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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!
Have a Voice
Power To The People
We encourage you to give your feedback. Ideas and innovation are what catapult us forward!
Humility is the foundation of curiosity, and curiosity fuels the drive to discover. There is often a better way, so we’re always on the hunt.
THE DETAILS Matter
Every detail has intention – from the ingredients, hospitality, to the art and music. The details are the difference between good and great.
Open & Honest
Keeping it Real
Be your authentic self – it helps build an environment of trust, open communication and diversity.
Come One, Come All
We’re stronger together. We take pride in the pursuit to be the best, but we can only do that as a collaborative team.
Director of CulinaryFrom King of the Prom to King of the Kitchen, Eric reigns excellence wherever he goes. After graduating from Arizona Culinary Institute (we’re sure that if they had a Prom, he would have won there too), Eric cut his teeth at a myriad of restaurants across The Valley before earning his stripes to become Executive Chef. His daily to-do’s include testing: the toastiness of bread, viscosity of salsa, and ratio of fig to cheese. So he’s the head honcho in charge of innovating, menu testing and paying close attention to all the glorious details.
Area ManagerAn Upward Projects vet of seven years, AJ brings an electric energy to the room as soon as she walks in. During her time as a General Manager, AJ was a Mr. Miyagi (of sorts) for anyone that came in contact with her - offering encouragement, words of wisdom and technique on how to avoid a roundhouse kick. In her new role as an Area Manager, she’s able to offer her expertise and advice to our Postino leaders and employees. In a past life, AJ used to play collegiate soccer and brings that same fire and passion to Team Upward daily!
Chief Financial OfficerWhat’s in a name? Cashman was practically destined to become a financial managing powerhouse and has spent the better part of 20 years doing just that. As our CFO, she keeps a sharp eye on our expenses, cash flow, and budgets. Before we can make it rain dolla bills, Kristina has to construct a plan on how we get there. She has a history of rising to the top whether it’s in her professional career or sports, where she captained her volleyball team at The University of Texas to back-to-back NCAA Final Four appearances. Baller.
Director of BeverageBetter known as BK, he is far too humble to tell you about the romantic life he leads, so we’ll give you the highlights: 1) He’s an Advanced Sommelier, which means he can tell what kind of soil a grape was grown in. Crazy, right? 2) BK has created relationships with a worldwide network of wineries and distilleries, which he uses to keep all our beverage programs fresh and innovative. 3) He dabbles in cycling, hiking, wine, cooking, wine, collecting killer vinyl, and wine. Most Interesting Man in the Company? Indeed.
Director of TrainingHailing from Dallas, Texas, Sarah made her way through the ranks of the industry and now oversees all of our employee training. They say: “Those who can’t do, teach” and to them we say, “You have not met Sarah Pak.” Sarah’s ability to coordinate the training and education of our chefs, managers, and servers is a key ingredient to our secret sauce. She’s a self-proclaimed foodaholic who specializes in bacon tasting and enjoys busting a move or two on the dance floor.
Co-Founder + CEOLauren knew that one day she would rock the restaurant industry. With a degree in Business and Fine Arts and a pocket full of summer earnings, Lauren set out to do just that. A creative powerhouse and master strategist, Lauren balances the act of looking at the big picture without forgetting the important details. In her free time, she can be found wrangling her 4-year-old son (the “man-imal”) Blake, getting lost in vintage shops, making her costume ideas come to life, and traveling the world. Next stop: The Moon!
Financial ControllerAmy can balance a budget faster than you can ask “Where’s my calculator?” Aside from keeping us all from spending money like drunken sailors, Amy oversees all things finance and numbers-related. With her skill with spreadsheets and calculations, we’ve all surmised that she's a mathematical wizard. If you think balancing a budget is impressive, you should see this former high school mathlete balance in a handstand. On a cliff. And by cliff, we mean on the back of a Great White Shark. Let’s just say she digs yoga.
Co-FounderGrowing up on a healthy dose of skate culture and Beastie Boys, Craig Demarco combined these passions with his restaurant and travel experience to create a chill neighborhood wine bar. Who says wine and punk can’t mix? Today he continues to bring that same rebel spirit by asking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if..?” which almost always results in something badass. Craig aims to keep the company true to its roots and leads by example. In his free time, he’s with his wife, Kris, and their two boys - surfing the CA waves or hiking near their home.
