For many of our Forty Under 40 honorees, the first step they took into their careers was when the Great Recession hit. Thrown into a fragile job market and an economic decline, these honorees were forced to learn to swim or risk sinking to the bottom. Now, years and countless accomplishments later, all 40 of our honorees have learned to do more than swim. They're innovating the future of the business landscape in Utah while building communities that will inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.
AJ BOLDAN, 39
President & General Manager | University of Utah Hockey
After joining the University of Utah Hockey team in 2007, AJ Boldan has worked diligently to grow and guide the team to success. Starting as a player and a University of Utah student, he quickly took over the team as general manager in 2008. Leading the team to a comeback after back to back losing seasons, Mr. Boldan quickly proved himself more than a leader. Securing bids for the 2014 PAC-8 Championships, the 2015 ACHA Division 2 National Championships, and democratizing the broadcasting of college hockey, Mr. Boldan even executed Utah's move to Division 1 for the ACHA 2016-2017 season.
After more than a decade with the team, Mr. Boldan hasn't forgotten what's important. "I really enjoy how the game brings so many people together," he says. "From grandparents to alumni to the players themselves, no matter who is playing, people just love hockey!" Recently, under Mr. Boldan's direction, the team announced they will be expanding to include a women's hockey program beginning in the 2019-2020 season.
AMBER SAWAYA, 38
Executive Vice President | Zorroa
Amber Sawaya has always had a talent for art, so following her passion into a career in graphic design was a no-brainer. Combining her passion with business, she built a career around user experience--and it paid off. "My first self-made million was a huge accomplishment," Ms. Sawaya says, describing the consulting firm she ran for over decade. But as she's pushed forward with passion, her innovations have only continued to push the envelope.
Since joining the team at Zorroa-which provides machine learning tools for businesses--Ms. Sawaya has made her mark on a whole new industry. Pushing the value of user experience in artificial intelligence, she maps how real humans interact with the power of machine learning, and she's taken a leadership role in guarding against undiversified bias and other unintentional consequences that have vexed earlier AI efforts. "This curious nature and ability to dive in and understand a new area served me well when I was able to bring a UX mindset to the artificial intelligence industry," she says. A best-selling author and startup success, Ms. Sawaya is a heavily sought after speaker, influencer, and mentor.
BAHAR FERGUSON, JD, MBA, 34
President | Wasatch IT
"I had no idea I would ever end up in IT," Bahar Ferguson says, recounting her entrepreneurial achievements. "But being raised by entrepreneurs, I was always starting my own business as a child. I always loved the creativity in business." From operating the cash register at her family's restaurant as a child to leading the sales, marketing, and business development team at Wasatch IT, she has driven every endeavor she's pursued to success.
Receiving her MBA from Westminster College and then her Juris Doctorate from Brigham Young University, Ms. Ferguson has been busy. Beginning her political career at just 19, she was a key resource in Governor Huntsman's campaign and spent several years working in the governor's office before practicing law and then joining her husband to run Wasatch IT. In the 18 months since joining the company, she has doubled its monthly recurring revenue and its core business.
BEN KOLENDAR, 34
Director of Business Development & Deputy Director of Economic Development | SLC D OED
"I was drawn into economic development during the Afghanistan war," says Ben Kolendar. "I worked for a special mission task force out of the Pentagon that sought stability through strategic economic initiatives. That was my toe in the water." And he was immediately hooked. Working in economic development and foreign affairs quickly became his passion, and he says that helping to build the Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development has been extremely rewarding.
After Mayor Biskupski created the department in 2016, Mr. Kolendar has lead it to tremendous growth, retaining over 9,000 jobs and nearly a billion dollars in capital investment. He played a critical role in updating Utah's Foreign Trade Zone process, as well as bringing the 68th United Nations Department of Public Information NGO Conference to Salt Lake City in 2019. Prior to his work with the city, Mr. Kolendar worked with the Obama administration as senior advisor to the executive director of SelectUSA, an initiative to attract and retain foreign business investment in the United States. As a presidentially appointed official, Mr. Kolendar provided guidance to create jobs, spur economic growth, and promote American competitiveness.
BETHANY TEEPLES, 30
Owner | Waffled
Starting her waffle career as a summer adventure, Bethany Teeples turned her passion into a thriving company. From catering weddings and baby showers to opening I Waffled in 2017, her very first brick and mortar store in Farmington, followed by a second in 2018, she was always willing to get her hands dirty and build from the ground up.
But what Ms. Teeples finds most rewarding is helping her young staff navigate their lives. "Most of my staff [members] are between 15 and 18 years old," she says. "I love getting to know each of them and watching them grow." Ms. Teeples strives to be a strong role model for her young staff, and hopes to expand on that in the future by creating a coaching service for teens. "I truly feel they need more advocates on every level," she says. With ideas like these, it's clear that Ms. Teeples is building more than good waffles, she's working to build strong individuals.
BRANDON RODMAN, 37
CEO | Weave
After graduating from Brigham Young University in 2004, Brandon Rodman worked in summer sales before completely pivoting his career trajectory. Founding Recall Solutions from his attic in Lehi, which later became Weave, he was elected by Y-Combinator for funding in 2014 and the company has continued to see success ever since. Since the company's conception as a phone company, it's grown into a substantial software hub. Now, Weave's software is used in over 7,000 offices across the US.
Mr. Rodman hopes to inspire other entrepreneurs as he takes the next steps in his career. "I would encourage others to join an early-stage company and spend time learning what success looks like rather than starting a company in your early 20's," he says. "Be patient. Embrace the hard times. Your path will be unique. Enjoy the journey."
BROCK LOOM IS, 34
Land Acquisition & Development Director | JF Capital
"I knew I wanted to do something related to construction and development, but I didn't know what," says Brock Loomis, recounting the unique journey that led him to where he stands today. Graduating from Weber State University with no experience in 2007, he dove headfirst into construction and development. Working with an engineering firm, he was promoted within six months to oversee a team of engineers with far more experience. At 27, he oversaw the Asia territory, and then moved to Shanghai to oversee projects in places like Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Malaysia.
Joining JF Capital as the land acquisition and development director at 32, Mr. Loomis has been a tremendous part of the development of communities and continues to push innovation at every turn. And with a unique perspective on the industry, he intends to keep pushing those innovations forward. "I have a personality that is always hungry for something to do. Working in the fast-paced world of real estate development keeps me on my toes."
Executive Director, People Operations | The Grand America Hotels & Resorts
Carl Sokia has always had a passion for making an impact on others' lives. Working in hospitality for over 15 years, he's spent 13 of them working in human resources, or what he calls "people operations," helping propel others in their careers. "I actually fell into my career in HR by accident," he says, but he's extremely proud of the accomplishments he's made. As the executive director of people operations at The Grand America Hotel, Mr. Sokia measures his success by the people he impacts every day, and works to inspire younger generations.
"I hope I can be an example to the young Polynesians and other young ethnic minorities found across the Utah business landscape," he says. "My goal is to be a light on the hill for young people."
CARRIE ROGERS-WHITEHEAD, 36
CEO & Cofounder | Digital Respons-Ability; Wizarding Days LLC
Carrie Rogers-Whitehead founded Digital Respons-Ability because of the gaps she saw in her own career. "There was talk about the what of technology, but not the why. I saw a push for STEM, but not a push for soft skills. Technology is changing rapidly, but the human brain has been the same for thousands of years." Now empowering youth to be responsible digital citizens, Ms. Rogers-Whitehead has also taken extensive care in planning digital programs...