s siblings.

As Beesley and her family met at Larkin Sunset Gardens in Sandy, Utah, over 100 people attended virtually through a Zoom organized by the family.

“I think it’s been harder for sure to grieve but you know what, at least we have our family,” she said in a Zoom interview. “That’s No. 1. We had our family there, and so that was helpful.”

Despite some technical difficulties, Beesley said attendees were thankful to be present, albeit virtually. 

In Peirce’s obituary, it’s written that “family was her most priceless treasure.” When things become overwhelming for her daughter, family ensures perseverance as well. 

“I hold on to all the great things that [my mother] did for me and the impact she made here,” Beesley said. “The memories and love of family, supportive family, that’s what I hold on to.” 

These infographics were originally created Nov. 15. In the five days between creation and publication, case counts increased by 2,625.

The stark necessity of social distancing has made mourning into a greater challenge, according to Francis Mortensen. For some, it isn’t enough to be notified of a death. Seeing a loved one for the last time at a viewing can be a vital step for someone to work through their grieving process.  

“Death is the definite factor in all of our lives, and understanding that, some people try to deny it to the greatest extent,” Mortensen said. “Those tend to be those that have the greatest difficulty feeling [grief] in different aspects.”

Jessica Koth, the director of public relations for the National Funeral Directors Association, agrees that grief is a powerful force. 

“We often think that we can move on from a death and find closure, implying there is some endpoint where grief ends,” Koth said in an email interview. “However, as anyone who has lost someone they are close to, you never quite get over their death and your life is changed because they are no longer there.” 

While the Wisconsin-headquartered NFDA has worked with the federal government to plan for mass-fatality circumstances for over a decade, the pandemic has been the biggest challenge to date. Calls increased as the organization worked with federal agencies to provide personal protection equipment and information to funeral homes across the nation. 

Koth said she couldn’t imagine what the experience had been like, especially considering that the majority of funeral homes in the United States are small and family-operated. 

“Day in and day out, funeral directors everywhere continued to serve families with the same level of care and compassion they always exhibit; they never missed a step,” she said. “I have never been prouder to work at NFDA than I have these last few months.”

Funeral and memorial gatherings are often crucial parts of both the mourning and healing process. Grief becomes even more complicated now as individuals also experience non-death losses. 

Within Serenicare Funeral Home, a bottle of Germ-X hand
sanitizer sits next to a tissue box in an effort to slow the spread of
the coronavirus.

“Some may be concrete and easy to identify, such as financial or employment insecurity and lack of social interaction,” Koth said. “Other losses might be harder to recognize, like no longer having the comfort of our normal routines or freedom of movement in public spaces.”

As grief evolves with the times, one constant remains: the image of the hand sanitizer next to the tissue box. But no matter the environment, the process toward healing can — must — begin somewhere.

Utah business, Burgess Orchards, remains family-owned and -operated since its inception

Story by DEVIN RICHARD DAYLEY   

On a sunny, fall day the fallen leaves can be heard crunching underneath your boots. It is the busy time of year again, when peaches slowly go out of season and apples begin to ripen. As you look out across the land, you see nothing but shades of red, yellow, orange, and brown as the leaves shrivel and the trees prepare for winter.

For Clark Burgess — an orchardist, or grower as he calls it — this is a sight he looks forward to each year. As he takes in a breath, he thinks, “I was born to do this.”

Burgess Orchards, a family-owned business since 1914. All photos courtesy of Clark Burgess.

Being the only son in a family who owns and operates a thriving orchard in the Alpine, Utah, area, Burgess has made it his calling to take over the family business located 40 minutes south of Salt Lake City. However, he enjoys and finds satisfaction in the work.

Burgess comes from a long line of farmers who previously established Burgess Orchards as a staple of Utah. Clark, the son of Van, who was the son of Edward, who was the son of George, is the fourth generation to grow fruit in the 100-year history.

Burgess was born in 1958, and for him, there was little question in his mind that he would learn what he could and take over the family business one day. “Nothing occurred to me as something else I would do with my life,” Burgess said in a Zoom interview. “Growing up as the only boy of five kids, I knew the future of our orchard depended on me.”

“I quite enjoyed farm life,” Burgess said. ”There was no reason for me to not want to stay on the orchard.”

He studied and went through high school in the area of Utah where he currently resides. He attended American Fork High School in American Fork, a suburb of Alpine. After high school, knowing that his future was at the orchard, he decided to forego his academic future in lieu of gaining the skills required to run a successful orchard.

“I knew that I would end up back here,” Burgess said referring to not attending college. “So I didn’t see any benefit to leaving.”

Apples have been grown since the orchard’s inception.

Clark’s wife, Dolores, is an integral part of the team that produces and harvests the fruit each year. It was her urging that led Burgess Orchards to grow peaches as well as apples. 

“I love peaches and have always loved peaches,” she said in a Zoom interview. “I was sure they would make a delightful addition to our crop.” Clark and Dolores knew each other for years leading up to their marriage, having grown up not 20 miles apart.

Peaches, in addition to apples, are grown on the orchard.

In the 108-year history of the orchard, 12 varieties of apples and eight varieties of peaches have been and are currently cultivated on 16 acres of land.

“Everyone knew about Burgess Orchards,” Dolores said. “We all knew that he (Clark) would take over one day, so it came as no surprise to me that we ended up living in the same house he grew up in.”

Clark and Dolores have four children together. 

“We don’t know, for sure, who will take over the family business in the future,” Dolores said. “We believe it’ll be our second — Matthew — but to be honest, we don’t really care. We know it’ll be in good hands no matter what.”

As the second of four children, Matthew (Matt) is on the path to take over as head grower for the business.

“I just grew up assuming that I would be in charge of continuing the tradition of running the business,” Matt said in a Zoom interview. He attended Utah Valley University (known as Utah Valley State College then), earning a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering.

Apples can be purchased during the winter months.

He describes the farm on which the fruit is grown as “self-contained,” so he hopes that he can keep working with computers while running the family business.

But Clark does not think his son will be able to hold another job.

“He will need to quit his other job to put his full attention toward the orchard,” Clark said. 

Matt said there was never any discussion on whether he would take over the family orchard. “I had been conditioned to know that it was just expected from me since I am the oldest male.”

He added, “The knowledge that the future of this beloved orchard will be in my hands one day is a heavy burden. It is a burden I feel like I can carry.”

The startup of Simply Açaí at the University of Utah

Story and gallery by GRIFFIN BONJEAN

University of Utah student Seth Neelman, 23, has opened his first location for his company Simply Açaí in the Lassonde Studios building on campus. 

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he spent two years on a religious mission in Brasilia, Brazil, to help the community. 

While in Brazil, he met the friends who introduced him to açaí berries. “It was like the most amazing thing ever,” Neelman said, “and from then on out I was eating açaí like two to three times a week.” 

