Rolodex: Denver Entrepreneurs to Know
Identifying Opportunity with Traci Lounsbury
By Jessica Fialkovich | @jfialkovich
Traci Lounsbury is the President and Owner of Workplace ELEMENTS, which strives to create sustainable workplace environments that enhance their clients' greatest asset, people. ELEMENTS recently ranked #6 in the Top 100 Women-Owned Companies in Colorado by CoBiz Magazine. Traci has received prestigious awards including Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, DBJ’s Outstanding Woman in Business, and Volunteer of the Year from the Downtown Denver Partnership, to name a few. In addition to all of her success, she is a force in the community where she previously served on the boards of Denver Children’s Home and the local chapter of the International Interior Design Association, and is currently serving on the board for the Downtown Denver Partnership, where she recently helped launch the Women on the Rise program.
How did you get started in your industry and what lead you to create Workplace ELEMENTS?
My father was in a different part of the industry, and I really wanted nothing to do with it so I moved to California to start my career and pursue my MBA. After beginning the process, my mother called and asked me if I would move home to help my father. Once I saw how much opportunity there was in this industry--if someone would do it differently--I was hooked. I created and grew one of the largest manufacturers’ representative firms in the country. That led to me starting a small under-the-radar dealership, purchasing a visible $5 million dollar dealership, and finally to a merger when we were at $28 million. That growth and acquisition got us to a level where we are now cresting $75 million.
You've been so successful in your career and won some amazing awards like EY Entrepreneur of the Year and DBJ Outstanding Women in Business, what are 3 things you credit your success to?
Crazy hard work and dedication. Someone once asked me if I liked working for myself. I looked at them inquisitively, and said I work for everyone else but me. The business is just a part of who I am. I don’t necessarily think of it as a job. It is with you constantly.
Always looking for a different or better way to do things. In fact, I am not sure I actually look for it. I see it.
Teamwork. There are plenty of things I am not good at, but others are. Working hard to build the right blended leadership team (and keeping egos in right place) is critical to success. Team above all else.
What's a day in the life for you, for example what did you do yesterday?
Yesterday was a bit out of the ordinary for me because I was traveling, but I still fit work in. I was at Crash My Playa for the last five days in Rivera Maya with six girlfriends on a trip. It was a music festival with Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and a few other great country stars. Yesterday was the travel day home. I started with an early yoga practice and breakfast with a friend. Afterwards, I returned emails and jumped on a conference call for about 90 minutes. During my one and a half hour bus ride to the airport, I tackled the arduous process of returning all emails from my time away. Before taking off and working for the four and half hour flight home, I finished the trip appropriately with wine and lunch.
In general, my day generally starts with a 4:45 AM wake up to work out and could go all the way through to the late evening function with lots of meetings in between.
You've become very active in driving women in entrepreneurship in Denver, what inspired you to jump into the conversation?
This conversation found me. When I won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (EY)--which will forever be the most prestigious award of my life--I stood on stage with 23 men. It never dawned on me that I was the only woman. EY works very hard to celebrate and promote women entrepreneurs. I learned a lot through their studies and research in conjunction with the Kauffman Foundation. When I realized that I could help make a difference through being a role model by providing community and a network, I felt I could give to others in this way. Now it is up to the ladies. Let’s do this.
If you had one pieces of advice for up and coming women entrepreneurs, what would it be?
If you see opportunity now, go do it. You will continue to see opportunity. There doesn’t have to be a masterplan.
What's next for ELEMENTS, for Traci?
I am having more fun seeing the young and incredibly talented leaders grow and elevate. Nothing makes me happier. It will be fun to see them take on more and make it their turn.