The Colorado Springs Business Journal and Herring Bank will present the next COS CEO Roundtable featuring local entrepreneur Lisa Tessarowicz from 4:30-6:30 p.m. May 25 at the Garden of the Gods Club.
Tessarowicz’s name is familiar to those within the entrepreneurial, coworking, investing and philanthropic communities. She got her professional start in the Colorado Springs nonprofit sector and has since started Epicentral Coworking — a successful and innovative downtown business — and played an integral part in fostering community partnerships and a healthy startup scene.
Following is a Q&A the Business Journal conducted with Tessarowicz for the event:
Most people know Lisa Tessarowicz as the owner and operator of Epicentral Coworking in downtown Colorado Springs. But there’s more to her than meets the eye, including roots in the nonprofit industry, her work to establish a family foundation for philanthropy and investing, her compassion for people and her desire to be taken seriously as a female angler.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in starting Epicentral was to start small. … When I first had the idea to start a co-working space, I got very excited about buying a building. It was in partnering with Hannah Parsons that I realized that maybe wasn’t the best approach. She recommended that we start as small as possible … and I think that idea of starting small and testing the market is very important — and you save time and money.
How have you failed, and what have you learned from it?
Epicentral opened a second location at the Ivywild School in the late Spring of 2015. It was an opportunity that I was incredibly excited about. We had already gone through an expansion … and I think the idea of growth got to be a little bit addictive. So we took over some space at Ivywild, but my mistake was that I didn’t put enough thought or planning into it. … We moved into that space and our members didn’t want to work there. They preferred being downtown, and we couldn’t provide to them the same amenities we had at our downtown location — it just wasn’t right for us as an organization. It closed earlier this year.
What’s something about you that might surprise people?
I think it would be that I’m a real softie … and I care about people a lot. I care about Colorado Springs, and I care about this community. I think that a lot of people think that I’m driven by money, and I’m not so much as I am driven by people — making a better name for Colorado Springs and making people proud to live here. … I really care about our members and our staff, and I would do anything for any of them.
How did you get to Colorado Springs?
I was born in Dallas, Texas, and my family moved here when I was 3 years old. I graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in international business and finance. I spent most of my 20s here in Colorado Springs and started my career in the nonprofit industry.
How did you get from the nonprofit sector to where you are now?
I learned I really wanted to help people but that my skill set doesn’t really lend itself to helping people directly. So I got kind of burnt out in the nonprofit sector and ended up leaving to go work for the family office (my father was an entrepreneur and much of the family nowadays helps manage the family office). … I also discovered that perhaps I could have more impact in the nonprofit world by being a funder instead of an employee. Through going to work for the family office, I also hoped that I would learn more about investing, asset management and estate planning, as well as to figure out how to maximize the amount of philanthropy the family office was able to do. It was during that time that I ended up going to philanthropy school in the Bay Area in 2011 and 2012. … I found that program very inspiring and that was a big part of me deciding I wanted to open a co-working space in Colorado Springs, because I was looking for some way to effect the change I wanted to see in Colorado Springs, and opening up a co-working space seemed like the first logical step to doing that. After that, I started a co-working space with Hannah [Parsons] and also started a family foundation called the CALM Foundation.
What is CALM?
The mission of the CALM Foundation is to improve the reputation of Colorado Springs, to increase the level of pride for citizens within Colorado Springs and to increase community attachment. … We like to fund things that tend to be a little bit more risky — a little bit more experimental — which makes us different than most funders or donors.
What are some of your personal and/or professional goals?
I want Epicentral to continue to provide value to its members and to the community, and I want my employees to be happy. I’m definitely looking for a new venture right now, and I want to do that in a very intentional way. Personally, I want to spend more time outside — hiking and fishing. … I also want to invest more, which means I need to make more money and save more money (I want to have more access to cash, so I can do more deals). Ultimately, I want to continue making Colorado Springs a community people want to stay in and one that bright minds want to come to.
How would you characterize yourself professionally?
I don’t know that I consider myself an entrepreneur. I’ve come to know a lot about investing and I’ve come to know a lot about business through my own personal experience, through my family members and their experiences, and I also try to read a decent amount — but I really don’t know that I’d attach the word entrepreneur to myself. I think that ultimately I’m a small business owner; I’m a philanthropist; I’m an angler; and I love to go hiking.
— Cameron Moix
For tickets to the May 25 Roundtable, click here.