IMG_0828-compressed

Freshly made Simply Açaí Power Bowl.

After finding his love for açaí, he later joined a summer 2019 internship with Makai Fruits. It is a company that ships hand-picked açaí berries from the Amazon Forest to customers in the US. Through the internship, Neelman got to travel to Belem, Brazil, to check the açaí harvest and factory.

Neelman also met and helped support locals in Brazil by purchasing bracelets made from the açaí berry shells. He handed them out for free after opening in Lassonde on Aug. 19, 2019. 

Neelman believes that this internship taught him information that was used to help the start of Simply Açaí. He also credits Lassonde for giving him his entrepreneurial spirit because he lived there as a freshman student. 

Being a student at the U helped him gain the ability to connect with the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute and its food partner Chartwells Catering. Neelman wanted to stay on campus with Simply Açaí and felt that the food trailer in the Lassonde lobby would be a good place to start. 

In order to open, he had to hire employees. Neelman said, “First I started with a manager because I wanted someone that was familiar with the restaurant industry.” He wanted someone who would lead by example and enforce the rules involving cleanliness and health codes. Neelman interviewed the job candidates. He said many of the employees whom he found were references from other employees. Not only did he want to find good employees, but he wanted to create an experience where his employees could have fun and enjoy the work.

Employee Reid Lanigan feels that Neelman has succeeded in doing so. “I’ve loved it so far,” Lanigan said. “I have class after it on some days and class before it on some days so it works out well with my schedule.” 

Lanigan only works an average of three shifts a week with each of his shifts only lasting about three hours. He works Monday mornings, and Tuesday and Thursday lunch shifts. His duties are to follow the health codes as he makes food that customers order from the menu and to serve it to them. He said the company encourages employees to “try to get the food out as fast as possible and try to make sure that the food is correct.”

The menu displayed on the red and white Lassonde trailer gives students a variety of different açaí bowl options. Each item on the menu contains the pureed frozen açaí palm fruit berries. Customers are also able to choose additional toppings like dark chocolate chips, goji berries, almond butter, Nutella, and many more. 

FullSizeRender-compressed 2

Employee Reid Lanigan adding the final ingredient into a customer’s açaí bowl.

An avocado toast menu is now a new addition to the menu items that are offered to add to the different flavors. Avocado toast is an example of how businesses have to make adjustments to change. Employee Grayson Goodyear has had to deal with business changes for the company. He said, “We’ve actually started to run out a lot mid week and I’ve had to do two grocery store runs for Seth [Neelman].” The employees of Simply Açaí are adjusting as the business makes its way through its early stages.

These changes contribute to the success of the startup of Simply Açaí, and the employees face these changes to help with company success. Goodyear believes that the bosses did well with hiring their employees. He thinks this is important. “Seth has done a really good job hiring just like friendly people and people that seem inviting to the customers, and I think that creates a lot of attention,” he said. 

Goodyear believes that this attention to the relationships that are built between the friendly employees and customers contribute greatly to the success of the business. 

When it comes to the success of the business, customers returning is one of the ways to measure Simply Açaí’s success. “It started off a little slow, but after the first couple of weeks it picked up,” employee Reid Lanigan said about his first few shifts after opening. “The longer it’s been open, the more word has definitely spread.” He believes that the company continues to grow as it gets further and further away from its opening day.

As a student entrepreneur, Neelman feels that he is able to gain knowledge in the classroom that he can apply to his business. In a follow-up FaceTime interview he said, “It is kind of cool now that I’m in a lot of my management and leadership classes, like that make sense or that would work in my situation.” Neelman has started his journey toward success as a college student entrepreneur.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Utah musicians discuss struggles for work and appreciation from residents

Story and illustrations by NATALIE ZULLO

Upon graduating from college, professional musicians look toward their careers with hope. But outside of the campus, they worry about their careers due to the lack of professional opportunities available.

Hallie Mosteller, a violin teacher in the Sandy, Utah, area and member of the Orchestra at Temple Square said, “I maybe thought I would have a little more option. But I have found that I’ve had a lot of opportunities that I never thought I would have, like the Orchestra at Temple Square.”

Joanne Andrus, owner of Andrus Music, agrees that there are a lot of opportunities in Utah for music. She said, “I think the thing that’s great about living in Utah is that that there are a lot of avenues, a lot of venues, that you can use to make money.”

But opportunities to share music on the professional level do not come to everyone. “I think if you have a talent level, there is a lot of work out there,” Andrus added. “But you have to be the best of the best to have those kinds of opportunities.”

Those musicians who are not “the best of the best” worry about their financial future.

In a previous interview, Kasia Sokol-Borup, assistant violin professor and director of the String Preparatory Division of the University of Utah’s School of Music, said, “When people think that what we do is just this constant inspired magical moment, they feel that we should feel lucky when we’re asked to do that in front of other people.”

Mosteller, violinist in the Orchestra at Temple Square, said she gets asked to do a lot of performances for free. “Especially in Utah, you get asked to do a lot of church things like performing in church. It definitely takes a lot of work to be able to make a living performing. It’s tough. I’m a little worried about it.”

To help make ends meet, many musicians have turned to teaching children and owning their own studios. But they fear that their rates are an issue for parents.

“I do feel like music is highly valued and the arts are very import to our culture,” Andrus said. “But I do feel like people don’t like to spend a ton of money.” Andrus charges $25 per private lesson but has had experiences with parents who refuse to pay her rates.

Mosteller, who is both performing and teaching, said she worries about her future as a teacher. “I feel like you hit a brick wall teaching. I probably would need to get another job.”

Sarah Affleck, Utah mother of six, feels differently about the rates musicians offer. She said in reference to hiring private music instructors for her children, “Price was never an issue for us because we were happy to invest in that for our children. I would pay their prices because I know how genius they are.” No matter how high the price of the musician, Affleck said she feels that music is a long-term investment for her children. It is a skill that can be taken with them throughout their lives no matter their age.

Affleck’s children have been privately taught piano, guitar, voice, cello and composition from instructors around the Salt Lake Valley. When asked if Affleck hired an instructor based on a music degree and skill, she replied, “Their background in music education was less important to me. What was important to me with the instructor was how well they interacted with children. That was probably the number one over degrees or skill.”

Mosteller has felt in her performing career that her degree is not as important to employers as her skill and experience. She said, “I feel like experience is definitely more valued, like with the Orchestra at Temple Square.”

Musicians tend to take up other musical careers to help with finances giving private lessons, including teaching the arts in school orchestras, choirs and bands. But musicians are seeing the loss of music in the education system.

Sokol-Borup said, “I think the fact that people ask for so much music and [desire] it shows that music actually is a basic human need, which when you look at the way our education works, it’s as if it wasn’t.”

