OPTIZMO Team Retreat 2023
Cancún, Mexico here we come! Viva OPTIZMexico!
Team Retreat 2023 Agenda and Info
We had an incredible time on Lake Travis in 2022 and although we were tempted to return once again in 2023, we’ve decided to spice things up a bit with some south of the border flavor! So, prepare yourselves for a thrilling weekend on the stunning beaches of Cancún, Mexico! Viva OPTIZMexico! Scroll below for the Who, What, Where, and When of our tropical rendezvous.
This year, everyone will be staying at the Live Aqua Beach Resort. We were going to describe it for you, but we think they do a better job than we ever could.
“Sensory delight begins here at Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun. Get ready to live an experience that will subtly touch your senses with aromas, flavors, colors, sounds, and textures. In this adults-only paradise in the Caribbean, everything is included to satisfy your desires. The rooms are a fascinating and innovative haven that surprises with an aromatherapy menu and beautiful views of the sea. Our gastronomic variety offers alternatives that range from traditional Mexican food to gourmet food, we have menu options in all restaurants for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free clients, without forgetting our wide variety of fresh fish and seafood. The gastronomic proposals invite you to travel through a world of sensations and atmospheres that will capture your senses before an exceptional concept such as Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancun. Let yourself be pampered in our Spa based on aromatherapy that offers first-rate international relaxation techniques, undoubtedly a caress for your body and soul.”
Is it hot in here?
Live Aqua is an all-inclusive resort. In case you haven’t stayed in one before, it basically means that food and drinks are included. So, no worries about expense reports or really much of anything. One quick note, the spa is not part of the all-inclusive package and you are on your own to set up reservations for any of the massages or other spa pamperings they offer at your expense.
Live Aqua Beach Resort Cancún
Blvd. Kukulcan Km 12.5, Zona Hotelera
77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
Everyone is scheduled to fly into the Cancun International Airport during the day on Friday, September 8. We have organized the flights to bring people into Cancun in groups, to make travel to the hotel easier.
Austin Crew – arrive 10:56am
Charleston Crew – arrive 1:46pm
Denver/Houston Crew – arrive 5:29pm
When you arrive in Cancun, we will have a shuttle waiting for you and the rest of the crew arriving on the same flight. The shuttle is operatied by BD Experience. Not sure if you’ll see this exact guy, but look for the red shuttles and maybe someone wearing a red shirt and possibly holding a red Welcome sign. LOL!
So, gather your fellow OPTIZMO peeps when you land in Cancun, and head to the shuttle parking area. BD Experience does have a mobile app, but at the moment it isn’t working with iPhones.
On the way back home on Monday, we will have shuttles set up to get everyone back to the airport in time for their flights.
Itinerary – What, Where, and When?
Friday, September 8th
- Everyone arrives at the hotel throughout the day & gets settled.
- 8:30pm – Welcome Team Dinner (Carnivore Restaurant – Meat!)
Saturday, September 9th
- Pool/Beach Day! The crew will hang out at the pool and/or beach throughout the day. We are planning to get 4 cabanas together near the pool to act as our home base each day.
- Lunch – We’ll figure out lunch on the fly depending on options.
- “What would you say you do here?” Round-robin of each team member talking through a day in the life at OPTIZMO.
- 7:00pm (tentative) – Team Dinner (Siete Restaurant – Mexican)
Sunday, September 10th
- FunDay. Sleep in, go to the ocean, have a spa day, prune yourself in the pool, bake in the sun, or check out some Mayan ruins. You can pair up if you’d like to do activities together or zen out solo… It’s all up to you. We’ll be looking at survey responses and syncing up folks with common excursion interests.
- 7:00pm (tentative) – Farewell Team Dinner (Azure Restaurant – Mediterranean)
Monday, September 11th
- Travel Day – a tired, tanned, and happy crew heads home!
Items to Bring
Although temperatures in Cancun are going to be a notch below last year’s heat in Austin (a balmy 90 during the day and 75 at night) we will still be spending a lot of time at the pool, on the beach, and generally catching rays. So, pack accordingly!
- Sunscreen – lots of it!
- Sandals, flops, or water shoes
- Swimsuits and other pool wear
- Shorts, t-shirts, and anything hot weather casual
- Team dinner attire (we are planning on all casual attire restaurants – only requirement is guys must wear shirts with sleeves – short sleeves are fine.)
- Pool floaties, goggles, snorkels… whatever floats your boat.
- Yeti tumblers – This is an all-inclusive resort pro tip, as your drinks will melt a lot slower than in the plastic cups from the pool bar.
Bios, Pics, and Icebreaker Questions!
Just like every year, we have a few new folks attending the Summit this time around, so we updated this section of pics and bios for everyone. If you’re looking for a topic to start a convo with someone new or you just want to hear a story you may not have heard before, check out everyone’s icebreaker question.
