Joe Saliba lives a varied life. The 30-year-old Colorado Springs native was briefly a professional golfer, graduated from UCCS with a communication degree, and has started companies specializing in both recycling and petroleum production. His company Wine Punts — a college project gone legitimate — produces glassware made from repurposed wine bottles, while Pikes Peak Energy LLC — opened in March with two business partners — works in the exploration and development of wells for the oil and gas industry. Saliba spoke to the Business Journal this week about his businesses, his wife and dogs, and how golf is a thread that runs through the fabric of his career.
Tell me about your background and how you’ve gotten to where you are professionally.
I grew up in Colorado Springs and went to high school at Coronado. Then I went to the University of Hawaii at Hilo and played golf for them for two years. I transferred back to UCCS and played golf for another two years and graduated with a bachelor’s in communication. In college, I started Wine Punts, basically a recycling company, as a college project and thought it could really be something. It started there and really took off. I’ve been in oil and gas for the past five years and in March started Pikes Peak Energy, which is basically an exploration and production company. We’ve done great in the short amount of time we’ve had to be successful.
What brought you back to Colorado after the first two years of college in Hawaii?
Hawaii was a little slow for me. I figured that with getting out of college, I wanted to be somewhere a little faster-paced and maybe I would have some connections to get a job. I tried to play golf and make a career out of it — I got to play in two Canadian events, but after that I was out of cash. … One of my teammates in college had been working for an oil and gas company, so he introduced me to the business, I got involved and I was there for four years or so when me and my business partners started Pikes Peak Energy.
Can you talk about Wine Punts and how it got started?
I heard a story from my wife’s grandfather about a wine bottle that was cut in half and made into a glass. So I thought I would try to make one of them and give it to my wife for her birthday. I made one and thought, “You know, there’s a market for this.” Then it turned into a college project: I wrote the business and marketing plan, and then I executed it. I scrounged together $600 to have a website built, and I’ll never forget the moment that the first order came in online. … Now we can produce up to a thousand pieces a day with our five employees. I’ve only been doing full-scale manufacturing for two years: The first year we made about $204,000; last year we made around $407,000; this year I expect to do close to $700,000; and by the end of 2015, we expect to be closer to $1.5 million.
What about Pikes Peak Energy, and how has that experience been different?
I learned a lot starting Wine Punts. There were so many things that were just blind spots to me. Wine Punts was a way to help the community and recycle glass. Pikes Peak Energy is an entirely different industry. The foundation is similar, but the dollars and cents, and the scale of it, is quite different. With oil and gas, I truly believe that there is no limit to what you can do financially, and that’s what attracted me to the business.
Would you explain what exactly it is that PPE does?
Basically, what we do is develop land. We drill the well, we get it into production, and then it gets sold off to a buyer, which is how we make our revenue. Then we do it again and again and again. We just purchased land in East Texas with 17 wells and we have 72 in Oklahoma. Our goal by the end of 2016 is to have 400 wells in East Texas.
You live a varied life — golf, petroleum, wine glasses. How do you balance those things?
I do what I enjoy, plain and simple. I can really tie in golf to anything that I have done in my life, especially on a professional level.
What do you do in your spare time?
Me and my wife Melissa live on the Westside. We do a lot of camping and backpacking. We have two border collies. I also do a lot of fly fishing and play a lot of golf. She runs the Pikes Peak Ascent every year, and next year her goal is to do the double [the Ascent followed by the Marathon the next day]. She’s very good at it and I’m very proud of her for doing that.
Do you think Colorado Springs is a good location for what you’ve chosen to do?
I think it is a great city to start a business, but I also think that it can be a hard city to find work. I think that is a struggle that a lot of startups have. But I love Colorado Springs, and I love being close to the mountains.