In reference to the current school system, Andrus said, “It’s not just STEM it should be STEAM. It shouldn’t just be science, technology, engineering and math. We need to throw the arts in there. Because that’s what makes our children people. That is what humanizes all of us is the arts.”

Leslie Henire, concert mistress of Sinfonia Salt Lake, also has noticed the lack of arts in the lives of children. “It’s necessary for us as humans to have beauty and art and culture in our lives. I just don’t see any other way. It’s a necessity and it’s becoming less and less,” she said.

Affleck feels strongly about music in the lives of children. She wants her own kids to be involved in music “for their own self-expression and creativity. Music is a powerful brain tool.” She added, “It can be used for education. It stimulates the brain.”

For many Utah musicians and parents, music is crucial in school curriculums and individual lives. Andrus said it is also a crucial part of humanity.

“That creative part of life gives a huge reason to get out of bed every day and if we lose that, we lose part of our culture, part of our humanity and we lose all the benefits that come to our brains by creating and being more than just robots,” Andrus said. “We have things that we can accomplish that are so much bigger if we include the arts in our curriculum for our kids and in our lives as adults.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Utahns finding success for personal brands and business is largely thanks to their social media presence

Story and gallery by ISABELLE CURRAN

Utah and social media. How are these two big entities related?

For the past four years, social media has become less of a memory sharing platform, and more of a business. Almost anywhere you look, there are people trying to make a brand off of themselves or otherwise enhance their growing businesses.

This phenomenon is especially apparent in Utah. Many Utahns have strong social media followings in the hundreds of thousands.

While social media might be newer and has helped more people gain success and more exposure, many top social media people in Utah started with their own blogs. Themes of such profiles and blogs range from health and wellness to fashion, art, and lifestyle.

Social media platforms are the new hub of bloggers, specifically Instagram. Instagram first came on the market in October 2010, its original purpose being a streamlined photo sharing and editing site.

Nowadays, Instagram is a balance of real-life content and advertisements, which has proved to be the secret to success. Mixing the right amount of business and personal attributes bode well with internet communities.  

One San Diego State University student, Karis Bailey, 19, who is very outwardly vocal about the Utah social media scene, says, “Many accounts I follow of Utahns are inspiring and they make me want to go and experience what they are experiencing.”

Bailey has been active on social media, specifically Instagram, for close to seven years. Around two years ago she noticed that some of the people she follows, whom she didn’t know personally, were mostly from Utah.

“These people make their followers feel almost like family members,” Bailey says. “They are all very humble and grounded individuals.”

Bailey explains that she feels as though most of the Utah-based people that she follows create authentic content that engages followers into their lives.

Some of the Instagram accounts she shared are Cara Loren (@caraloren), The Bucket List Family (@thebucketlistfamily), and The Devines (@haileydevine, @bradleydevine, @somewheredevine).

For businesses, is it wise to utilize Instagram? Even newer than the concept of social media personalities is that of making your social media profile into a business. Now, posting and reviewing products on a profile can turn a profit.

The balance of original and personal content with ads and promotions is a tricky one.

“It is all right when they genuinely like the product they are advertising but I think there is a limit to what and how much you advertise something,” Bailey says. “Pushing things on to followers is unethical but I see nothing wrong with suggesting.”

Social media in Utah serves as a large community for people to connect and share ideas with each other. A popular social media Utahn who can attest to this is Renata Stone.

Although she is a newer Utah resident, her Instagram and company success is constantly influenced and inspired by her surroundings. With over 21,000 followers, her Instagram (@renatastone) is the connection between her business, her personal images, and her followers.

After Stone and her husband bought a house together, she started making macramé pieces to decorate their house.

To transform her creative hobby into a business, Stone utilizes her website and Instagram to share her inspiration, existing creations, and allow for commission requests.

In an email interview, Stone says, “Being authentic and real is the only thing that matters.”

Providing an accurate visual representation of one’s life is an essential way to gain favor with followers and promoting loyalty.

Stone says she does not consider herself a typical Utah social media personality, but recognizes that her Instagram very much follows a theme, something very common in not only successful Instagram pages in general, but Utahn Instagram pages especially.

“I think my Instagram account is as much about me as a human (or at least what I choose to expose to the outside world) as it is about my work. I think as an artist the personal and professional go hand-in-hand —it’s almost like you are your brand,” Stone writes.

Social media platforms are not only central to personal profiles but also to enhance businesses, as Stone noted. Normal Ice Cream is a food truck that is standing its ground among retail storefronts at Trolley Square, using Instagram to do so.

The Normal Ice Cream website and Instagram profile (@normal.club) give a comprehensive overview of the products as well as the story behind it all.

Owner Alexa Norlin, who has been a pastry chef for eight years, decided the ice cream business was more her speed after working in popular Salt Lake restaurants such as The Rose Establishment, Current Fish & Oyster, Fresco Italian Cafe, Cafe Trio Downtown, Cafe Trio Cottonwood, and Faustina and Niche.

She opened the Normal Ice Cream truck and became operational in June 2017. Later the truck took up residence in Trolley Square starting in January 2018 and has been there ever since.  

Norlin praises Instagram saying, “I truly think that I would be out of business without Instagram.”

The Normal Ice Cream truck is an example of good social media marketing. The Normal team utilizes its profile to promote the business by posting photos of products, updating hours, sharing, and serving as a place to allow customers to connect with the business.

Norlin says that, “Instagram has allowed a really natural way to engage with customers on a seemingly one-to-one basis.”

She has noticed the social media Utah phenomenon, but her social media involvement is mostly consumed by being a business profile only, not a personal journal. Still, Norlin credits her business’ success largely thanks to a clear and consistent social media presence.

Utah will continue to be the house a substantial amount of popular social media figures. For those who have a business and those who wish to share their lives online, Instagram seems to be the desired platform.

Looking into the future, there is no limit to how influential social media platforms can be to people’s personal brands and the business they create.


Local Business Cross E Ranch Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Story and images by EMMA CHAVEZ

Cross E Ranch is a small local cattle ranch in the Salt Lake City neighborhood of Rose Park. It celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.

IMG_3934

The Great Red Barn was built in 1880.

David Hinckley purchased the land from the Jeremy family, of Jeremy Ranch Park City, in 1968. David kept the business in the family, as his son, Dalon, and daughter, Heather, are the current co-owners.  

Cross E Ranch has a long history. Dalon, 29, began working with his dad when he was just 8 years old. He explained that originally the ranch was in the business of sheep, but his father quickly turned over to cattle. “We don’t do sheep anymore because, well, we’re just not that crazy. Sheep take a lot more work and are kind of a delicate animal,” Dalon says. Instead the ranch now raises black Angus beef. That’s just fine by Dalon, though. The cows are his favorite part of the job.  

IMG_3939

The ranch now raises black Angus beef.