Khris & Mary Anne
Khris Thayer – CEO
I co-founded OPTIZMO with Grant in late 2008/early 2009. Before OPTIZMO, I had a diverse range of entrepreneurial and corporate endeavors, from Pawn Shops and Brokerage Firms in both Insurance and Finance to Venture Capital for Patent Research, Telecom Sales, and M&A. Some of these endeavors were quite successful, others…not so much. OPTIZMO, thankfully, continues to do well through our 15th year so far and we have no reason to believe that will change anytime soon!
I have 3 kids (Ethan – 24, Rivers – 4, Kai – 3) and 2 grandkids (Asher – 2 & Kinsley – 1). I am very passionate about music, watersports, boats, and cars (..and snowboarding! Don’t forget snowboarding Khris!). A bit of a gypsy soul and hedonist at heart, although the wanderlust has been kept at bay since living on Lake Travis (Austin, TX), where May May, Rivers, Kai, and I spend most of our free-time.
- My drink of choice is an Old Fashioned and I love a good bourbon, but on lake days, Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka or Dripping Springs Vodka are my “go-to”.
- I met both Grant and Dave in California circa 2006, where shortly after (circa 2008) Grant relocated back to Australia (with his wife, Jessica) and I relocated back to Texas. We started a think-tank, called Esoteric Banter (of which I credit much of the foundational elements, relationship building, and motivation needed to launch OPTIZMO with Grant.)
- During my time in CA, I also befriended a telecom customer of mine, named Becky (who later returned to living in Charleston, SC. Becky had also become friends with Grant, Jessica, and Dave at that time). Her wedding in Charleston is where I first met Jake and Brian’s wife (then girlfriend), Laura and her family. Brian would later become part of the OPTIZMO family through Jake.
- For much longer than most people realize or can fathom, OPTIZMO was operated by only 4 team members: Grant, Jake, Dave, and Myself supporting hundreds of clients from SMB to Fortune 500 Brands and Agencies.
- I once worked for UnsubCentral (formerly, a large competitor of ours and the “then” leaders in Suppression List Management and Email Compliance) for exactly 72 days, presenting them with the business plan, scope documentation, and re-architectural spec proposal that Grant and I would later use to launch OPTIZMO.
- In 2009, 1 of my closest Industry Friends and Strategic Partners, Matt Frary (Founder of ROI Rocket & Smarter Chaos) sat in his Audi TT just outside the Red Room in Denver, CO and promised to help each other grow our businesses and always keep our ears to the ground and watch each other’s back while we had a few bigger players in the space gunning for us. We always lived up to that promise and 8 years later (2017), Matt recommended I reach out to a friend of his, named Tom Wozniak, and that is how Tom ended up joining the fam.
- Jonathan Salas and I have known each other since childhood and grew up in the same town that Jon currently resides in, today, with his family. Jon has helped me over the past 12+ years with music, videography, and photography (helping me fulfill some dream/passion projects as well as capturing many monumental moments outside of OPTIZMO – He has produced every bit of music that I’ve worked on since 2012, was our wedding videographer and photographer, and as recently as April, Jon helped me create a tribute video for my Mom’s funeral). To our benefit as a team, Jon agreed to join OPTIZMO, heading up all visual marketing aspects and creative direction within that same context.
I strongly believe that personal relationships play an integral role in strengthening business relationships and OPTIZMO’s culture has, by design, embraced that philosophy (both, internally with team members and externally with customers/end-users).
Icebreaker – Ask Khris about the time he was kidnapped with Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) during a SXSW after-party. DO NOT ask Dave or Jake about anything to do with Khris, as it would all be lies and Khris will “deny deny deny” all but the good stuff. (They’ve been friends too long and you’ll never know what to believe. They work really hard at trying to maintain each other’s street-cred and sense of mystery.).
Mary Ann Thayer
My name is Mary Ann, but friends call me May or May May. I am a former Affiliate Marketing Industry veteran (or victim, depending on how you look at it), who’s Uncle (Cort St. Paul) co-founded HitPath with Sam Prokop. Sam and Cort invested in my start-up company (a mobile tailgating app) fresh out of college at the University of Alabama (RMFT!!!) before tricking me into becoming a performance marketing alum, working in sales and support for HitPath’s Affiliate Tracking Software. Fun fact- Alabama has won 18 national championships and Clemson has won…3 (sorry Jake). Being in the industry for several years led me to become friends with the OPTIZMO team, specifically Khris and Jake. If you had told me 6 years ago that Khris and I would be married and have two beautiful girls AND that Jake would be the Best Man at our wedding, I would have laughed and said, “no way!!” Here I am now, often pinching myself to see if all of this is real. But enough with all the mushy gushy stuff.
I spend most of my time with our 2 beautiful baby girls (Rivers and Kai), our 3 dogs (Roux Breeze, Poet, and Lyric), and trying to keep Khris sane (whether or not he was ever sane prior to our relationship is still unconfirmed). I enjoy the outdoors, am an avid runner, and prior to being a full-time momma, I enjoyed pet photography (or pawtography), which I hope to get back to someday soon. I am a lover of music and have a wide, eclectic variety of musical tastes from growing up in New Orleans. I’m also a big foodie, which is also a result of being from New Orleans.