Director of Human ResourcesAs a native Texan, Sam 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. Sam oversees our Human Resources and is an ever-growing tree of knowledge, blossoming fruits of wisdom in the garden of company culture - basically, he knows his s*@#. In addition, he possesses a Mary Poppins bag full of hidden talents, such as moonwalking, speaking German, doing an impressive number of pull-ups, and probably dozens more he has yet to unveil.
Director of OperationsNicknamed “The Honey Badger” for his tenacity, Eric came to us with smarts from industry mavericks such as The Four Seasons and Le Cordon Bleu. Wanting more in life, Eric took a chance when he joined us, leaving the luxurious life of corporate companies to work for the little guy and make an impact. Eric didn’t climb the ladder here - he built it. He oversees the operations of the whole damn show. In his free time, he’s rooting for the Dallas Cowboys (try not to judge) or jamming to gangsta rap with a fidget spinner in hand.
Director of MarketingBrittany left the Bay Area to become a Wildcat at the University of Arizona. After graduating, Brittany set down the Solo cup and put on a pantsuit to work for the Arizona Coyotes (the NHL hockey team - not a pack of wild animals). Once she realized that working in a giant freezer wasn’t her thing, Brittany joined Upward Projects to lead our marketing department. She’s a master content creator, event maker, and nacho eater. In her leisure time, Brittany is hiking with her son and husband or secretly catching up on The Bachelor.
Director of DevelopmentStarting with us as a bartender back in ‘04, Tory has climbed (and mastered) the ranks, earning him the unofficial title of "Swiss Army Knife." Balancing the planning and building of new sites while managing the upkeep of our stores is no easy feat. As a formidable multi-tasker, he can sign off on construction permits with his right hand while simultaneously pulling a prank with his left. With a steady fuel of Dr Pepper and terrible Dad jokes, Tory brings an energy to the lab that we are all the better for.
Human Resources AdministratorDeemed the “Silent Assassin” for her expert research skills, resourcefulness, and impeccable ability to solve problems, Elise assists the HR needs of our 600+ employees. Whether it be Payroll or system implementation, she’s here to help. In her free time, she’s cooking legumes, riding bikes, or watching baseball while cuddling with her pets. Fun fact: Our resident kiwi grew up in New Zealand, so she’s a Lord of the Rings expert, obvi. (Go ahead, ask her! She’ll respond with a huge smile and a cool accent.)
Training ManagerJax (A.K.A. Jaxoncé) started with us at Postino, worked her way up, and now supports and executes our employee training programs. Jax takes all our new hires on a magic carpet ride to show them the world that is Upward Projects. She’s what we like to call a “Culture Warrior,” as she promotes the Upward mission with her positive energy and encouraging attitude. In her down time, she’s grooving to Beyoncé - hair whipping and all.
Director of RecruitingJason is a Nebraska native who decided tacos are far superior to corn; as a result, he found himself in Arizona, where there are tacos aplenty. His 15 years of industry knowledge help him hold down the fort for all things recruiting and hiring. As such, he can get details about candidates even the NSA can’t acquire. When Jason is done creeping through your LinkedIn profile, he can be found perfecting his personal grooming techniques. Or using his “perfected” algorithm to predict the next winning lottery numbers.
Hospitality CoordinatorThis AZ Native has been with Upward Projects for over 4 years now and earned her stripes at Joyride and Postino, before bringing her hospitality swagger to the Lab. Her smiling face is the first you’ll encounter when you walk in. Consider Breezie the heart of the office as she keeps the consistent flow of the office phone calls, emails, and questions making their way to the right folks. At home, she and her husband are building a small zoo consisting of three cats, one dog, a ball python, a Russian tortoise and a bearded dragon.
IT ManagerTo be honest, we really didn’t know how badly we needed an IT guy, until Ted showed up on the scene. Ted is a one-man show when it comes to Information Technology - fixing all of our tech problems, boosting the office WiFi (we like our cat videos in HD), and setting up systems that help us run at least 5,000 times as efficiently as before. In his free time, Ted is most likely creating a virtual reality so realistic none of us know if we are living in it or not…or at least we think that’s what he is up to.
Staff AccountantA few things to know about the lovely Katy: 1) Has a serious side-hustle glamming up brides on their big day; 2) In another life, rocked out in a rockabilly band; 3) The complex financial reports that intimidate most are something Katy can conjure up, and make it look super cinchy; 4) Is Super-Mom to her two sons. Those are just a few things about Katy, so if you don’t know, now you know.
