WHO WE ARE

We are a restaurant group that thrives on creating authentic and inspiring experiences for the communities we serve. Through the contributions of countless incredible people, past and present, we’re headed to the moon with a simple mission — to make people feel good.

 
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Core Values

WHAT FUELS US

Our eclectic team is comprised of some of the most talented, grounded, and innovative people you’ll ever meet.  While no one is quite like the other, it’s our common values that bring us all together!

Our Team

THE MOTHERSHIP

The Lab (aka our HQ)

  • As Upward’s People & Culture Manager, Rosana’s top priority is making sure everyone has a great experience at our restaurants, from guests to staff and everyone in-between. A native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, Rosana started in HR and payroll and quickly realized she had a passion for helping business owners and management have healthy and productive relationships with employees, and more importantly, for employees to feel the same way about management. Just make sure you don’t challenge her to a game of racquetball, or a race, because Rosana is both a former All-American Athlete at Arizona State University, and also a car fanatic, with a lead foot to match.

  • Proudly representing Chi-town, Shawn is new to Upward, but he’s a lifelong hospitality and catering pro. A hotelier at heart, he loves fostering and building relationships, and the way breaking bread brings us all together. At home, you’ll find him nodding along to “Picture Me Rollin’ by Nipsey Hussle while baking up his soon-to-be-famous chicken wings with seasoning and sauce. And speaking of hustling, his side gig is transforming skateboard decks into colorful wall art.
  • Born in Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, Chris is way too polite to say this, but he’s kind of a big deal. Previously overseeing high-profile hospitality projects ranging from the Trafalgar Hotel in London to the famed Union Square Hospitality Group in NYC, he even worked on a new museum for some guy named George Lucas. A fierce believer in holistic design, adaptive reuse, thoughtful in-fill and quirky, one-off design, Chris is also loves to cook, hates bananas, was once a fanatic drummer and is a glutton for golf punishment and cheesy romantic comedies.

  • The pride of Woodsville, New Hampshire, Tim’s task is simple: sourcing and hiring the best talent in the nation. A lover of everything outdoorsy (hiking, fishing, camping, skiing, kayaking, hunting, mountain biking), when he is indoors, he’s been known to whip up one hell of a quiche. In his spare time, Tim and his wife love to renovate and restore old houses.

  • An Upward Projects vet of seven years, and a former collegiate soccer player, AJ brings an electric energy and passion to the room as soon as she walks in. A natural mentor and leader, AJ is always offering encouragement and words of wisdom to the Upward team. In her new role as an Area Manager, she’s able to offer her expertise and advice to our Postino leaders, employees, and beyond. In a past life, AJ used to play college soccer and brings that same fire and passion to Team Upward daily.
  • This Arizona State University alumni is all about the numbers. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Theron Raymond is responsible for reconciling and consolidating data, analyzing variances, and forecasting outcomes as the Financial Analyst. But life is much more than spreadsheets, and when he’s done crunching data, you can find Theron jammin’ out to Lupe Fiasco’s “The Show Goes On”.

  • The pride of Peoria, Arizona, Monica’s all about that money, making sure payroll gets paid while also supporting Upward’s strategic expansion and growth. And like any successful payroll manager, she’s also a little OCD, always insisting on even numbers, even when it comes to the volume of her TV. A huge fan of live sports and concerts, the soundtrack of Monica’s life is ‘I am Woman” by Emmy Meli, and like any true Arizona native, she can whip up a killer chicken green chili. 
  • Our little slice of sunshine from the Sunshine State, Danelle grew up in West Palm Beach, but has moved all around the nation to pursue her passion for marketing, from Boston to Chicago to San Diego and now Phoenix. Charged with growing Upward’s national profile as we carefully expand to hand-picked markets, Danelle is also committed to maintaining the quirky come-as-you-are vibe that made us unique in the first place. When she’s not whipping up Chicken Piccatta, Danelle can be found anywhere outdoors, hiking, boating, golfing and spending time with her fam.