“The cows keep us grounded in what we do each day,” Dalon says. The most interesting part of the ranch’s history, in fact, is its cattle brand. It is the cross E, and the namesake of the ranch. It is the oldest cattle brand still in use west of the Mississippi. It is a bit of a mystery. “We know it was used by a commander in Brigham Young’s Mormon Battalion, most likely Ethan Jeremy, but we aren’t sure,” Dalon says.

But the Jeremy family would not sell the ranch to David Hinckley unless he promised to keep using the brand, and David’s family have felt very honored and proud to be owners of such a historic brand ever since.

There a plenty of photo ops all over the ranch.

Running a cattle ranch is difficult work, but the hardest part isn’t the manual labor like you would think. Dalon likens being a rancher to that of a gambler, playing the highest of stakes. The nature of the business is luck. “There’s a lot of hope involved,” Dalon says. “You can gamble up to $300,000 on a crop of produce, and then you’re weather dependent.” Or in the case of a festival, “you’re hoping that in six weeks you can recuperate your investment and then make enough to make it worth it.” 

In the last 50 years, though, the stakes have increased tenfold. The entire business has changed. Dalon explained that he is now competing on a global agricultural market. His operation is now expected to be equally as efficient as a ranch that is working for a mass retailer, and shipping globally. It puts a strain on his resources.

Even more concerning has been the encroachment of development. Hundreds of acres of Dalon’s land have been bought out by the state government due to water accessibility, or shut down due to new EPA regulations. The changes began to greatly affect the business. “About seven years ago, we started losing hand over fist money, nearly $400,000,” Dalon says. “We had to completely reinvent the diversification of where our money was coming from.”

A display outside the Cross E Ranch pumpkin patch.

These changes forced the family to get creative with their revenue streams, which is how the Cross E Ranch festivals began. The ranch puts on three major festivals a year, the Summer Fun Free Days, the Baby Animal Festival and the Fall Festival. It also offers a multitude of private events, such as weddings, summer camps and corporate events.

Despite the stress the festivals cause him, Dalon says the creative aspect they bring to the job is the real fun part of the business. His goal is to constantly come up with new ways to make the farm better and more entertaining for the guests. Dalon just wants people to connect with agriculture, so he spends his time thinking of new ways to make the farm experience more accessible.

The Fall Festival, specifically, has been a major success since it started in 2014. Mother-daughter working duo Teresa and Kristal Hyde consider it their favorite festival. Kristal, who is the ranch’s event coordinator, described the Fall Festival as “fun, family, and good times.” Teresa, who helps run the ticket booth, nodded in agreement and added, “I’ve gone for the past three years before either of us worked here. They make their own doughnuts and it’s my favorite.”

IMG_3932

“There’s something for everyone.”

Of all the activities available, both Kristal and Teresa recommend the hay ride as a must-go-on when the festival next comes around, while Dalon insists everyone try the food. “There’s a doughnut shop, caramel apples, kettle corn, and a concessions shop where you can try a Cross E hamburger,” Dalon says. “There’s something for everyone.” This 2018 Fall Festival included a 14-acre corn maze, a 12-acre pumpkin patch, hay rides, slides, animals, and plenty of food. Check the Cross E Ranch website for more details on its variety of year-round festivals and activities.

Dalon is very excited with the direction the ranch is heading currently, but admits that it is expensive to change. He and his sister Heather haven’t taken a paycheck in two years. “Herding people and cows are really similar,” he said with a laugh, “but they do require different fencing. We haven’t made any money on the festivals yet because we keep reinvesting in them.” It’s quite a strenuous transition period.

An old tractor turned display on the edge of the ranch.

In the future, Dalon hopes the ranch will stay in the family. Heather has four daughters that she would like to see be involved. The siblings would both like to continue toward the direction of mixed use, with plenty of entertainment, but also maintaining the interactivity and ambience of the ranch.

Tinker’s Cat Café, a coffee bar with a twist

Story and gallery by JOLIE BELL

Coffee. Conversation. Cats. What do they have in common? They are integral to a new local small business.

Tinker’s Cat Café is the first of its kind in Salt Lake City. A novelty in the United States, cat cafés are popular in other parts of the world, particularly Asia. In fact, the very first cat café opened in Taipei, Taiwan, and soon turned into a sensation in Japan. Cat cafés are a twist on a traditional coffee shop. In addition to coffee, tea and goodies, people also pay to socialize with felines.

Lisa Boone is the owner of Tinker’s Cat Café, located at 302 E. 900 South. Boone saw her first cat café while watching late night television. The idea intrigued her and soon she developed plans to open an establishment of her own. She decided to name her café after her childhood pet, Tinker, who lived to be 22.

“It was all from Tinker, he shaped how I thought about cats,” Boone said. Along with petting cute kitties, the café serves a variety of specialty drinks including coffee, hot chocolate, Italian soda, and tea. It also sells pastries from other local businesses.

The cats themselves come from Salt Lake County Animal Services and are spayed/neutered and vaccinated. One aspect that is unique about Tinker’s is many of the cats may be adopted. In fact, more than 80 adoptions have occurred since it first opened the doors in 2017.

The adoption process is simple. If someone decides to adopt, an employee meets with them and discusses their history with cats. If it is the person’s first time ever owning a cat or if they have other animals in their home, the employees explain what the future pet owner needs and how to care for the cat. There is a $40 adoption fee per cat.

Adoption isn’t for everyone. Boone understands not everyone has the funds or a suitable home for pets. The café fills the need for those who love animals and she feels the café is a positive experience for both the people and felines.

“It’s a win-win,” Boone said. “Especially for the timid cats because they can socialize and get used to an environment.” The cat room, adjacent to the café, is open and without cages. This allows patrons to show them affection while they are living at Tinker’s, which can help the cats come out of their shell.

Not every cat is up for adoption. For some, Tinker’s becomes home. One cat has been at Tinker’s since it opened. He stays to help the new cats acclimate to the surroundings by sitting with the newly acquired timid cats.

“We are not sure what cat magic he has,” Boone said with a laugh.

Throughout the year, Tinker’s acquired several regular customers. Sarah Murtagh is one. Murtagh said she loves the calm environment and has made friends with other kindred spirits.

“When I was going through a rough time in my life, the café was where I found therapy,” Murtagh said. She bought an unlimited pass for the cat room to visit her furry friends as often as she could. Eventually her living situation changed and allowed her to own a pet. Once Obsidian (Obi for short) crawled into her lap at the café, she knew they were a perfect match.

Not everyone is looking to adopt. Some are interested in something new and fun to do. Ally Jelitto, a University of Utah student, visited the shop on a whim after noticing the café driving through town.

“I felt fancy drinking a latte while petting a cat in my lap,” she said in a phone interview. “I’d go back more, but if I do I might go home with five cats,” she said, chuckling.