As of last year, snow skiing became my new found obsession!
Icebreaker – Ask May May about auto theft and about Jake chasing Khris chasing May May in a cab, through the French Quarter.
Jake Dearstyne – CRO
Born and raised New Yorker (upstate!) turned adopted Southerner. Charleston is home for now, but will be moving back to the mountains at some point. Spend most of my free time listening to music in the kitchen while trying out new recipes, or out and about with friends at live shows and breweries. Big fan of good food (pretty much any Asian flavor including Indian are my faves), beer (a nice crisp lager is my Summertime go-to), going to the gym, kickboxing, dogs (Editor’s note: but not kickboxing dogs, as that would be animal cruelty.), hummingbirds, blue/purple flowers, Clemson Football, Yankee Baseball, The Office, nice people, and a dark, cool room to sleep in.
Icebreaker – I prefer Breathsavers. (very droll Jake, very droll)
Brian & Laura
Brian Culp – Director of Sales and Client Services
I was born and raised in Scottsdale, AZ but now call Charleston, SC home. It was in 2011 I was getting stir-crazy living in the same place and since Laura already had family in Charleston, it was an easy decision to move and test it out. During our time in Charleston, Laura and I got married and had two kiddos (Lucy: 10, and Wesley: 7) and we don’t see ourselves leaving (Charleston or the kiddos).
I joined the OPTIZMO family in 2016 and it has been, and continues to be, a fun ride. I’m very grateful for the team that we have!
Lucy, our daughter, loves all things sports currently playing soccer, basketball, volleyball, surfing, and snowboarding (From Lucy – thank you Mr. Khris for letting me go on the work trip with Dad. I had so much fun!! I hope we can do it again. Wes says thank you too 🙂).
Wesley, like his sister, is active in sports as well, where he plays soccer, bodyboards, and snow skis.
Our fur babies are Sadie the Lady and Sarge is in Charge (though he is not – Sadie is the one in charge…we should probably give him a new nickname).
Icebreaker – Ask Brian how he made Bill Murray feel uncomfortable.
Laura was born and raised in St. Charles, IL. Like Tom, she loved the Chicago area so much that she decided to leave for college and has not returned except to visit family and friends. Laura and I met at ASU. However, she decided to move to Charleston, SC to finish college at the College of Charleston and to be closer to family. We tried to make the long-distance work but we were both broke college kids so succumbed to the realization that we should take a break and if it is meant to be, it will be. After 4 years or so we got back together and the rest is history.
Unfortunately, Laura will not be able to join us on this trip. Our kids have a soccer tournament at the same time we’ll be in Cancun. But, she’ll be with us in spirit!
David Prickett – Senior Director – Sales Engineering & Account Management
Having worked with OPTIZMO for the past 12 years, David has enjoyed growing with the company from its start. He has over 27 years of business development experience in the recycling, coaching and real estate industries. He has also owned, operated, and funded several of his own businesses.
David invests his free time managing a 45-acre Nature Preserve / building & teaching off-grid energy production and sustainable water recycling. He is also a passionate cryptocurrency/ blockchain investor and advocate. What David has come to believe is that living the adventure is so much more important than working all the time and just talking about living the adventure.
Fun Fact: David is literally a life saver. On his first day at his first job out of college, it was a company picnic. As he sat at a picnic table with a big group of his new co-workers, the guy across the table started choking. No one else at the table moved. David calmly walked around the table, executed the Heimlich Maneuver and got the guy breathing again. Now that’s how you make a first impression at your new job. Why none of the other co-workers wanted to help is an open question to this day.
Icebreaker: Dave has new teeth. Ask him to show them to you…real close like. He won’t bite.
Natalie Fairist – Executive Assistant to the CEO & Administrative Director
I joined OPTIZMO in March of 2022 in a very ‘odd’ & serendipitous way. I wasn’t looking for a job, Khris wasn’t looking for an assistant, yet through a few social media posts, some off humor jokes, Zoom calls with Jake & my never ending love for music festivals… here I am!
Tom was amazing enough to write my bio for me last year & I love it so much that I’ve had a hard time changing anything about it! (Editor’s note: Tom is an amazing writer, so this is no surprise.) So this year, we’ll have a mix of both!!
Tom 2022 ”Natalie joined OPTIZMO in 2022 and fairly quickly jumped in with both feet by joining Khris, Jake, Brian, Tom, and Jon in Toronto for Affiliate Grand Slam. Fortunately, she appreciates highbrow humor of the 13-year-old boy variety – which this team has honed to a fine art.”