  • Growing up in Seattle, WA, Raquel was obsessed with two things: tennis and technology. Following in the footsteps of her mother, who also worked in IT, Raquel went from repairing her own computers to now serving as Upwards’ IT Manager, keeping all of our Zeros and Ones in perfect working order. As for tennis, Raquel made it all the way to the nationals in high school before hanging up her racquet to focus on her love of live music, her kids, and her dogs.
  • Born in India and raised in Nigeria, with a degree in Hotel Administration from Switzerland and an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley, Anoop is not your usual bean counter. Which makes him the perfect CFO for Upward Projects, bringing that holistic, human touch to the back-of-house, and always ensuring that we’re as focused on our people as our bottom line. When he’s not crunching numbers, Anoop can be found (if you try hard enough) biking and hiking his way the Arizona desert, connecting with nature and clearing his thoughts.
  • Ari left behind the wilds of Wichita, KS and is now “Living La Vida Loca” here in Phoenix. Heading up our manager in training programs, new store opening and much, much more, Ari says the keys to his success are persistence, a lot of guidance and great mentorship. An avid rock climber, he’s also the office sweet tooth, who once snuck out of his home to visit a closed cookie factory that “threw out” all of their imperfect cookies, and left with four garbage bags full.
  • Our Culinary Director for the Indies, Yuji Iwasa, says the soundtrack of his life is “Started From The Bottom.” Born in Los Angeles with an innate passion for cooking, Yuji sliced and diced his way up the kitchen ladder, heading up high wattage celebrity hotspots back in Hollywood, before being lured to Arizona to oversee P.F. Chang’s kitchens. Now adding some sizzle to Upward, when he’s not spending quality time with his family, Yuji is proud to serve as a role model to our younger chefs, teaching them the importance of being genuine, open-minded and “finding your Zen,” even being honest that it’s something he still struggles with.
  • Put simply, this native of Latham, NY is in charge of everything and anything that’s broken! That means supporting the restaurant teams by ensuring that the building and all furniture, fixtures, and equipment are in good working order, as well as maintaining a vendor network and local facilities team to provide great reactive and proactive services. Despite being a history major in college, Zach has always loved figuring out how things work and sharing/supporting others with that knowledge. Just don’t ask him how to turn on an oven, because his favorite thing to “cook” is a PB&J sandwich.
  • Surfing over from her hometown of Santa Monica, CA, Nina oversees supply chain and procurement analysis, helping us to grow successfully and without sacrificing quality. A lover of math, quantitative analysis, the band Queen and rap/hip hop, nobody puts Nina in a corner, but put her in the kitchen and she’ll bake you up incredible desserts, such as Fruits of the Forest pie. Also a travel junkie, when Nina’s not exploring other cultures, she can be found crocheting or knitting handmade crafts for friends and family.

  • Ken comes to us directly from the area known as Bridgeport, Connecticut, and is responsible for both supporting our locations, and also bridging the gap between the Lab and the Field. Starting as a server, his heart has always been in making connections and building relationships; he’s a people-person, peeps! And if you’re really nice, he’ll whip you up one of his world-famous stuffed bell peppers. And speaking of nice, did you know Ken is also a guardian angel, who once saved a kid from drowning at summer camp? Go Ken!
  • Clearly the most famous person from Shreveport, LA (sorry Jared Leto), Colin has been charged with supporting guest engagement with Postino's favorite winos. Formerly in hotel marketing, he says the soundtrack of his life is “Schoolin’ Life” by Beyonce, and in the kitchen he can whip up a tasty … cup of coffee. Also a craft beer fan, Colin enjoys hanging out with his partner and their pups, and true to his Southern roots, he has two middle names: Louis Vest.
  • Phoenix born and raised (just like Upward), Halley drives development for all Team Members, from facilitating training workshops, to opening new stores, and always transferring of her Upwardian passion to some truly wonderful individuals. Originally studying engineering, she fell deeply in love with the hospitality biz, and the joy of helping others grow and engineer their own success. A big fan of reading, CrossFit, family card nights and kayaking, don’t tell Halley’s mom, but she also used to own a motorcycle.
  • Born in Toronto to a proudly Italian family, Carlos was raised in Argentina and then made his mark working in the hospitality industry in Las Vegas. Starting at a young age helping out at his parents’ deli, Carlos is obsessed with quality control and taking Upward Projects to the next level—and also makes a one heck of a Tartufo pizza. A big fan of anything outdoors, he also keeps his eye on the prize by practicing his target shooting.
  • A hockey mom from Brighton, MI, Marissa started working in restaurants during college and then quickly fell in love with group sales, working directly with customers to create unforgettable events. Now tasked with growing Upwards’ catering and off-premise business, she’s excited to bring that fun, fresh Upward vibe right into people’s homes. Outside of work, Marissa, who’s married to her high school sweetheart, can be found rink-side, watching her daughter’s or son’s hockey games, practices and tournaments, or at an Arizona Coyotes game.
  • Ever since he was a youngster growing up in Utah, Cory has had an affection for food. Starting with his first job tossing pizzas, which led him to culinary school, and now as Senior Manager of Procurement, Cory is constantly focused on maintaining quality and facilitating company growth. When he isn’t on the clock, you can either catch Cory on the golf course, or at home watching movies. But the next time you see Cory, ask to hear his Kermit the Frog impression, it will not disappoint!

