Through cookies and leadership, Ross celebrates the Springs

0
19940

Mundi Ross, the wildly energetic entrepreneur behind the salt+butter cookie company and the Colorado Collective, came to the Springs in 2003.

She didn’t exactly stay and she didn’t exactly go away — instead, she toured with national theater companies for several years.

Colorado Springs might have been her base camp, but much of her time was spent on the road. Tiring of the vagabond lifestyle, she came home for good and put her considerable energies into growing two new companies while also working at a local nonprofit.

The Colorado Collective, a web-based publication, puts out its first print edition this month; inventively flavored cookies from salt+butter co. have become community favorites; and Ross loves her full-time job as program director at Leadership Pikes Peak.

She recently talked about her companies, her love of Colorado Springs and her future.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I graduated Oklahoma State in 2003 with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology and studio art. I have spent most of my post-collegiate time in the nonprofit sector. I really enjoy working toward a mission and common goal, but I am also a creative dreamer looking for challenges to solve and ideas to pursue. The last 12 years in Colorado Springs have been a journey of self-discovery. I started working at LPP five months ago and feel very fortunate for the opportunity to work for LPP and run the Colorado Collective. Both have missions I can get behind, and there is room for creativity and problem solving.

How did you come to be in Colorado Springs?

I came by way of Oklahoma 12 years ago when I was in need of a change. I was a young gal fresh out of college; I landed in Colorado Springs and I didn’t know anyone. I met my husband shortly after moving to town and we joined a traveling theater production, traveling on and off around North America for several years. Despite being in and out of the community, Colorado Springs was always the place we called home.

Describe your other current ventures.

After coming off the road five years ago, I decided I would like to work for myself. I began to daydream about opening a food truck because at the time the scene was on the rise nationally — but I didn’t want to open just any food truck. After some market research, I decided no one was baking uniquely flavored cookies — unique like lemon basil, whiskey cherry, grapefruit avocado and coconut curry.

I decided to launch my business salt+butter co. in the farmers markets and they were an instant hit. I loved putting smiles on the faces of cookie-loving fans, but more importantly I enjoyed getting to know the other vendors.

During this time there was also this resurgence of the maker’s movement of supporting local companies. Through my time at the farmers market, I began to daydream about a platform to tell the stories of makers of crafts and food. I also knew that whatever I did, the design and storytelling had to be on point because it was important to me to be a part of a cultural shift [for the city]. Defending a city that’s often spoken of being “lame” or “lacking in culture” gets exhausting after a while. Colorado Springs is worth celebrating. Two years ago, I started sharing my dream and vision, and before I knew it, I was surrounded by six talented individuals in my living room who also wanted to breathe new life into our city.

Colorado Collective is a web/print publication that features, explores and cultivates the vital community of makers, creators and enthusiasts in the Southern Colorado region. We celebrate the cultural and artistic pioneers in our community through beautiful images and thoughtful words. COCO has grown to a team of 20 contributors who all work toward its mission and vision. I think the biggest challenge is with a city so spread out, it is hard to reach other pockets of the community. What we are doing can speak to those living anywhere who care about local craft culture, but I just don’t know how to reach them.

The second challenge we face is funding. I have loved that COCO has been a grassroots effort for the last two years. It excites me when we are discovered through our social platforms or through word of mouth — but if I had the funding to market or pay for staff, I believe our reach would be broader. All that said, I couldn’t be more proud of how far we have come on a pretty tight budget.

Along with the publication, it is important to me to create unique events that embody the brand. We have done several different types of events but what speaks to my heart is the pop-up dinners. The Collective Plate is an offshoot of COCO and under this name, I host a series of dinners around the city. Last summer we bounced around, but this summer we stuck to one location, Corner Post Ranch, purely because the view was breathtaking. We feature a different chef and pair each dinner with wine, spirit or beer. We have hosted in private homes, distilleries and even greenhouses. It is a lovely and intimate experience that you can’t get anywhere else. I anticipate continuing these dinners around the community for years to come.

Looking further down the line, it’s my hope to have a permanent thoughtfully curated space for COCO in which I can feature maker’s goods, provide classes to the community, and all around gathering space for collaboration.

Do you find that Colorado Springs is a good environment for young professionals?

This city has its challenges, but what city doesn’t? I believe Colorado Springs is about to turn a new chapter and it’s an exciting time to be a part of this city, even the startup community. We need more young professionals to stay and invest in the future. I don’t know of any other city at the moment who has a mayoral office so invested in YPs. Knowing that Mayor [John] Suthers cares about us makes me more invested and more willing to “be the change.”

What do you like most about our city?

Apart from the obvious of having mountains in our backyard to play in, I have a pretty amazing support system. I love [that] this city isn’t a Denver — the ideas are always fresh and exciting, and I am not a little fish in a big pond with a lot of other little fish doing the same thing. We really have a very supportive community.