It’s my favorite kind of humor!! LOL
I was born & raised in Texas, with my older brother. I was a “Tom-Boy”. While all of the little girls were running around in pink skirts & big bows in their hair, I was always outside with the guys… tangled hair, ripped up jean shorts & spider-man shirts, playing in the dirt & loving on every bug, lizard, stray puppy & orphaned bird that I came across. I climbed fruit trees for snacks, drank from the water hose & ran through corn fields. As I got older, I added go carts, video games, comic books, music & brushing my hair to the mix. My sense of humor never aged.
Tom 2022 “A perfect day for Nat at OPTIZMO definitely involves being on the phone with various ADP reps for several hours, while fielding questions about prescription coverage from her favorite OPTIZMO team member (she knows who I’m talking about). When she’s not wrangling benefits and other vendors, she tries to generally keep things organized with the crew (i.e. trying to herd cats).”
No truer words have ever been typed!! LMAO!!
A good portion of my job with OPTIZMO is spent on the phone or Zoom & Huddles. Herding Cats is an understatement on some days!!
I came into my position at a time where many admin policies were being created & ideas that had been sitting on shelves for years, collecting dust, were finally starting to see the light of day & a duster. Some days are grueling & seem never ending. Tons of brain power & staying on top of the “to do” list… but other days are beautiful & if i’m being honest, even magical. Those are the days that you don’t want to end. I’ve witnessed ideas come to life with this team. I’ve witnessed love & passion with this team – towards each other, our clients & our individual responsibilities that keep this machine successful & moving forward. I adore our team & get excited every time that we all get to see each other & share our creative energies, amazing food & of course, a few drinks over lots of laughter.
Tom 2022 “Before becoming a part of the OPTIZMO crew Nat spent many years working in the food & bev industry. She did everything from managing multiple restaurants to bartending and working music festivals.”
I started working at the age of 12 years old. Grabbed my first “legal” job at 16 & was promoted to manager by the age of 17. Most of my life has been in the Service Industry & although I’ve never been labeled as a “server” or “janitor”… when you’re running bars/nightclubs/restaurants, etc, you cannot be successful if you don’t jump in with your team & lead by example. My philosophy is & has always been – be honest, move with integrity & never ask someone to do something that you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.
I’ve run restaurants that had a capacity of 300 – 5,000 people. I was an E.A for several years… several years ago. I’ve toured with the Howard Stern crew doing Grand Openings of nightclubs around the US. I’ve opened & managed retail establishments, consulted with business owners on ‘best practices’ & setting up vendors, payroll & inventory processes, etc. I’ve also been a bartender/manager at some of the coolest music festivals & private events out there. Because of my deep roots in the service industry, I still work music events every chance I get.
Tom 2022 “When it was time for a change, she decided that something quiet, sedate, and utterly routine would make sense. Clearly she couldn’t find that, so she instead found a home with OPTIZMO.”
Hahahaha!! All of this!
Tom 2022 “Outside of work, Nat takes care of a variety of household pets. Ask her about, Ozzy, if you want to learn more about one particular avian member of the menagerie.”
Oh, Baby Ozzy, the emu! I’m sure that everyone has seen pictures of Ozzy by now. I do have a small zoo at home & Ozzy is the biggest by far. I have 4 dogs (one is a foster puppy that needs a forever home…. Any takers??? 😀), 3 cats (one is a 3 legged foster that needs a forever home….any takers??? 🤗), 2 doves, several chickens & a foster duck that has finally found her forever home!! All of the other creatures live in Terrariums or Aquatic set ups. Axolotls with their tank mates of bristle nose plecostomus-mystery snails-ghost shrimp & more. We have several Betta, a Koi pond, African Clawed Frogs, several color variations of Ball Python snakes, a Hognose snake, Mexican Fireleg Tarantula, a colony of Hissing Cockroaches, 3 Whites Tree Frogs, a Leopard Gecko, 13 year old Sulcata Tortoise & possibly other things that I’m forgetting about.
Other creatures in my life, include my two kiddos. Most of you have met my daughter, Chloe. She is 20 years old & still lives at home for the time being. She is a very loving soul & although she can make me crazy sometimes, that girl holds my heart. My son, Austin, is 23 years old & currently lives in the Dallas area with his fiance. He’s just as hard-headed as his Momma & his fiance is as goofy & mental as my entire side of the family. Those two need all the prayers they can get! 🙏😂
Odds & ends: I have about 5,000 plants in & around the house. I love the outdoors & my favorite season is Fall. I love camping. Not “glamping”… but actual camping. ⛺ Music is always playing around me, in one form or another. I cannot sleep in a silent room. I love Action, Sci-Fi & Fantasy movies. I have hundreds of comic books & comic encyclopedias. I still own a VCR, original Nintendo, Sega Genesis, Xbox 360 & all of the Playstation Consoles, except the PS5, but it’s on the list. Classic cars & especially old planes hit my soul. I believe in ghosts & love “haunted” places. I’ve been told that I must have some sort of ADD, but I like to refer to things in my life as “Quests”. Each day, I have a quest to complete… I just happen to run into a million side quests on my way to the main quest… therefore, I’m just gaining more experience & knowledge as I go about my day! LOL
My +1 for our trip is Tina Albus. I was living in Round Rock, TX when Tina & her family moved in across the cul-de-sac from me. (roughly 15-17yrs ago) Our kiddos became best friends & as Halloween/Birthday Parties, Taco Night’s, UFC brawls, Concerts & other milestones in life continued to join us together… our families became inseparable. To this day, Tina is one of my favorite humans on this planet. 🥰
I am an open book, so feel free to ask any questions during our quests in Cancun! There may be a few pages that are missing from my “book” & you’ll know if you come across one of those sections by the blank look on my face after you ask a question…. but we can just adlib with the info from the pages before & after those lost tidbits & keep chuggin along! 😀
Icebreaker – Ask how it feels to have snake teeth removed from your knuckles – or – what kind of scar a Coati can leave on your abdomen. 😬
I am not an Optizimo employee, but was asked to accompany my favoritest friend, Natalie to Cancun with her work family.