  • Ground Control to Major Kayla. Meet our maestro of Communications (and Queen of the UPside), Kayla who’s always had a passion for helping people create a love for learning, dating back to her days as an elementary school teacher. But after going back to school herself to earn a Master’s in Learning Sciences from Arizona State University, while also working part-time as a server at Postino, she realized her skills were perfect for empowering the Upward family. Also a huge music fan, 90s R&B is her jam, so much so that she’s not embarrassed to admit that the Baja Men were her first concert. Google it, youngins!

  • Growing up in Gilbert, AZ, Aleisha started working at her parents’ McDonald's franchise at the tender age of 15 before earning a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management at Northern Arizona University. And despite her background in operations, Aleisha discovered her passion for training and development, saying that helping people grow through hourly and manager level training programs is her jam! An unapologetic Bieber fan and former clarinet player in her high school marching band, today she loves hiking and camping with her husband, baby boy and dogs.
  • When he’s not processing payroll, Matt likes to keep the Upward office in stitches with his proudly punny Dad jokes. (Here’s one: What do you call a Honeymooner’s Salad? Lettuce Alone.) Born and raised in Phoenix, Matt’s also a maestro of avocado toast and loves reading fantasy novels and playing tabletop RPGs.
  • A native Phoenician, Tina is your basic hockey goalie and Disney superfan with a degree in dance, who also does academic research on the LGBTQ+ community, and has given a TEDx talk. Starting as a server, she’s now our Lead Moment Maker, ensuring that both our guest’s and team members feel appreciated and celebrated. A maestro of pasta, she says her hero is Han Solo and her jam is a mixture of “Boss Babe Energy Radio” and “Disney Movie Soundtrack Radio.”
  • Brittany left the Bay Area in California to become a Wildcat at the University of Arizona. After graduating, Brittany traded her red and blue Wildcat gear for a professional pantsuit, and went to work for the Arizona Coyotes NHL team. After gaining experience there, Brittany joined the Upward Projects team to lead our marketing department where she is the master at content creating, event management, and everything in between. In her leisure time, Brittany is hiking with her sons and husband, or catching up on all her favorite TV shows.
  • Hailing from sunny Sarasota, FL, Brian started his career in restaurant management, but quickly became known as the go-to guy for fixing the in-house computers. Now a full-on tech wiz, he’s charged with defining and strategizing technology innovation and adoption at Upward Projects. Which is perfect for this ever-curious adventure seeker, who’s lived in eight different states and loves nothing more than planning his next road trip alongside his vintage Airstream trailer.
  • Tap dancing all the way from Cuyahoga Falls, OH, Kristin might not compete in dance competitions like she used to, but she still keeps the finances in perfect sync here at Upward.  Besides recording Fintech payments and overseeing anything/everything relating to inventory and Radar, Kristin also runs a personal development blog and book club, as well as attends trivia twice a week. No wonder why she’s got an entire wall-shelving unit brimming with board and card games.
  • Our graphics magician from Elk River, MN, you don’t ever have to ask Sam how she’s feeling, because “I’m a Libra, and my outfit reflects my mood 100% of the time.” Beyond fashion, Sam helps put together fun and vibrant campaigns, designs RAD wine labels, creates mood boards, updates menus and more. Hooked on graphic design since she randomly took a class in high school, Sam also cooks up homemade Vegan Curry (“my Grandma's original recipe minus the meat!”) and loves pool time with friends, fam, her partner and their dog baby, Vinny.  
  • To quote Barb & Star, “a woman named Trish is a woman you can count on.” Coming straight outta Azle, TX, Trish is who we depend on to create programs and materials that empower our teams to develop the confidence and competency to drive their career growth. Plus, this married mom to three dogs has been known to bust out some rad dance moves when trainees need a pick-me-up.
  • Our newest superstar, Rebecca came to Upward from the bright lights of Las Vegas, NV, bringing along her high wattage energy to help us scale new store opening processes as we continue to grow. Which also explains why Rebecca says the soundtrack of her life is “Let’s Get Loud” by J. Lo, and she spends her spare time rooting (loudly) for the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights.
  • Before transitioning into project management, Sarah had 12 years of experience working in Operations and Training. After joining Upward Projects, she quickly realized she had a knack for driving large-scale business initiatives through reinforcing collaboration, transparency, and accountability. Her personal mission is to offer support and inspiration to others through leadership and subject matter expertise. When she's not at the Lab, you can find her searching for the best foods to eat, champagne poppin', and baking.
  • A former professional paintball player, Jared is nor your average sommelier. Which makes him the perfect person to lead up all things beverage at Upward, from assisting with program creation, implementation and supply chain management, to vendor relations and team education and support. A Phoenix native and proud dad to two daughters, Jared also loves snowboarding and taco Tuesdays, all day every day.
  • Born in Phoenix, Oscar is our favorite Facility Services Tech/Martian. No seriously, he says Mars is his homeland, and who are we to say otherwise. Besides power washing and ensuring each and every Upward location is always so fresh and so clean, clean, Oscar is our Mr. Fixit on call 24/7. Which explains why he’s off the clock, his favorite hobby is “not working.”
  • The CEO and Co-Founder of Upward Projects, Lauren Bailey always knew that one day she would rock the restaurant industry. With a degree in Business and Fine Arts from Arizona State University in one hand, and lifelong passion for hospitality in the other, Lauren set out to do just that. A creative powerhouse and master strategist, Lauren focuses on strategy, conceptualization and development for 18 restaurants and five brands spanning three states. In her free time, she can be found hunting for treasures in vintage shops, chasing her son, Blake, around, cooking meals with friends, or traveling the world.
