Michelle Talarico credited the launch of her success in business to being “young, optimistic and dumb” as a Colorado College student.

“It was 1989. I was 23, the co-owner of the Dale Street Café. I loved the hospitality business. There was an opportunity to sell Dale Street, and Kathy (Dreiling) and I wanted to go in the catering business.”

Talarico and Dreiling bought the Picnic Basket for $4,000, “if you can believe it.

“It had a name, a phone number and not much else. The couple who owned it just wanted to get out of town, so we paid them $250 a month for 16 months.”

Due in part to Talarico’s business links to the Fine Arts Center, the Picnic Basket managed to gain a foothold in a competitive marketplace.

“We were the new kids on the block, but I had connections with the FAC through Dale Street. We got the lunch contract for the Balcony Restaurant, and since then it’s been growth, growth, growth,” she said.

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She’s not kidding. Today the Picnic Basket has more than 30 full-time employees and 50-80 part-timers.

“We’re still growing and we still love what we do,” she said. “There’s no better feeling than knowing you helped someone have a great memory. We die between January and April, and then the sun comes out. During the season, we may have more than 100 people on the payroll — it makes for some sleepless nights.”

Talarico is famously community-minded. She has served on multiple boards and has given generously of her time and resources to dozens of local nonprofits.

She related her mission statement: “To practice gratitude every day and live with intention. To be the kind of person whom my son is proud to call ‘mom’. To be inspired and to inspire. To be humble and kind and create an environment around me that increases positivity! Lastly, to never stop learning from this amazing world!”

She said her most significant professional accomplishment is sustaining a business for more than 26 years in an ever-changing and growing community. In addition, she’s proud to have offered employment to thousands of people during that time and to have provided a sanctuary of diversity and inclusion that “encourages development professionally and personally.

“In those 26 years, we’ve contributed [more than] $50 million to the local economy. But most significant is that I have had the honor of being a part of an ever-growing region of powerful women who continue to influence me every day,” Talarico said.

Of her most significant personal accomplishment, she immediately replied: her son.

“It has been the joy and honor of my life to be a mom to the greatest son ever, Sam Curtis Talarico,” she said.

— John Hazlehurst