Recently Boone began organizing special events at Tinker’s such as Cat & Paint, Yoga, and Crochet with Cats. Boone has more event ideas on the horizon, such as trivia or game nights.

The paint and crochet classes offer a coffee, hot chocolate or tea and an hour in the cat room with an instructor. The yoga class is an hour and allows an extra half hour to play with the felines. The curious cats will sit on the yoga mats, play with people’s hair and bat around the balls of yarn.

Reservation spots fill up quickly to spend time with the cats. Or, customers may walk in (if there’s room). The cost is $8 an hour and $4 a half hour in the cat room. Tinker’s offers an unlimited monthly pass for $50 or an unlimited annual pass for $600. The café also provides a children’s hour for kids 8 and under from 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. It is $6 each for children and parents.

The café hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday- Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Tinker’s is closed on Mondays. The cat room opens at 11 a.m. and closes the same time as the café does.

Boone is looking forward to another year of business and to continuing to foster a community location where people can connect. Success has its price, however. As the felines leave for their forever homes, it can be difficult for Boone and her employees who become attached to them.

“It’s bittersweet,” Boone said. “However, I’m happy they are going to good homes.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The plant revolution: anti-inflammatory, anti-meat

Story and gallery by JEN CHUN

Plant Based Utah, a collaborative organization that utilizes specialists to educate people about a plant-based lifestyle, held the 2nd Annual Plant Based Nutrition Symposium on Oct. 13, 2018, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. Doctors and health experts were invited to give lectures about a plant-based diet.

Annually, many Americans die because of chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. According to 2017 data of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 635,260 people died because of heart disease and 598,038 died of cancer. These two are the most fatal chronic diseases that threaten Americans’ health.

The problem is people do not know how to make healthy meals for themselves. Nutritious food is easily available, but consumers are having a tough time selecting ingredients for a healthy diet.

“One option is a plant-based diet,” said Patrick Olson, an orthopedic surgeon at the Rosenberg Cooley Metcalf Clinic in Utah.

Plant-Based Diet (PBD) is a diet that consists of minimally processed food. It focuses on consuming natural products that people can grow such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and herbs. PBD does not include any animal products, which is eco-friendly to the earth as well.

“PBD is the most anti-inflammatory diet you can get,” Olson said.

He said plants are the primary source of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Not only do plants lower cholesterol and blood pressure, but they also change gene expression and lengthen telomeres. Maintaining a plant-based dietary pattern is helpful for lowering obesity rates.

Lucy Mower, a second-year graduate student at the University of Utah’s Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, said PBD promotes good health. She said PBD emphasizes the consumption of certain foods that are associated with heart benefits. “Eating vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are beneficial to the heart,” she said. Mower explains that “a lot of them have fiber which maintains or lowers the cholesterol level.” She added that components of vitamins and minerals control high blood pressure and bad cholesterol, known as LDL. “Having a PBD is helpful to break the vicious cycle of” America’s daily diet, Mower said.

Additionally, Mower emphasized the importance of research before starting PBD. She said PBD is challenging because it can be a big transition of one’s diet pattern. She said she won’t recommend specific PBD to people unless they do prior research or have background knowledge of plant-based nutrition. She emphasized the importance of discipline in building one’s PBD by researching, planning, and reading a nutrition label.

“To do a healthy PBD, it is significant to know one’s needs,” she said. She recommends considering the food groups seriously when looking for alternatives — replacing animal oil to vegetable oil — which should provide enough carbohydrate, protein, and fat to the body.

Zuri Vasquez, 18, and a student at the U has been doing PBD for five years. Her natural environment and family history — diabetes — influenced her to start PBD. “I don’t consume any animal product because I grew up with chickens and cattle in Idaho and I could not even imagine to harm them,” she said. She supports local farmers’ markets as well.

Meat-based diets stimulate climate change. According to the website PETA, making one hamburger needs as much fossil fuel as it takes to drive a small car 20 miles. Meat-based diet requires massive water, fossil fuel, and trees, which cause drought, air pollution — methane gas — and depletion of the ozone layer — carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, PBD is sustainable and has a lower environmental impact because it does not contain any animal product. “Having a PBD is promoting a huge impact on not only our planet’s health but also all its inhabitants,” Olson said.

Vasquez said having PBD is realistic and inspiring. She said it has become more accessible and sustainable since the increase of markets featuring whole food and grains. By eating healthy vegetables, fruits and nuts, she has gained more energy and improved cognitive abilities. “I feel strong and motivated because of the belief that I am doing something good,” she said.

She advised beginners of PBD to “start little by little.” Rather than changing the whole diet at once, gradually eliminating one thing a time, such as limiting animal products once a day, will be beneficial in adjusting to the plant-based meal. “It is a good investment to think about a longer period for my body and the earth,” Vasquez said.

Heber Rivera has been a chef for 15 years and has done PBD for four years now. He runs a business based on whole food and plant-based meals called “Chef Heber.” Before he started the business, he was in charge of catering to 23 different hospitals for Intermountain Healthcare. “Chef Heber” provides catering, artisan bread, and personalized meal delivery, services in which all the food is cooked by plant-based nutrition.

“Our catering is unique because it is built to the needs of customers,” he said. The artisan bread is made from 100 percent whole wheat and five other plant-based ingredients without any preservatives or sweeteners. He crafts pre-cooked plant-based meals to meet every dietary need. He delivers the food twice a week, which makes it easier for people to access and maintain the PBD.

Rivera aims to offer natural and nutrient-based meals without oil, sugar, or any chemical seasonings. “Ideally, we wanted to help people live better,” he said. He said it is hard for modern people to access healthy meals. He is trying to help as many people as possible by collaborating with different retail stores at reasonable prices.

According to the website, Plant Based Utah’s mission is, “We strive to advance our health and lifestyle culture through the sharing of evidence-based information and initiatives promoting whole food, plant-based nutrition.” This organization is helpful for learning about PBD.

At the symposium, the professionals emphasized that changing habits is crucial in PBD. Nowadays, people are too used to consuming processed and fast foods. Ayesha Sherzai and Dean Sherzai, who are neurologists and co-directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University, described the habit pathway as a cycle that continues toward mindfulness, which brings healthy behavior and eventually, success. They pointed out that the “mindfulness” is the most important stage to form a good eating habit. The website Healthy Minds Initiative shows a lot of helpful resources and programs for a healthy lifestyle.

In addition, Dr. Brooke Goldner, who is an expert in healing chronic disease with Plant-Based Nutrition, suggested making a green plant-based smoothie daily. Her book “Green Smoothie Recipes to Kick-Start Your Health & Healing” and the website called smoohieshred.com  contains various delicious and healthy recipes of green smoothies. Moreover, she runs the website called Goodbye Lupus for further information and tips for healthy eating and wellbeing.

