WASHINGTON, D.C. — Until a few months ago, Tucker Wannamaker could set up a quick meeting by just picking a downtown coffee spot in Colorado Springs, and anyone could be there in minutes.
Here in the nation’s capital, where he has lived since January, the options actually aren’t that much different for the co-founder of Magneti Marketing.
Instead of walking or parking somewhere around Tejon Street, now it’s just a matter of deciding which Metro stop to take. We set our venue as the Farragut West station for the Blue and Orange lines and easily found each other for our 8 a.m. meeting, just a few blocks from the White House.
Over cups of coffee no better than we would find back on Tejon, we talked about what it’s been like for Wannamaker, making the bold move of expanding his Magneti Marketing business to Washington.
“A lot of people come here to try to change the world,” the 34-year-old Wannamaker said. “In a way I’m trying to do the same thing. But I still want to be connected to my people back in the Springs.”
That’s because his Magneti partners still operate out of Epicentral Coworking, just north of Boulder Street on Tejon. But with two major clients in D.C., along with countless more opportunities, Wannamaker decided to move to the East Coast.
He and his wife considered Boston as well as Washington, but the lure of D.C. prevailed. They live with their four young kids just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Va., where they’ve already found the area’s abundant diversity.
“One of our neighbors is from the Middle East,” Wannamaker said, “and another is an older black guy from the South named Al. In a way, this is like Colorado Springs in that so many people came here from somewhere else. And we’ve found D.C. to be an incredibly friendly place.
“There’s a lot going on here that has nothing to do with government. There’s all kinds of tech companies, start-ups and other small businesses.”
Every weekday, Wannamaker jumps on his bike, the bus or the Metro and goes to his coworking space near Dupont Circle. It’s part of his strategy to “get the pulse” of Washington, meeting people and developing potential working relationships. He’s also in regular contact with those two clients, the Character Education Partnership (character.org, a priceless web address) and the Global Peace Foundation.
Proving the point that close connections exist in the largest of cities, Character Education Partnership CEO Rebecca Sipos joined our conversation. Her organization recognizes schools across the nation that promote character development (including Russell Middle School in Colorado Springs), and Magneti helps promote CEP’s programs to implement core ethical values in education.
A native of Iowa, she made her move to D.C. long ago and understands Wannamaker’s dream.
“If you can’t find a social network here,” Sipos said, “you’re not trying.”
But it’s not as though everything has to happen here. Sipos listened intently as we relived Wannamaker’s experience with a successful marketing idea that went viral — Wild Fire Tees, which incredibly produced more than $1 million for relief efforts after the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012.
“One of the things we learned from that is that a great design can be a bottom-line investment,” he said. “It became a badge of solidarity.”
“A lot of people come here to try to change the world. In a way I’m trying to do the same thing.”
– Tucker Wannamaker
[/pullquote]He’s only been gone a few months, but Wannamaker already looks at the Springs in a slightly different way.
“It’s interesting that Colorado Springs has a lot of good things going on, and in a way it’s like a very-mini D.C.,” he said. “What’s happening there with the local government gets all the attention, just like here with Congress, and it can be embarrassing. People say that D.C. is broken, but it’s actually a thriving city. There’s lots of energy here.
“The reality is that what’s happening everyday downtown is really neat — in Washington and in Colorado Springs. What Hannah Parsons and Lisa Tessarowicz are doing with Epicentral is amazing, just like what Susan Edmondson is doing with the Downtown Partnership.
“People shouldn’t judge the city just because of all the bickering and fighting. There’s a lot of people making their world better just by moving their own needle. And if I can do anything to help Colorado Springs, even here in D.C., I know the story of my city. … We’re in a time of transition, but we don’t have to wait on others. Why not lead the way?”
With that, Tucker Wannamaker headed to his workspace. He insists his path eventually will bring him back to Colorado Springs (“we didn’t sell our house there”), but for now he’s settling into a new life with new possibilities.
We’ll definitely be staying in touch.