I live in the Fort Worth area. Married to an amazing man, Dennis. We have 5 children. Some compare us to the Brady Bunch as we are a blended family. We also have 5 amazing grandchildren, 2 wild and crazy cats, and 1 loveable dog. When I’m not working, I focus on making memorable moments with family and friends. We love to cook and entertain. I love fishing, going to the beach, live concerts (any kind of music), flipping furniture, and giving back to the community by volunteering and raising money for non-profits.
When I lived in Round Rock, Natalie and I met living across from each other when our kids were in elementary, 2006. Quickly, we adopted them and they were part of our family gatherings and holidays. We would take our kids trick-or-treating, meet weekly to watch The Walking Dead, UFC Fights or go to dinner. Natalie is the kindest, most loving, and generous person in the world. Her passion for any animal is like none I have ever witnessed before. She goes to great lengths to make sure her animals and humans are all taken care of. She is truly one of a kind!
Fun Facts about our friendship:
- Taco Tuesdays was Natalie’s favorite fun event to throw down and it was loads of fun with the best margs, tacos, queso and lots of laughter. I seem to recall a tree house, a bonfire and dares to jump over said bonfire during one event.
- We had a severe freeze with some snow in Round Rock and no school. Our kids had a beautiful snow day to play, until the neighborhood bully came over to beat up/harass our boys. Lets just say, between Natalie and I, the bully’s dad didn’t stand a chance!! Do not mess with the momma bears!!
- Lastly, there was drinks, Pluckers, bikes, and a mailbox situation… if you do not know, maybe we can relive that trauma for you all!!
Most of my professional experience has been Business Operations in the software industry. I worked in Austin for 17 years as a Senior Team Lead for the Global Order Management Team. Currently I work for a Global IT Consulting company, as a Bid Manager in Public Sector. I have a strong moral and inherit work ethic, energetic, result-driven, positive, highly organized, team focused, motivated by challenges, honest and dedicated to delivering exceptional service. Treat people as you’d want to be treated – and always do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
Thank you for allowing me to share who I am and how I know “Ms. Natalie.”
Icebreaker: Ask about my middle son, Jonathan, Kid-napping Natalie’s kids from school. Literally!
Gina & Markus
Gina Spano – Client Services Manager
First and foremost, I’m an amazing mom to 3 incredible kids. Just ask my daughter, Shelby, she’ll tell you. My teenage son Anthony may have a slightly different opinion right now. And the youngest, Gino, still thinks I’m pretty cool, so I’ll take two out of three for today.
I was born and raised in Colorado and grew up on a farm. My grandparents owned the land and definitely worked harder than everybody else. In the greenhouse, in the field, in the barn, or the kitchen, we were expected to put in a solid day’s work. At the time, I didn’t realize I was working. I watched the sunrise as I rode on the fender of the tractor into the fields. I filled up bushels with beans and broccoli. I loved to water the plants, and sing, and dance through the rows of luscious greenery. The greenhouses were always filled with music and laughter, the fields with families, and chatter. Some in English, some Italian, and a lot in Spanish. And from my grandfather, a strange combination of all three. But we were a family. All of us. Working and living side by side, day and night.
In my pursuit to be crowned Miss teen Colorado, I asked a local furniture store to sponsor me in the pageant. He agreed under the condition that I work a summer job for him, and he would match my paychecks for my sponsorship. Let’s just say, he was not prepared for the work ethic that had been instilled in me at this young age and was quite impressed. I continued working for him for over a decade and was the youngest person ever appointed to a management position in the company. Jake Jabs was more than just a boss, he was an incredible mentor and father figure as well. While I flourished as head show floor designer and accessory buyer for the largest furniture store in the state, he still encouraged me to continue my education and fuel my love for learning. I continued working full-time while I attended metro state college of Denver, where my focus was business management and business law. My experiences at American Furniture were beyond what you could even imagine.