One of the greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” The plant-based diet could be the revolution of health needed for every individual.

 

A local business woman’s ability to lead

Story and Gallery by KOWHAI ANDERSON

Professional ambition is expected of males, while only optional for females. For one Utah businesswoman, she has chosen to use her professional success to make an impact on her employees, community, friends and family.

Stacy Kelly is the owner of Construction Material Recycling, a Utah based company founded in 2004. Her company specializes in construction and excavation. Its services include rotomilling, heavy hauling and crushing.

At Canyons Resort, Construction Material Recycling is building two new ski runs, bridge embankments and roads for new houses. They handle construction on Interstate 80 through Parley’s Canyon. They recently finished road work at Bear Lake, and construction in American Fork.

Kelly is in charge of 25 employees, all male. She said every worker is OK with working for her. In fact, some are honored. Kelly said, “Each employee looks out for me and makes sure I am taken care of. This is due to the type of employer I am. I believe you need to be kind.”

“I think this is something women understand better than men,” Kelly stated. “There needs to be a little bit of compassion.”

Kelly shows this in the way she treats her employees. For example, she gives each of her employees heartfelt birthday cards, filled with loving words and numerous gift certificates. She believes if compassion exists, any leader can have a more dynamic team.

“It’s the little things you think about doing for someone, whether that be work, school, family, friends, whatever,” Kelly said, “it’s those little things that put the icing on the cake to seal the relationship.”

Originally, Kelly didn’t see herself building a career in the construction industry. However, those closest to her felt she would thrive. So, she obtained her contractor’s license, which can only be rewarded after passing a difficult exam.

“I cried all morning the day of the test,” Kelly stated. “I didn’t want to do this … I went to the testing center, and saw a lot of females there as well. I assumed they were all there for the same exam, feeling relief. Turns out, the majority of the women were going in for a cosmetology exam.”

Kelly passed the test with an 81 percent. For Kelly, this was the beginning of her journey in the industry of construction. She realized it would not be an easy road.

“It’s been an adventure,” Kelly said. “I enjoy doing what I’m doing, but it takes a lot of strength. People don’t believe you are doing it because you are a lady, and my main competition was the worst. Still can be today. He would say to me, when we would see each other at conferences or in the business field, ‘Um, why aren’t you doing scrapbooking like my wife? That’s where you should be!’”

While building the company, it was difficult for Kelly to balance being a business owner and a mother. She still finds it difficult, and says it has been her biggest challenge.

Kelly is a mother to nine children; four with her current husband and five adopted.  

“In the beginning, it was easier,” Kelly said on being a mother. “At the time I had my ex-husband who was part of it. So, we are working together. Now my current husband is not part of the business. He works out of town, which has made balancing everything for me a lot harder.”

For Kelly, her kids have always been part of the business. She includes them in everything she does and has given them the opportunity to work for her once they reach the legal age of 18.

In 2008, Kelly moved to Coalville, Utah. Her company was based in Salt Lake, but moved north to the small town in 2014. It’s been easier for Kelly to have the business close to home. It allows her to be near family. Her kids are able to visit the office, which to them, feels like a second home.

The best part of being a business owner is the freedom to support her children in their activities.

She also loves the ability she has to serve those around her due to self-reliance. Kelly said she enjoys the process of creating, helping and supporting her community.

In Coalville, there is a 4-H program, which helps children develop life skills. Kelly has had the opportunity to fund this. If the children are putting forth effort to work hard, she will support them.

Kelly credits her success to a few key individuals. Ed Hansen, a man who is like a father to her, has helped her find direction. Cody Thorn, her partner in the business, has been there every step of the way. Dave Nicholson, a friend from her Entrepreneur Organization forum (a global business network which engages leading entrepreneurs to learn new skills), has helped her realize she can move forward even when things get difficult. He has been a big influence on Kelly.

“Stacy is incredibly hardworking. She loves her family and the people she works with,” Nicholson said.

Kelly stated, “Dave is the one who saw the light in me and said ‘you can do this.’”

Philip Anderson, a member of her EO forum, describes Stacy as “a woman with a heart of gold. She will do anything for anyone.”

The biggest lesson Kelly has learned in business is to never take anyone for granted.

“It doesn’t matter who they are in your company, your family, or your friendship circle, everybody has a purpose,” Kelly said. “We are all on a compass. We can go a million different ways, but as long as we stay focused and centered, then anything is possible.”

IMG-0641

A rotomill machine chewing up an old road, thus allowing the material to be recycled for new pavement. Photo courtesy of Stacy Kelly.

IMG-1801

A visual of the moral compass Kelly and her employees follow. Photo by Kowhai Anderson.

IMG-2640

A rotomill machine paving a road in Provo, Utah. Photo courtesy of Stacy Kelly, owner of Construction Material Recycling.

IMG-0632

An excavation machine being used to create a pathway to a home in Park City, Utah. Photo courtesy of Stacy Kelly.

graph (3) (1)

This chart shows the percentage of privately held firms by females and males. Infographic created by Kowhai Anderson, using data from the National Association of Women Business Owners.

graph (4)

A 2018 statistic from pewresearch.org showing the percentage of labor force among the U.S. population. Infographic created by Kowhai Anderson.

 

 

Goalkeeping done right, from TIP Goalkeeping

Story and gallery by JOSH LUDLOW

The first Saturday of October at 8 a.m. was cold. According to the car’s outdoor temperature gauge it was in the high 40s. Freedom Hills Park in Centerville, Utah, sits just under the east mountain side. With rain falling the night before, the grass was spongy and wet. Feet were soaked within a few steps on the soggy surface. At this time, and place, goalkeepers from across the Salt Lake Valley gathered to hone their skills.

Brian Simmons, the head of TIP (technique, insight, power) Goalkeeping, is the man running the training program. As the young high school goalkeepers arrive, subtle moans are heard about the hour of day, temperatures, and lack of sleep. Simmons quickly gets them into action to start the morning training session with a few warm-up routines.

Soon enough the goalkeepers are diving on the ground, in the air, and even forward attacking the ball. Simmons directs the efforts of these young players in a positive direction. He provides needed correction but also positive reinforcement when a player correctly executes a save.

The session runs about an hour with much of the allotted time at an intensive work rate. At the end, footprints and cut marks are visible from where the goalkeepers worked as the grass is torn to shreds. Final comments are made by Simmons and then everyone departs till next week’s session.

Simmons discussed TIP and what the inspiration was behind the idea by saying that, “There was a lot of demand for goalkeeper training where I am based in Davis County, Utah. I was asked over and over about what training I could offer, so after holding training sessions sporadically I decided to formalize TIP so that I could be a consistent resource for the goalkeeping community as well as the average coach.”

