Kyle Clayton: Jackrabbit Janitorial, Awesome Cookie Company Co-Founder

Kyle Clayton, Jackrabbit Janitorial and Awesome Cookie Company co-founder, photographed at Co+Hoots in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Kyle Clayton, Jackrabbit Janitorial and Awesome Cookie Company co-founder, photographed at Co+Hoots in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Kyle Clayton
twitter.com/KyleClaytonGore

Kyle Clayton studied Spanish and business at Arizona State University, but he hasn’t had to work for anyone since. The 27-year-old Phoenix native and serial entrepreneur co-founded Jackrabbit Janitorial, a local janitorial service using green products, before he graduated. Since, he’s co-founded Awesome Cookie Company, whose cookies can be found in Valley cafes and ordered online, as well as Simple Home Automation and Interiors, providing window coverings and home audio for businesses. Plus, the busy guy does business consulting on the side and is a member of the invite-only Young Entrepreneur Council. His interest in green practices inspired him to found Thrive Phoenix, an event this Saturday, May 4 at Co+Hoots featuring green businesses from around the Valley with workshops on how to live more environmentally-consciously. Read on for what drives his entrepreneurial spirit as well as why he believes in local businesses, as well as to hear him talk about five of his favorite things about the Valley. Learn more about Thrive here.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents. I’m a native, and I decided to stay, because it’s hard to leave the place you grew up, and it’s become so much cooler than when I was younger. I went to Ironwood High School and ASU and did a brief stint at NAU. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a minor in international business. I lived for a year in Spain. Continue reading

Nicole Gaskell: Founder of Alert & Aware America

Nicole Gaskell, Alert & Aware America founder, photographed at The Main Ingredient in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Gaskell, Alert & Aware America founder, photographed at The Main Ingredient in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Nicole Gaskell
twitter.com/Alert_Aware

Nicole Gaskell has experienced a ton of scary situations, from receiving roofies to witnessing her mother being accosted in a mall bathroom. The Phoenix resident wants to ensure young people in the Valley stay safe, founding nonprofit Alert & Aware America in 2011, which teaches schoolchildren self-defense techniques, as well as works with other nonprofits. The 29-year-old from Cortland, N.Y. uses her military experience and martial arts training in her courses, and she also teaches Self-Defense 101 with her mom (also a self-defense instructor) at Scottsdale Community College. Read on to hear more about the experiences that inspired her to teach self-defense to others, as well as to hear five reasons why Gaskell loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

The weather. Everyone always said it was a gorgeous place to live, and I always had a problem with the cold and never with heat. I love the outdoors, and my mom wanted to move here. I checked it out and moved here after I found a job.

I was born in Cortland, New York, near Syracuse. I went to Niagara University and got my Bachelor’s degree in marketing and a minor in military science. I went to Germany with the military and lived there for a few years before moving to Arizona in September 2006. Continue reading

Ron Haberle: PeppedUp! Founder, Cancer Survivor

Ron Haberle, PeppedUp! founder and cancer survivor, photographed at Dos Gringos in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Ron Haberle, PeppedUp! founder and cancer survivor, photographed at Dos Gringos in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Ron Haberle
twitter.com/PeppedUp

Ron Haberle has been cancer-free for the past 17 years, but his battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was diagnosed at 19 still inspires him today. Haberle has created a local nonprofit called PeppedUp! that brings fun technology, such as gaming systems and tablets, to kids who have cancer. For almost the past 2 years, PeppedUp! has helped deliver gadgets such as iPad‘s and PlayStation Vita‘s to kids all over the country, and last year, PeppedUp! raised more than $45,000 to give kids the opportunity to play something fun during a challenging time. Haberle, a 38-year-old Chandler resident and Woodbury, New Jersey native, works as a senior software developer for iMemories during the day and has donated more than $15,000 of his own money to the PeppedUp! cause. Head to the Dos Gringos Cinco de Mayo block party in Old Town Scottsdale Sunday, May 5, since proceeds are benefiting PeppedUp! Read on to hear more about the nonprofit, as well as to see a video of Haberle talking about his five favorite things about the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

An ex-girlfriend. I always wanted to move to California, and when I was younger, I said I would move to the West Coast if I could. My fiancee at the time wanted to go into graduate school, and her second school on the list was ASU. We didn’t wind up together, but I like the West Coast lifestyle more than the East Coast lifestyle. I was born in Woodbury, New Jersey. The people here are a lot more laid-back. The weather’s nicer. I love the scenery, the open skies. Continue reading

Wes Johnson: Phoenix Suns Forward

Wes Johnson
twitter.com/Suns

The first half of the Phoenix Suns season, fans didn’t see much of forward Wes Johnson, who came over to the team this year after being traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves as a first-round draft pick back in 2010. Since coach Lindsey Hunter took over though, the 25-year-old Scottsdale resident has moved into a pivotal starting position where he’s known just as much for his smile as he is his stellar 3-point shot. No matter what the score is, Johnson always seems to be having fun on the court, motivating his teammates with his energy and making big shots — including a buzzer shot in San Antonio in February that forced overtime that resulted in a Suns win. While he’s definitely a hustler while he’s playing, fans may be surprised to find out Johnson has a weakness for Krispy Kreme doughnuts and fashion by Alexander McQueen. Get to know Johnson better here, and keep reading to hear five reasons why he’s happy to call the Valley his home.

What brought you to Arizona?

I got traded here. I was very ecstatic I was coming. I knew it was beautiful weather and a great opportunity for me to come here and play. It’s been fun since I’ve been here. Continue reading

Derrick Hall: Arizona Diamondbacks CEO and President

Derrick Hall, CEO and President of the Arizona Diamondbacks, photographed at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Derrick Hall, CEO and President of the Arizona Diamondbacks, photographed at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, by Nicki Escudero

Derrick Hall
twitter.com/DHallDbacks

Derrick Hall is known around Major League Baseball for being one of the most affable, hard-working and efficient club heads around the league. The 44-year-old Paradise Valley resident and Los Angeles native took over as the Arizona Diamondbacks president in 2006, after working for 12 years with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and was named CEO in 2009. Since then, he’s seen the D-Backs win the 2011 National League West Division Championship and says this year’s team is a definite stand-out when it comes to winning a World Series. The Diamondbacks have also continued to strengthen their reputation for being one of the most charitable sports organizations, including winning the 2010 inaugural United Nations NGO Positive Peace Award, for being the most positive team in the world. Not only does Hall play a key role in team management, he also serves on nearly 30 Arizona community boards. Check out the Diamondbacks tonight at Chase Field for Opening Day against the St. Louis Cardinals at 7:10 p.m. Read on for Hall’s take on this year’s team, as well as to hear five reasons why he loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m an L.A. native. I went to school at Arizona State University, and my wife is from Tucson. It’s like home to us. Continue reading