In the early 2000s, by a downright crazy sequence of events, (a whole story for another time) I was offered a job in a new and interesting world of online advertising and marketing. I was intrigued and immediately went to work selling American flags, decks of cards with America’s most wanted Iraqis, and penis enlargement pills. Yeah, you read that right. And this was the beginning of my decade of adventures with Scott Richter, aka the “Spam King”. In the early years, I was selling and inboxing 100 million emails a day and partying with clients like Joe Francis. Scott’s company (OptInRealBig.com) and other ‘high volume email deployers’ were among the reasons that the CAN-SPAM act was passed in 2003. In the next few years came some high profile lawsuits. First Microsoft and NY AG Elliott Spitzer, then later My space. Interesting times, to be sure. Over the decade, the industry evolved and so did we. With a crazy rev share concept, we started what would be among the first CPA Affiliate Networks (CPA Empire), which later rebranded to become affiliate.com. After about 10 years, we’d had a good run together, but the time had come to move on.
For the next decade, I worked with a company formulating and manufacturing a line of diet pills, energy drinks, and moonshine, and finally broke through the barrier of the TTB to create the first line of carbonated flavored alcohol drinks. What everyone knows today as Hard Seltzers. After a WE TV series, a crippling legal battle with Jack Daniels, and the owner’s health failing, sadly that company came to an end. I stayed connected with the online space over the years by moving products on auto re-bills and such, but wasn’t as focused on it for years.
And then there came OPTIZMO! The timing was perfect and I couldn’t be more grateful to Tom (who I worked with at affiliate.com) for introducing me to you all. Looking back I see a clear pattern. One of teamwork and a bond built on loyalty. For as long as I can remember, work and family were one and the same. I’ve always lived this way, and am now proud to be the newest member of the OPTIZMO family. I look forward to growing and celebrating together for at least the next decade! Maybe two this time. 🙂
Fun fact: I have bottle-fed more lion and tiger cubs than human babies.
Favorite Hobbies: Roller skating and paddle boarding
Icebreaker – Ask me what makes me crave a daily dose of radon exposure.
Hello, my name is Markus Miller, and Gina and I have been together for 16 years. We have two crazy boys that are 9 and 12. They are amazing athletes and always seem to keep us on our toes. I’ve been a professional truck driver for a little over a decade now. I grew up around the industry and finally decided to get into it myself. I love the responsibility of driving an 18-wheeler, and I enjoy seeing something new out my office window everyday.
I’ve played 22 years of Semi-Pro football, and was inducted into the Minor League Football Hall Of Fame in 2021, and the Colorado Semi-Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022. I had a couple of different professional tryouts that never really panned out. For the better part of the last 20 years I was a competitive powerlifter. Although I was never able to put my full focus into it because I was splitting time with my football career and my work life, I did pretty well and definitely enjoyed myself. In the little spare time I have, I love watching our children grow and mature as young men and young athletes. I enjoy coaching youth and High School football, and I still lift weights. I also enjoy a good game of Madden whenever time allows.
Icebreaker – I love talking about anything, so as an icebreaker feel free to ask me whatever you would like. (Editor’s note: Markus is a big fan of thriller fiction. Ask him about the Joe Ledger series if you’re looking for a fun action/espionage/sci-fi mashup.)
Tom & Schlena
Tom Wozniak – COO
I joined the OPTIZMO team in 2017 and head up all of the company’s operations, marketing and communications, along with overseeing the content and ad operations for FigJam Publishing. I grew up outside of Chicago and am a lifelong Cubs, Bears, and Bulls fan. If being a fan of losing teams for most of your life builds character then I am clearly overflowing with character. I moved to Denver in 1995, leaving behind the wonderful midwest winters for the sunny skies and thin air of the Rockies. I joined my first digital marketing dot com a few years later (MatchLogic) and got to experience the unique office culture of a pre-bubble dot com (beer on tap at all times, video games, pool, foosball, and company meetings that involved founders throwing stock options to the team like confetti). I have spent the last 25 years in and around digital and affiliate marketing and ad tech, when I wasn’t mountain biking, snowboarding, hiking, and whitewater rafting, among other required Colorado activities (like eating green chili – we Coloradans love our green chili). I have a Master’s degree in English but the only diploma hanging on my office wall is the one I earned from Bartending College. I met my much better half, Schlena, in a real estate meeting where we happened to sit next to each other. Despite her better judgment, we got married in 2006 in Golden, CO. We have two grown up (and out of the house!) kids at 26 and 27 years old. I would say we are empty nesters, expect for our 1.5 old Bernese Mountain Dog, Oliver, who I swear takes up as much of our time as a small child. In my spare time, I love to read, take on whatever new landscaping project Schlena comes up with, and have also been known to work out occasionally (if every morning at 5:30am is occasionally). This year, I had the fun experience of getting some titanium added to my spinal column, which I believe makes me almost the same as Marvel’s Wolverine – with a slightly better haircut. My signature drink is most definitely the Moscow Mule. But, I’m flexible and when I’m in Vegas you’ll see me with a Vodka Red Bull, in Austin, when the Ruby and Sprite tends to show up, and in Mexico… you’ll just have to wait to find out in Cancun.