Staff AccountantThe 3-screen-machine, better known as Kevin, is one of our accounting pros keeping our books in tip-top shape. Kevin sifts through mountains of data and finds meaningful information to help support our operations team, ultimately making our guest experiences better. So next time you leave Postino feeling satisfied you can thank Kevin from accounting. When he shuts down his calculation-station he can be found on the back nine practicing his swing and reading the green.
Catering Sales ManagerRooting from the UK, Natalie brings a double-decker bus worth of hospitality knowledge to Upward Projects. Her experience from time abroad as well as Upward (she’s worked at Windsor, Joyride, and Postino respectively) makes her the perfect fit for managing our catering and group dining programs. She kicks serious ass - not only at her job, but in the boxing ring! Her “downtime” includes kickboxing, cycling, hiking, and yoga. Side note: she’s currently completing her yoga certification. UP office yoga break, anyone?
Catering AssistantA 6-year Postino veteran, Shannon knows the menu better than most! She’s often the first contact to assist our guests, helping to organize and execute events ranging from small baby showers to large off-site weddings. Aside from expert patience and multitasking, she has some special talents up her sleeve, including cooking, being able to write with her toes, and watermelon carving (she carved the Taj Majal once - not with her toes, though.) At home, she’s whipping up new recipes over a glass of wine.
Project ManagerAs a serious taskmaster for new store builds and remodel projects, we would vote Ashley “most likely to host her own HGTV show." Armed with a Master's Degree in Historic Preservation, she combines her experience in various materials with her unmatched eye for detail to keep our stores looking and functioning in tip-top shape. (This includes keeping our office plants thriving, as she’s the only green thumb!) At home, she’s watching movies or camping up north with her husband and their dog-children Reptar and Indie.
Senior Graphic DesignerA year after leading the design for the Federal Pizza brand, Marisa was asked to join the UP crew at the Lab. Along with keeping the visual identity of all our concepts looking fresh-to-death, Marisa uses her eye for design and knack for details to bring ideas to fruition. This heavy-metal-loving cat-mom has a passion for design that doesn’t quit. When she’s not hunting for the perfect typeface, she’s hunting for the next DIY project: thrifting for vintage items, sewing waxed canvas bags, or making house upgrades with her hubby.
Graphic DesignerAfter earning his Graphic Design degree at NAU, Adam headed south to the scorching deserts of Phoenix to sweat it out on his daily bike commute. Adam brings some mad skillz to the table, and you’ll find him tightening up our branding, creating rad enamel pins, or teaching himself how to create slick motion graphics. Don’t let his sarcastic façade fool you. Much like the Grinch, his heart grows three times in size when he’s spending time with his wife (who he is convinced is way out of his league), or baking us cookies.
Social Media CoordinatorBailey worked at Postino while simultaneously getting her Business degree and rocking the Marketing Internship. Now at the Lab, her main jam is creating fresh content for our six social media accounts. She also helps to create experiences - from throwing the best company holiday parties we’ve ever seen, to fulfilling her role as Lab Disco Ball Queen for a quick #2pmDanceParty with her crew. In her downtime, she’s thrifting at Buffalo (they should really sponsor her wardrobe), or hangin’ with her pup side-kick, Tucker.
Beverage EducatorJenny is a national treasure and seasoned Upward team member. She has more than 10 years of blood, sweat, and beers dedicated to this company. In addition to being Yelp-famous for her unmatched hospitality career at Postino, Jenny drops mad beverage knowledge on Upwards’ next wave of wine and beer aficionados. When Jenny is not teaching about wine, you can bet she’s on the hunt to find the best new Pinot Noir this side of the Mississippi to add to her personal collection.
Beverage AssistantMaking his glorious debut serving at Federal Pizza, Tom (a Level 2 Sommelier) supports our beverage team. He’s basically our personal Ryan Seacrest, not just because of his dashingly good looks, but because he’s responsible for introducing new drinks to our store’s beverage programs. Plucking drinks from obscurity and putting them in the limelight. After Tom woos you with his wine knowledge and hospitality, he’ll blow your mind on the dance floor while he casually falls into the splits.
Executive AssistantThis Canadian dreamboat, better known as “PBock” will dazzle you with his wit, sass and unreal multitasking. Phillip’s uncanny ability to organize notes, coordinate meetings, and craft a perfectly worded email (all while in line at Starbucks) has been known to cause some envy. Since entering the office ecosystem, let’s just say things have been more sparkly. Beyond his love of travel, literature, and live theatre, he has a disturbing love for glitter-bombing those who least expect it.