  • A transplant from Tacoma, WA, Heather is not only charged with ensuring our leaders and team members have a path to greatness within Upward Projects—she’s lived it in her own career. Starting as an hourly employee, she worked her way up to management, and now supporting Upward’s Operations teams from an above-store level with an emphasis on training and leadership development. A lover of cool drinks, country music and sunshine, Heather also willingly jumped out of an airplane and survived to tell the tale.
  • Brent is our Beverage Director at Upward and lucky for us, he’s an Advanced Sommelier who knows all kinds of fun facts about wine. He honed his passion for wines while working summers in California’s wine country before moving to Phoenix in the last 1990s.  After making his mark overseeing the beverage program at a number of restaurants around the Valley, Brent now uses his worldwide network of wineries and distilleries to keep Upward’s beverage programs fresh and on the cutting edge. Outside of the beverage world, Brent is a biker, hiker, vinyl collector and at-home chef.
  • A Washington, DC native, Brent learned his passion for real estate from his father (and a Masters in Real Estate Development from Johns Hopkins University), then earned his stripes working at The Peterson Companies and Simon Property Group and helping to grow brands like Chipotle and Cava into national powerhouses. Brent is responsible for the full lifecycle of our portfolio from the development of the national growth strategy , site acquisition and development, through asset management. Brent is bringing our mission statement of Making People Feel Good to the world, one perfectly-picked and awesomely restored location at a time.
  • Pride of the Old Pueblo (aka Tucson, AZ), Dro does more than managing workplace injuries, benefits administration, policy & procedures and all things People & Culture. He’s also the king of the air fryer and blends up a tasty protein shake, not to mention is “obsessed” with Reddi-Wip. Formerly a social worker, when Dro’s not focused on HR, you can find him out thrifting, or people watching (while making up hilarious dialogue with his friends).
  • A native of El Salvador now living in Texas, Cesar makes sure Upwards’ culinarians are the best in the biz, from expert training to consistently honing recipes. A former college football player, he inherited his love of cooking from his mother, and once wore a dress, but that’s a whole ’nother story. When he’s not in the kitchen whipping up killer tacos and soups, Cesar still scratches his itch for sports, from cornhole to spending a day out on the water.
  • Making his hometown of Chandler, AZ proud, Aaron helps design and project manage all new Postino restaurants, from digging through dusty old historic photos, to tracking down all the cool and kick-ass lighting fixtures, found goods, decor and furniture. A huge fan of music and live shows, Aaron can also whip up homemade tagliatelle pasta with from scratch vodka sauce. But he’s most proud of his own personal history as a former ball boy for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.
  • Sandra is a Senior Restaurant Accountant whose role is much larger than just crunching numbers. When she’s not analyzing data or carving out cost-savings, she’s busy planning parties and organizing group outings to new lunch spots for the team. Once the spreadsheets are tabulated, Sandra is out having fun with her three kiddos, enjoying happy hour, or out on the soccer field.
  • Jason is a Nebraskan native who traded corn for cacti when he moved to Phoenix. With 15 years of industry knowledge, as Director of Recruiting here at Upward, he handles all things staffing and hiring, a huge role in keeping our company culture alive and well. After he’s done surfing through applications, interviews, and LinkedIn profiles, he can be found using his “perfected” algorithm to predict the next winning lottery number.
  • Phillip Bock, better known as “PBock,” is our Executive Assistant who dazzles everyone he meets with his wit, sass, and unreal multitasking. You can always count on him for organized notes, coordinating meetings, crafting a perfectly worded email, or providing much needed coffee runs. Ever since he came to Upward Projects there has been more sparkle and magic in our world. Aside from his love of glitter, Phillip also has a love for travel, literature, and live theatre.
  • Amy is our Financial Controller who is a math wiz by day, and yogi by night. She oversees all the accounting activities happening at Upward Projects and is as adept at balancing a budget and she is balancing an Eagle Pose. With a background in finance for the past 8 years, Amy’s knowledge and skills have proven invaluable to this fast-growing team. Once the work day is done, she loves spending time with her 4 tiny dogs, going for a run, participating in book club and of course, trying out new yoga techniques.
  • Busy overseeing all the operational functions of Upward Projects, Alex is our Chief Operating Officer who is responsible for making sure all the operations on a day-to-day basis run as smooth as clockwork. And like any good COO, he’s always finding ways to improve what we do and how we do it. Professional yet playful, Alex will be killing it on the job one minute, then starting up a ping pong match with you the next. Out of the office, he can be spotted shredding the slopes or hanging with his family.
  • Craig is our Co-Founder who brings the funky spirit to Upward Projects everyday. Growing up he was surrounded by punk skate culture and the Beastie Boys was the soundtrack of his life. After combining these passions with his restaurant and travel experience to create a chill neighborhood wine bar, today Craig continues to bring that same rebel spirit by asking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if..?” which keeps the company true to its roots.  In his free time, Craig and his wife, Kris, and their two boys love surfing the CA waves or hiking the mountains closer home.
  • Sam is a Montana native who was practically born with hospitality in his blood. With 15+ years of industry experience and a stack of certifications, he is a cornerstone to our operation. Overseeing our Human Resources, Learning & Development and Recruiting departments, Sam is our fountain of wisdom when it comes to all things company culture related. A man of many skills, Sam also has hidden talents that keep us on our toes, such as speaking German and moonwalking.