Random Life Highlights – I was a shy, skinny kid growing up and if you told him he would get into weightlifting or enjoy speaking at industry events, he would have probably thought you were smoking crack. I’ve met one U.S. President (Bush Sr.) and multiple presidential candidates (which comes from going to college in IA during a Presidential primary year), worked concert security for legendary bands like Kool & The Gang, John Cougar Mellencamp, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, Loverboy, Sting, Jimmy Buffet, Barry Manilow (he was such an ass), and Santana, among many others. I did draw the line at Debbie Gibson and Tiffany and made sure to have those nights off. I write left-handed (poorly if you’ve ever seen my handwriting), but throw a baseball right-handed, which makes me either somewhat ambidextrous or just confused.
Icebreaker – Ask Tom for the weirdest/funniest stories from his first dot com (Wholepeople.com), which range from a senior exec who regularly saw imaginary bunnies in the office (no mushrooms involved), to one VP who was known only as ‘Bandana Ponytail Guy.’
Schlena grew up in both Colorado and Iowa, and wisely decided to make her adult home in CO. Nothing wrong with Waterloo IA, but is it really where you want to live? She has been a Realtor since 2004, getting her license in time to experience the real estate crash of 2008 and became one of Colorado’s most successful short-sale agents. Tom and Schlena actually met when they happened to sit next to each other in a real estate class. She is also an interior design expert (she literally has a ‘design room’ in her house) who has helped plenty of real estate clients, friends, and family design and decorate their homes. She and Tom have purchased and renovated 8 homes over the years, turning most of them into rentals or eventual flips. They finally started taking on more of the renovation projects themselves in 2020, learning on the fly how to completely gut and replace a kitchen themselves and then in 2022 renovate an entire condo. She is also very handy with a nail gun and enjoys refinishing furniture when the right piece shows up on Facebook Marketplace. Don’t get her started on the merits of chalk paint vs. stain, unless you really want to know. In her spare time she loves reading urban fantasy novels (Tom calls them vampire romance/porn novels), pilates, kickboxing, Zumba, landscaping, investing, and scuba diving somewhere tropical. Cozumel is her favorite diving location, although Belize and Fiji were also amazing. Her bucket list includes diving with great white sharks at Isla Guadalupe, visiting the Grand Canyon, and the Redwoods.
Random Life Highlights – Schlena wouldn’t describe herself as a thrill-seeker, but she has been skydiving, climbed a 14er, scuba dove (dived?) with sharks, has rafted class V rapids, takes sewing classes, and has taken handgun and ‘surviving deadly force’ training. She is also a much more accurate shot with a handun than Tom. At any given time, she might have blonde, brown, or red hair. She isn’t much of a drinker, but when she gets in the mood, it generally involves shots. She loves animals and the only thing keeping her from keeping chickens and goats in the backyard are some pesky HOA rules.
Icebreaker – Ask Schlena about investing and retirement planning. She literally dreams about these things.
Jonathan & Serena
Jonathan Salas – Creative Director of Visual Marketing
Born and raised on the Texas Gulf Coast, Jonathan’s social awkwardness comes from 15 years of homeschooling. After spending 7 years in Nashville TN working as a studio musician and touring, the draw of the Texas humidity, giant mosquitoes and murky beaches became too much and Jonathan moved back to his hometown and got married to Serena at the age of 27. Jonathan then began working in the Oil and Gas industry as a media creator. After recording Khris’ band FallenAsh for the first time in 2016, Jonathan eventually talked Khris into hiring him as the official videographer for OPTIZMO in 2020. Jonathan quickly learned that trips to Vegas and Dubai are much cooler than trips to Midland, TX.
Icebreaker – Ask Jon about the time he chased down a burglar in Houston.
Born in Sweeny, TX. Serena Salas works full-time at the Matagorda Dialysis Unit as an administrative professional where she’s been for 17 years. She has one amazing guardian Angel, Amelia Grace, a beautiful little boy (River Rey 2 and a half years old) and welcomed Olivia Jane to the family early this year! But her biggest accomplishment is putting up with Jonathan for 9 years. Serena began buying and renovating homes with Jonathan in 2019 and hopes to continue this in the future. Serena enjoys spending time with family, traveling and being a mother to her amazing littles.
Icebreaker – Ask Serena about the time she lost her rental car in France.
Anissa & Liz
Anissa Reyes – Ad Ops/Marketing Coordinator
¡Hola damas y caballeros y bienvenidos a la tierra de mis antepasados!
To answer everyone’s question — yes, I’m Mexican and while in Mexico, I probably won’t shut up about it. With that being said, you can rely on me for any Spanish speaking needs at a classroom-level proficiency. Here’s a key phrase to know for the weekend: ¿Me das una margarita, por favor?
I am so excited to be back for another retreat with this awesome crew. I have had a great first year as a full-time employee with OPTIZMO working on the FigJam side of things and watching our websites grow.