TIP Goalkeeping provides young goalkeepers the opportunity to train at a higher level than a typical club team practice would provide. The high intensity, demand for excellence, and positive feedback make these trainings invaluable for the goalkeepers.

“TIP was officially founded in 2017, though TIP trainers have been active for about a decade,” Simmons said.

Another TIP trainer, Cole Palmer, also said, “I am not sure of the exact time I started with TIP but I believe the first camp that Brian and I did was in the summer of 2017.”

As a relatively new company in a heavily concentrated soccer playing community, TIP found its niche. The opportunity to work with parents and athletes away from the club teams has given the young goalkeepers formalized training. Whereas at the club levels, goalkeepers are treated as just another field player.

Craig Waldron, a parent of one of the athletes, described the training TIP provides. “I think TIP is different from other trainings because of how personal they make it for each keeper. They also have a very good trainer to athlete ratio so there is a lot of personal help with each of the athletes. And trainers that truly want to make better goalkeepers.”

The success of TIP, when broken down, is about the values it represents. Simmons said, “Our aim is to help keepers learn and develop the skills necessary to become great goalkeepers and people…. So many goalkeeping principles can be applied to life, and at the end of the day, we care very much that our athletes develop as people in all facets of life.” TIP goes further than teaching athletes how to properly be a goalkeeper. It instills values that these young players will one day look back on and realize they were already developing by attending these training sessions.

Ideally, the training sessions are there to assist in bringing a sense of accomplishment and improvement. Specific instruction is delivered from Simmons and Palmer on how to execute a desired movement, perform the technique correctly, and how to improve what the athlete already knows.

Palmer said, “I think the biggest difference that I have seen is getting kids genuinely excited about training. I have never seen kids show up to training and say they also have a game or even two after but at TIP I see that all the time. It seems like they show up excited and ready to go.”

TIP is also giving back to the community. Once a year, TIP hosts a training session for free to anyone. All that is asked from those who attend is a donation, which will be given to someone or a place in need. This past summer of 2018 TIP was able to raise “$330 to support Eumer, a boy living in Ethiopia,” Simmons said. The next year TIP is hoping to raise even more money to benefit someone or something.

TIP brings goalkeeping to a completely different level. With multiple trainers, athletes, and philosophies involved, these young players are receiving the skills necessary to enhance their playing abilities and life. Simmons said it best: “I want TIP to be THE authority on goalkeeping in the state of Utah.”

 

Young entrepreneur brings delicious activity to downtown Logan

Story and images by MEGAN GILSON

After days of searching for a new job, unable to meet the required qualifications, a frustrated college student decided he would create his own.

The 22-year-old Utah State University student, Austin Jensen, is the founder and owner of Logan Food Tour, a culinary walking tour in the heart of downtown Logan.

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of a food tour, Jensen described it as “the best way to experience the city and its local restaurants. We dive into the food scene, visiting restaurants and trying their best menu items. As we walk around, we share the history of the downtown area, creating a unique, and delicious experience.”

Logan Food Tour features four of Logan’s best local restaurants — Pollo Azteca, Stacked Pancakes, The Factory Pizzeria, and The Crepery. Ranging from authentic Mexican cuisine to traditional Sicilian-style pizza, each restaurant serves quality, made-from-scratch dishes.

Many ask Jensen if his idea was inspired by his passion. He always replies, “I wouldn’t say that I’m passionate about food, or about historical tours, but I am passionate about fulfilling the needs of the people around me. In the end, I think that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.”

In the spring of 2018, Jensen noticed a vast amount of students with a shortage of fun things to do on the weekends. “Logan is a small town, and frankly, there is a lack of local events and cool activities,” he said. “I wanted to build something that would solve the age old question ‘what should we do tonight?’”

A few months later, Jensen was caught up in the frustration of trying to find a job that would give him some relevant job experience for his future career. “I found that every job that sounded remotely interesting and helpful for my future required experience and a degree. So finally, I realized that if no one was willing to give me the experience I need, then I’m just going to gain it myself.”  A few weeks later, Logan Food Tour was born.

The road to building any business isn’t easy, and Logan Food Tour was no exception. Jensen put in countless hours building the website, studying up on historical facts, and finding great restaurants to work with.

After all the logistics were in place, Jensen spent weeks advertising the tours. He handed out fliers and cards on campus and started advertising on social media. After a few weeks, he finally saw his hard work pay off when he booked his first tour.

“On the first tour, I was a ball of nerves,” Jensen recalled. “I was worried about guiding the tour, remembering all of the facts and stories, making sure the participants got enough food and keeping people entertained. It turned out I was nervous for no reason. I felt totally in my element, telling stories and cracking cheesy jokes, and the restaurants absolutely delivered with huge samples of delicious food.”

Jensen felt great after his first tour and couldn’t wait for the next ones. He loved helping his guests create new memories, while introducing them to great, local food.

“One of the most rewarding parts is helping local business gain more traction, and attract new customers,” Jensen said. “We have deals with each of the restaurants, they prepare a sample plate of food for our participants, and through our own advertising efforts, we promote their restaurant. It’s mutually beneficial and allows each of us to succeed.”

Alicia Lopez, owner of Pollo Azteca, said, “When the food tour group comes in, people on the street notice my restaurant. They look in my windows and wonder what is going on and why there are so many people. This encourages them to come in and try the food.”

It is seeing the positive impact that Logan Food Tour has on restaurants like Pollo Azteca, the first stop on the food tour, that motivates Jensen to continue working hard and building his business.

Food tour participant Kyle Horton said, “It’s like the ultimate date night! It takes dinner and a movie to a whole new level. We learned cool stories and facts about the place we live, tried new delicious restaurants we had never been to, and left absolutely stuffed.”

When asked about his long-term plans for Logan Food Tour, Jensen said, “I don’t expect to stay in Logan running the tours for the rest of my life, though it would be the funnest career ever. Ideally, in a few years, I will pass down the business to another USU student. At the end of the day, I want to be able to provide someone with valuable experience and give them the chance that no one gave me.”

Jensen has learned more about business in the past three months than he has learned his entire college career. Jensen said the experience has been “eye-opening and invaluable.”

He offers this advice to other students: “Don’t wait until things seem easy, because I don’t think they ever will be. Gaining the experience you need is about doing challenging things now.”

NO BLACK OUTLINE LOGAN

Photo courtesy of Austin Jensen

 

Young Entrepreneur Will Stop at Nothing to Quench his Thirst for Success

Story by ISABELLA GENTILE

Ethan Cisneros should have been out of breath.

Like all 20 year olds faced with another day of multitasking, the University of Utah student was rushing through the motions of class and work. But unlike most on a recent Wednesday afternoon, Cisneros found himself in between classes hustling to Fox 13 News Station’s studio. The baby-faced junior was there to film a segment for the station’s afternoon feature, The Place, which showcases small local businesses.

