Issue 5: Black + White
January 09, 2020
From the pages of Issue 5: Black + White
By Andrew Pridgen | @andrew_pridgen
On an unseasonably warm fall afternoon in 2017, 29-year-old tech entrepreneur Josie Coleman was wrapping up a three-hour-long mountain bike ride on the Sawtooth Ridge overlooking the town of Truckee. When she and her companions noticed an open-house sign near the trailhead, they couldn’t resist but to pedal further up the road to check it out.
There, amid a dense patch of sugar pine, white fir, and quaking aspen, stood a boxy mid-century cabin painted a faded forest green. A black wood-stove pipe spit out an alluring trail of smoke among the natural fauna and she knew at that instant, she had to have it.
And what better timing? Coleman’s Emeryville-based startup ShowEm is a design app that enables users to reimagine their spaces, not just with different colors, wallpaper, or flooring, but as what it really would look like to blow out the kitchen counter space, create a spare bedroom, and would that giant center island really fit? “Often times, people want these dramatic renovations that look so easy on TV,” Coleman said, “but then they get into it and it doesn’t work out. I’m into keeping the integrity of the space and letting the interiors breathe.”
Taking a small portion out of her monthly stipend from her trust (in 1956, Coleman’s great-grandfather invented the recipe for Raid for SC Johnson & Son and gave the patent to the company in exchange for an undisclosed sum and an undisclosed amount of stock), she was able to pay cash for the property that afternoon. And the renovation was to begin.
“I really wanted a place where I could use a Beta of my app and see how I could bring to new life a place I know has given families joy for decades,” she said, “...and will hopefully give mine joy for decades to come.”
When Jayce and Jessica LeVar met in Hawaii four years ago, it took a force of nature to bring them together. “I was on the hotel lanai, at the Four Seasons Lanai, when this sudden, terrible storm broke,” Jessica said. “I was there on a bachelorette with a bunch of college girlfriends. We ran into the main bar and, I wouldn’t say I caught the eye of Jayce, as much as I caught my foot on his.”
The pair tumbled to the polished teak flooring and erupted in laughter as the tropical rains began to fall. “I guess you could say we—literally—fell in love that day,” Jayce said.
Only one minor problem, Jayce was there on his honeymoon with his own college sweetheart.
“When we checked out, I left my phone number at the front desk concierge with a fifty if he would give it to her,” he said. “Fast forward a couple months, I was back in Chicago in a marriage that was already falling apart, and she was in Southern California living the dream. We started texting and...”
Jayce was an account manager for a small liquor distribution company his uncle owned and they were expanding into Orange County about the same time his divorce was finalized. “I remember sending her the text I was moving,” Jayce said. “I didn’t hear back for two days and thought, well, my luck has finally run out."
Quite the contrary. Jessica had looked Jayce up online and knew about his family’s company. At the same time, she was a VP at her family’s much larger wine and spirits distribution company. They were looking to expand into the Midwest, and a plan was being hatched to acquire Jayce’s family’s company.
“He had no idea this was going on, but it turns out, the merger went through without a hitch, and then we got hitched,” Jessica said.
Three years to the weekend of their first run-in, the couple was married on the same property in Lanai, with the same cast of characters in attendance, minus Jayce’s first wife. A big tropical storm even showed up for them at the reception, forcing the dancing and revelry to continue indoors
“I guess sometimes, you just get lucky,” Jessica said, “And sometimes, lightning does strike twice.”
Dating during school was never a priority for Phoebe Weil. The 27-year-old has always been business first. As one of the youngest CFOs of a Fortune 100 company in history, Weil grew up wanting to inject sense into the dollars side of her family’s immense property holdings company.
With large-scale residential projects simultaneously going in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Utah, and Vancouver, Canada, she hasn’t slowed down a bit since taking her post straight out of school. “We build condominiums in cities in the West that used to play second-fiddle to the big metros,” she said. “Now that people have been priced out of the LAs, the SFs, and the Seattles—they look at some of the smaller cities and find out, there’s much more happening.”
Clad in a Patagonia fleece vest and a pair of flat-front khakis and ruby red Danskos, Weil, who has homes in Boulder, Bend, and Bozeman (“I call them the killer Bs”) received her MBA last spring from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business with an emphasis on property management. “In school a lot of people thought, ‘oh, you want to own a little building and collect rent—that’s cute,’” she said, “And it’s like, then I show them the two billion dollar project we have going in Boise and they say, ‘What’s that?’ And I say, ‘That’s just one of my babies’.”
Babies seem to be on the brain for Weil, and for good reason. She and her partner, Samantha Stoll recently found out they are expecting. The pair met at Weil’s first week at work. Stoll was her administrative assistant. “I know it sounds strange, but I had a crush on her the moment I walked in the door. But, you know, I’d watched enough Mad Men to know not to be too harrassy."
So, how did Weil figure it out? “I went with what I learned my first week at Duke, go with your strength, and let the rest take care of itself.”
Weil immediately booked a five-city trip for the pair. The days were filled with meetings and site visits. “But the second or third night we were up all night talking,” Weil said. “By the end of the trip, we were, well—let’s just say we became close.”
With the help of a sperm donor relative of Stoll’s and one of Weil’s eggs, Stoll just recently started her third trimester with their baby boy. When asked where they’re going to raise him, Weil flashes a brief smile. “He’ll travel with us and be in on every project,” she said. “After all, it’s in his blood.”