  • Ever notice that your favorite Postino patio is lit to perfection? Or how sparkly clean our parking lots look? Thank our go-to Handyman, Jason! Jason started working at Upward Projects seven years ago as a dishwasher and today, he uses his mechanical skills and handiwork as our R&M Technician. His job is to ensure that every restaurant looks fresh and squeaky clean. In addition to being responsible for maintaining all the little details that make our spaces look fab on a daily basis, he’s also responsible for so many of the laughs we have at Upward Projects.
  • With 6 years at Postino, Shannan Wallace is our Catering Assistant who knows the menu like the back of her hand. She is often the first contact to assist our guests, as she helps organize and execute events ranging from small baby showers to large off-site weddings. In addition to her expert event and multitasking talents, she’s also a natural in the kitchen, where she’s busy whipping up new recipes over a glass of wine.
  • Jenny is our seasoned and beloved Beverage Educator. With more than 10 years of experience with Upward Projects, she’s our go-to gal for all things vino and ale. In addition to her charm and hospitality, Jenny is an exceptional teacher and shares her beverage knowledge with Upward’s next wave of wine and beer aficionados. When Jenny is not teaching about wine, she’s on the hunt to find the best Pinot Noir this side of the Mississippi to add to her personal collection.

Careers

WANT TO JOIN THE CREW?

We’re always on the lookout for awesome, authentic people to add to our family!