Cisneros had a new haircut and was dressed to impress with a striped polo. It was clear this young entrepreneur meant business. Stepping out of his truck packed with catering menus, bins of Torani syrups, soda and fliers, he was fully equipped to pitch the impact his soda shop, Thirst, is making on Salt Lake City.

He finds his comfort in operating a shop that runs on the concept of making a “happy impact.”

Cisneros is a contributor in a wave that seems to be spreading throughout the Salt Lake City area. Young entrepreneurs, both enrolled in school and not, are leveraging social media and a vision to launch businesses. And making money doing it.

The traditional education system is designed to bolster the workforce, but Generation Z, which has an age range from six to 23, has rearranged the progress from school to work. In Salt Lake City, there seems to be a ripple of eagerness within this age group – a crescendo of young individuals moving toward a less traditional path.

From lemonade stands to soda shop

Cisneros began his entrepreneurial climb at 7, when he would ride his bike to the store, purchase lemonade, and sell it at a stand in his neighborhood. He recalls standing on the street and dancing around with a sign to attract customers.

He learned to ride his bike at 2, because, “When you’re a businessman, you need to be able to get around,” he said. At 10, he and his neighborhood friend wanted to make some money, so they started a lawn mowing business. “Zack and Ethan’s Lawn Mowing” grew over the span of six years, but by then, Cisneros was ready to move on.

During the 2014 Christmas season, he thought he’d try his luck hanging Christmas lights —  and he ended up with another business. But as the snow melted and summer came around, he noticed a hype around shaved ice shacks. His curiosity sparked, and Cisneros scoped out prospects – and potential competition. He sat at a local shaved ice shack and observed the operation, watching the lines and counting customers.

Shortly after, “Olympus Ice” was born. Lively music drew in high school students to the shack throughout the summer. They gathered under string lights at picnic tables, playing board games and “Twister” as they enjoyed their frozen delicacies. Come winter, Cisneros started his light-hanging business back up. He continued this seasonal cycle throughout his high school career. Little did he know, however, bigger opportunities were headed his way.

When Cisneros turned 18, his business partner reached back out to him. She said she had noticed the long lines at soda shops such as Swig and Sodalicious.

“Girls were driving all the way out to Provo for this stuff,” he said.

His ambition kicked in, and he began visiting all of the soda shops he could find in Utah, and soon learned there wasn’t one in Salt Lake. That’s when the idea for “Thirst” was born.

Thirst is located at 38 East 1300 South, Salt Lake City.

Cisneros developed plans, secured a location and assured his business partner it was a good investment.

“If you invest in this, I won’t let you down,” he told her. “Either this is going to succeed or I’m going to die.”

Cisneros had a clear idea of what he was getting into.

“I told myself, ‘This is not a lemonade stand anymore, this is a big deal,” he recalled.

Making a ‘happy impact’

A few blocks east of the Salt Lake Bees Stadium, Thirst’s bright orange roof cannot be missed. A long line of idling cars waits to reach the drive-through window, where customers order drinks such as the “Dr. McCreamy” and “Frat Star,” or sweet treats such as their signature “Scotcharoo.”

Inside the shop, Cisneros mixes drinks and serves smiles from the 8:30 a.m. open to 9:30 p.m. close, leaving only to make it to class on time. Thirst has been in business for nearly three years, and Cisneros spares no effort to keep its three locations running. Work is all he knows, and he expressed that it’s what makes him comfortable.

“I want to build massive success and prosperity, and I like to match my work ethic to my words,” he explained.

Cisneros mixes Thirst’s signature drinks for his customers. He enjoys being involved in the day to day operations of his shop.

It was this eagerness and determination that brought Cisneros to the lobby of Fox 13 News, anxiously prepping his equipment for showcase.

 

“I wonder if Big Buddha remembers me,” Cisneros said, in reference to Thirst’s Fox feature with Big Buddha from last year. “He likes my photos sometimes.”

Cisneros takes a story for Thirst's Instagram account. He actively keeps his followers engaged in what he's doing.

Cisneros takes a story for Thirst’s Instagram account. He actively keeps his followers engaged in what he’s doing.

He pulled out his phone and began taking a video for Thirst’s Instagram story. These Instagram updates are constant throughout Cisneros’ day to day – he prides himself on keeping his followers engaged and informed of what he is doing. An advocate of social media marketing, Cisneros is convinced that for his target demographic, nothing else works. He interacts regularly with his 3,000-plus followers, delivering to them a bona fide customer experience inside – and outside – his shop.

One evening, Cisneros recognized the driver of a car involved in a nearby accident as one of his loyal customers, and went out of his way to hand deliver her favorite drink to her at the scene of the accident. It’s this extra effort that helps build Thirst’s reputation for stellar customer service.

As each car pulls up to the drive-thru window, Cisneros greets it with a smile. He models his friendly interactions with his customers after his company’s mission statement: “Make a happy impact, one experience at a time.” With Cisneros’ level of enthusiasm and animation, it’s no wonder customers are driving away with a grin on their face. This contentment permeates the kitchen as well.

One of Cisneros’ employees, Conner Nelson, shared why he enjoys working at Thirst.

“It’s a pretty fun work environment, everyone just kind of laughs and has a good time,” he said, adding that he admires Cisneros’ work ethic. “I don’t really know how he does it to be honest.”

But Cisneros’ busy schedule doesn’t stop him from maintaining a healthy and happy workplace. Even as the boss, he remains friends with his employees, promoting teamwork through staff parties, movie nights and retreats. He even plans to take his team on a weekend trip to St. George.

Learning the ‘sexy skills’

Cisneros is thriving in the era for entrepreneurs when essentially anyone can buy something and resell it online. Through the indisputable power and reach of social media, as well as the drive and ardor that’s surging among the younger generations, the possibilities are endless. Young high school graduates no longer need to follow the long-established path laid out by their predecessors.

Cisneros has plenty of advice to give when it comes to entrepreneurship, and he emphasizes the importance of being willing to put in the work.

“It comes down to sacrificing the things that you may want in the moment, like a party or anything, for what you want in the long term,” he said. “I know what I want in the long term, which is massive.”

In Cisneros’ case, this desire for success has driven him from the moment he set up his first lemonade stand. He is working to develop a set of “sexy skills,” as he calls them.

“I’m getting my hands dirty doing it. I’m the one mopping the floors,” he said. “I’m gonna learn the sexy skills by not doing the sexy things, and then I’m gonna transfer those skills to a sexy business.”

Cisneros knows that he doesn’t want to run a soda shop forever, but he’s not ready to move on until Thirst is an undeniable success. However, he believes he will never be fully satisfied and hopes that Thirst will continue to prosper beyond him. When asked what sets him apart from the rest, his answer was simple:

“I’ll outwork everyone.”