Title: Director of community engagement at Dominion Payroll, the Richmond-based payroll and human resource services company
Born: September 1982 in Pensacola, Fla.
Education: Georgia Tech, 2000-2001; Virginia Commonwealth University, 2001-2002; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 2002-2003; VCU, bachelor’s of science in sociology, 2003-2005.
Career: Cellar Door, co-owner, 2010-2012; Virginia Organizing, small business representative, 2011-2015; Fan Area Business Alliance, president, 2014-2015; Uptown Civic Association, chairman, 2014-2016; Sticky ToGoGo, co-owner, 2006-2017; Dominion Payroll, July 2017-present.
Where in the metro area do you live?: Western Henrico County
Best business decision: “I owe so much to the restaurant industry where I had so many formative experiences, but I can’t say that I miss the long hours over countless nights and weekends. That sector will always have a piece of my heart, but the best decision I ever made, both professionally and for my family, was pursuing a career with more ‘normal’ business hours.”
Worst business decision: “Any regrets that I have stem from a mix of naiveté and not listening to my gut. It’s critically important to find passionate people you can trust to elevate your team, but you cannot shy away from accountability for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.”
Mistake you learned the most from: “When I was 19 years old, I started a small media company with a good friend of mine. We hoped to create a social platform to promote independent artists — something like MySpace meets Etsy or Pinterest before those were truly established things. After a year of operating, we ran out of money and closed it down. I felt like a spectacular failure. My friend urged me to see it in a different light, saying ‘We opened, operated and closed a business in one year. We navigated the regulatory hurdles, people management, proof of concept, all of it. We didn’t fail; we just got the cheapest MBAs ever.’ Ever since then, I try to savor the lessons learned from challenges and missteps. There is always another day if you are willing to grow.”
What is the biggest challenge/opportunity in the next two to five years: “Organizations that embrace the principles of corporate social responsibility, who value their employees, clients, vendors, and community beyond their impact on the bottom line, are the organizations that will thrive in the coming decade.”
First job after college: “During and after college I worked as a sushi chef and manager at Sticky Rice. I took a brief detour in the summer of 2002 to serve as sous chef at Hotel Rica Nordkapp in Honninsvag, Norway.”
If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently: “I often joke that I’ve never taken a straight path anywhere, but it hasn’t been without purpose or passion. For that I’m grateful and deliberately try to avoid dwelling on any minor regrets from the past. Every step I’ve taken has led me to this life I get to share with my amazing wife, Laura, and our two fantastic boys.”
Book that inspired you the most, and why?: “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn “is an amazing lesson in challenging the biases of one’s own perspective even if it makes you uncomfortable.”
Favorite and least favorite subject in school: “I really enjoyed school and was constantly balancing my love of reading and performing arts with an earnest interest in physics and mathematics. While I had some truly great chemistry professors, that is the one subject I could never wrap my head around.”