I am a San Antonio native who ended up in Austin to attend The University of Texas at Austin. (Hook ‘Em Horns!!!) During my time in college, I landed a few gigs, my personal favorite being babysitting for Khris and May. The two of them, plus Rivers, Kai, and the pups quickly became family to me and now I take every opportunity to go over and raid their fridge for leftovers.
In all seriousness, while babysitting, Khris, May, and I had many conversations about my ambitions, work ethic, and professional interests. One thing led to another and I met good ole Tom who interviewed me then offered me an internship with OPTIZMO and eventually a full-time role after graduation. Thanks, buddy (you too, Khris)!
This past year — my first year post-grad — has been full of lots of travels, personal growth and cuddles with my 1-year old cat, Toast. My most recent trip was to Mexico City where I got to see the Aztec pyramids. Unfortunately, I did get Montezuma’s revenge and skeeter syndrome (happy to explain this one) but nevertheless I had a blast! In my free time I enjoy going to yoga, making jewlery (check out my Insta page @charmed.you), listening to podcasts and playing with Toast, of course.
I’m so excited for this weekend and looking forward to utilizing my Spanish speaking skills and soaking up the sun in the motherland!
Icebreaker: If you don’t already know… Ask me about my plans for this coming Fall.
Elizabeth (Liz) Garcia
My name is Elizabeth Garcia but you can call me Liz! I am a senior at the University of Texas at Austin studying Advertising and am graduating in December (that being said I don’t know if I’ll ever have the “so what’s next” question figured out). I met Anissa because she and my older sister were roommates in college and we ended up hitting it off…now we can see who her favorite sister is (me). Together, Anissa and I love going to yoga at our favorite studio called Black Awan. Not sure if it’s for the yoga or the fact that it is strictly donation based that keeps us going. Aside from yoga I also enjoy going to boxing classes which I started my junior year of high school after realizing being a full-time bench warmer for the JV volleyball team wasn’t doing me too much good (I will say though I did become one of the best at the chants)!
I also recently came back from living in Madrid, Spain for 6 months where I did an exchange program and got to travel around Europe and went to places like Morocco, Greece, Ireland and more! My GPA most definitely took a hit during this time, and probably so did my liver, but I do have some great stories.
I am genuinely so excited to be attending this awesome retreat and eat some delicious food! See y’all soon!
Icebreaker- As I emerge into adulthood I am trying to expand my cooking ability past a can of tuna and expired Ritz crackers for dinner. I’d love to know what a go-to, easy of course, meal suggestion is.
Antonio Jones (AJ) – Marketing Manager
Alright, let’s take it from the top. I grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico. (Famous for being the location where the new movie, Oppenheimer, is being shot and based on.) Really small town, right on the edge of the Jemez mountains. I basically grew up in those mountains, camping on the weekends, ditching class in high school to go snowboarding and Jeeping with my friends. Being generally responsible for a majority of the petty crime in Los, as many high schoolers are in small towns. (There was little to ZERO crime in Los Alamos.)
After high school, I went a little way down south and attended New Mexico State University in very sunny Las Cruces, NM. Famous for absolutely nothing. I spent four years there earning my BA in Psychology, with a minor in Marketing. After this, I decided I had seen everything that New Mexico had to offer (quite literally) and needed the chance to spread my wings. I heard from a friend that Fort Collins, CO was a great place to be, so on a whim, I found the first job I could, found a roommate in 3 months, and promptly put everything I owned into a car and moved up here. I knew I needed to go back to get a higher education degree if I didn’t want to be stuck working security jobs and call centers, as I had been. So, I ended up going to DU (University of Denver) here in Denver and earned my Master’s Degree in Marketing! Worked for an agency here (Perform[cb]), and an internal team there, until I submitted a job application to a smaller SaaS company, to which I got a response from the company (Tom) in less than ten minutes, and here I am!
Before the pandemic, I would have without a doubt described myself as an introvert. I wasn’t very social, had a short battery for social events, and generally preferred nights in at home. For one reason or another, something changed (or broke?) and I’d fully consider myself an extrovert now. I’ve had people describe me as a Golden Retriever these days, having a ton of energy and bouncing from one shiny object to the next. I’m always down to do anything that’ll get my heart pounding. I still love getting outside, doing typical Colorado things like going to new bars, and meeting new people, but also still enjoy plenty of nights in. Reading fantasy books, playing video games, and watching movies at home. I go to the gym as often as I can and have been training in MMA for almost seven years now, but still consider myself much more of a lover than a fighter.
Tom told me early on that for the right person, this job would be a Unicorn 🦄🌈. And so far it’s been nothing but that. I feel incredibly fortunate to have landed with the company and group of people that I have and I can’t wait to get to know everyone better pool/beachside over drinks with little umbrellas!
Icebreaker – Ask AJ about diving with sharks in Honduras. 🦈
See everyone in Mexico!