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)

  • A native Phoenician, Daniel started at Upward slinging drinks at Windsor before transitioning into a full-time IT gig. Now charged with Systems Administration, POS Management, Radar Data Mappings and more, he says “Old Man” by Neil Young is the soundtrack to his life. Which seems strange considering Daniel is still in school studying Economics at Arizona State University, until you hear that his favorite hobbies are golf and gardening.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • When she’s not baking up her world-famous chocolate chip cookies, Janice is our resident people person, handling all matters related to HR, team building, employee relations and more. A native of Spring Hill, FL, she started in corporate communications before falling in love with empowering people to seize the day and make the most of their careers through thoughtful programs and resources. A music lover and self-proclaimed champion of the gif game, Janice says the soundtrack of her life is “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • With a Master’s degree in Real Estate Development from Arizona State University, Trevor is our go-to smarty-pants for all things related to development and facilities, LOI and lease negotiation, and coordinating different aspects of the development process. Plus, this Phoenix native is also a big-time bicyclist and an avid amateur painter. And when he’s not camping, you can find him at a music festival, or simply just hanging out, wine in hand.
  • 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.
  • 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.  
  • Born in Vegas, baby, VEGAS! Lindsey started her recruiting career at age 19 and never looked back. Now, in between scoping out the best hospitality talent West and East of the Mississippi and working on Upward’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, she can be found in the kitchen whipping up her famous homemade soups. Just don’t ask her about her favorite conspiracy theory, unless you’re ready to talk UFOs, Reptilians and Illuminati.
  • 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.”
  • 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 first-generation college graduate from Columbus, OH (go Buckeyes), Christian is a wizard with financial modeling, KPIs, budgeting and reporting. And did we mention he once hugged Britany Spears, just don’t tell his wife (Emily) and dog (Bodhi). Besides, how many finance fanatics can say that, “before finance, there was boxing, before boxing, there were more teeth.”
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • A New Zealand native, Elise is our Payroll Manager who tackles the HR needs of our 1000+ employees. Her research skills, resourcefulness, and impeccable ability to problem solve are just a few of her talents. In her free time, she loves cooking, riding bikes, and watching baseball while cuddling with her pets.
  • Born and raised in Gilbert, Arizona, Katy is our Staff Accountant who has been with the company for four years. A former rockabilly musician, Katy now makes beautiful music with even the most complex, confounding financial reports. Outside of work, she is a super-mom to her two sons and you can find her tearing it up on the dance floor, or glamming up brides on their big day with her side-hustle.
  • 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.
  • With experience in the hospitality industry since he was 15, Steve is a master motivator and Area Director who raised the standard for everyone at Upward Projects. As Area Director, Steve uses his vast well of experience, enthusiasm and mentorship qualities to train and motivate our store leaders. When he’s not crushing it on the job, you can find Steve crushing it on the driving range.
  • While getting her Business degree, Bailey was busy rocking the Upward Projects Marketing Internship and also working at Postino. Now at the Lab, she creates fresh content for our six social media accounts. She also helps to create amazing experiences, from the best company holiday parties we’ve ever seen, to the casual 2pm dance parties with her work crew to break up the day. In her downtime, she’s out thrifting, or making handmade pasta.
  • 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.
  • A 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 our concepts looking fresh, Marisa uses her eye for design and knack for details to bring ideas to fruition. When she’s not hunting for the perfect typeface, she’s jamming to heavy metal or hunting for her next DIY project: thrifting vintage items, sewing waxed canvas bags, or making house upgrades with her hubby and her cat.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Melanie is a California native who traded sandy beaches for sandy deserts when she moved to Arizona to work with us. As the Front Desk Receptionist, her smiling face is the first thing you’ll encounter when you walk into The Lab. With her 20 years of experience in the industry and warm personality, we consider Melanie the conductor of the office, coordinating the consistent flow of the phone, calls, emails, and questions. She lives by the daily mantra, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
  • 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.

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