Aidan Ryan’s career path has taken some interesting twists.
One: She took a job as a sales rep with an adventure travel company in New Zealand after discovering she’d already been the “face of the company” for a year and a half.
Another: She was just four months into her role as marketing and communications manager at Colorado Springs Airport when a massive rooftop fire at the main terminal caused about $5 million worth of damage — and a lot of chaos.
For Ryan, the path between those two jobs has included roles in business development, property management, sales, marketing and client relations for several companies in Colorado Springs; running her own business, Yazzy Print; and managing the YOT Club black tie charity event for 13 years.
The Boulder native spoke with the Business Journal about helping to build community in Colorado Springs, and how Colorado Springs Airport can make business and travel better.
Talk about your path to the Springs.
I’m originally from Boulder. I lived there till I was 5, moved to Maine for 10 years, then I moved here when I was a sophomore in high school. … [After high school] the path definitely went in circles. It wasn’t a straight path, but sometimes that’s where you get the best stories and the most experience. I went to CU Boulder. I was there for four years [then] I took off a year and traveled — I went to New Zealand and Australia for a bit. I came back and I finished at UCCS, so I have my degree in sociology and business marketing. … The week after graduation, I moved to New Zealand and got a job as a sales rep.
How did that happen?
I had won a photo contest while I was traveling, to win the price of your pass back. I knew I won and they gave me all my money back — it was like, ‘Oh, cool!’ I didn’t think much of it. Then [back at UCCS] I had a final, low-level paper due to fill credits — it was to write a letter of compliment or complaint. I chose that company and I went on to their website, and I discovered I was all over their website. I was like, ‘Oh! There’s me! Everywhere!’ I was on the cover of their brochure and I was on their website and I was on every single thing that they had. So I wrote to them. They were excited I wrote because they’d lost my information and they wanted to let me know I had been pretty much their ambassador spokesperson for the last couple of years — the year and a half that I was finishing up at UCCS. I told them I was moving out there. They wanted to meet me, and a job opened up as a sales rep. So then I was repping and I was on the cover of their magazine, which was really weird.
Did people realize it was you?
They did and they didn’t, because in the photo I was on top of a glacier — two days, no makeup, pigtails and a bandana. … Then I ended up on a fleet of their buses. I was the face of the [tourism wholesale company] Magic Travellers Network. That’s who I’d traveled with; it was a hop-on hop-off backpacker service. … As a rep, I traveled all over New Zealand and I had a home base in Auckland. I was there almost a year. It was amazing.
Did you come back to the U.S. for another job, or were you just done with being away?
I was done being away. Auckland gets really cold and rainy and the homes don’t really have heat. Our home had one center room, with rooms around and a hallway, and they all closed in and we had a heating insert in there — and it cost about $500 a month to heat that room. I got pneumonia and I couldn’t get better. I had a hair dryer next to my bed and I would blow-dry myself in the morning … there was freezing rain; I didn’t have a car … and one day I was just like, ‘I’m done! I’ve got to go home!’ I needed to be warm.
What drew you to the position at COS?
I’ve always wanted to be more in the heart of Colorado Springs. The dynamic and the landscape and the blueprint of Colorado Springs have changed so much over the years … I’ve seen there are more and more investors, especially in the downtown area, that are seeing the potential and starting to change that landscape. With all that, I wanted to be on the forefront of what makes that happen. … It’s been one of the most amazing, challenging and dynamic positions I’ve ever had. We’re at the heart of the community. We connect everyone who comes to Colorado Springs or leaves from Colorado Springs in some way, shape or fashion. It’s the catalyst of the community and it’s an economic driver. … We want to promote tourism and we want to be able to connect businesses faster and help people to do business, especially with what’s happening with the roadways to Denver. It takes a really long time to get to Denver. With the dwell time and the drive time, that could be four hours — and that’s one way, so it’s a full day of travel.
We flew down to San Antonio last week, we connected through Houston and it was an hour connection, which is less than the drive time [to Denver]. So direct or connect, you can make it work and you can do business fast. And you can also be home. I love working on that, and getting people on board and seeing the change… .
In your time here, what’s been your biggest achieve-
There’s been a lot that’s happened this year. With the fire, that happened four months after I got here. So it was literally trial by fire, and being thrown right into the fire. Being able to pull the entire marketing and communications team together since we do all the internal and external communications, and just not even really fully knowing what to do — but knowing what to do, if that makes sense. We ended up winning the Public Relations Society of America of the Pikes Peak Region Award for our communications with the fire.
What are businesses looking for from the airport?
More direct flights. Southwest is always on the conversation. Yes, we’d love Southwest, but right now it’s not in their business model. So it’s focusing on the carriers and the legacy carriers that we have right now, and adding more routes. The more that they can fill those planes, the more we can have the conversation to go back to [carriers] and say, ‘We need more routes’ or ‘Have you thought about this market?’ … I think with all the growth and development going on in Colorado Springs as a whole, we’re going to start being more attractive to those carriers. … [I want to see] the airport continuing to have a seat at the table and a positive voice in the community. Aligning and collaborating with our local business partners such as [Visit Colorado Springs] and the [Colorado Springs] Chamber & EDC have absolutely been instrumental to our past and future successes.
Tell us about your free time.
To sum it up — coffee, bikes, yoga and ice cream. A lot of trail running and obviously skiing in the winter. … I do trail marathons. I get outside as much as I possibly can. I’m the quintessential Colorado girl. In November I’m doing a 10-day trek in Patagonia. Pretty much the outdoors are my life. That’s what I love about Colorado Springs — I can be on the trails in 5 or 10 minutes. And I have a dog, a border collie-lab — she’s kind of the center of my universe. She does lots of runs and adventures with me.