insight studio conversation with Hourglass ProjectConversation with Hourglass Project

On May 2, 2019,  SLO Chamber President/CEO Jim Dantona sat down with the Hourglass Project team; President/CEO, Melissa James and VP of Strategy, Andrew Hackleman. The conversation provided a deeper understanding of what the newly formed coalition is, who the people are behind it, why it is structured the way that it is and how the community can and should get involved. Attendees listened and asked questions while drinking complimentary Malene rosé at the ACI Jet Headquarters in San Luis Obispo.

Thank you to our 2019 Insight Studio lead sponsor, Mindbody and supporting sponsors, City of San Luis ObispoCuesta College and Express Employment Professionals.

View photos from the event, here.

An Intro to the Hourglass Project

Hourglass Project CEO Melissa James provides an overview of what the Hourglass Project is and how it ties together regional efforts via collective advocacy efforts.

Connecting Diverse Perspectives

Hourglass CEO Melissa James and VP of Strategy Andrew Hackleman share how connecting diverse perspectives is a day to day challenge.

How the Trip to Denver Sparked a Regional Mindset

In August 2017, the SLO Chamber led a group of over 30 business leaders and elected officials to Denver and Boulder, Colorado with the intent to learn more about community visioning and idea of regionalism. Rather than the individual discussions that took place, Hourglass CEO Melissa James believed the true magic of the trip was in the relationships that were fostered because of it.

Community Involvement with Hourglass

The next step for the Hourglass Project is to put together a shared vision and goal for jobs in the region. CEO Melissa James emphasizes that this strategic process requires Hourglass to be engaged with the community and be a listening ear to all ideas brought forward.

A Silver Lining to Diablo's Closure

Diablo’s closure brought a regional conversation concerning the systemic economic challenges facing the region, such as the lack of head of household jobs, a saturation of low productivity and low wage jobs, impact of automation in the horizon, and many more. Every cloud has a silver lining, and Hourglass CEO Melissa James shares her silver lining.

Hourglass Project, Imagine SLO and the EVC

The Hourglass Project, Imagine SLO, and the EVC all share the same goal of serving the community and beyond. On a tactical level, however, these organization differ in their economic vision and strategies.

Regional Economic Development Opportunities

The Hourglass Project’s main goal is not to create new jobs, but rather to create an environment where new jobs can continue to stimulate the economy in the near and far future.

A History of Agriculture

From dairy to vineyards, the local agriculture industry has been an integral part of San Luis Obispo and the surrounding region’s economy since the beginning. Hourglass CEO Melissa James and VP of Strategy Andrew Hackleman discuss why and how the industry will continue to be instrumental moving forward during the closure of Diablo Canyon.

The Future of Work

insight studio future of workNearly 200 attendees enjoyed an insightful dialogue with two guest speakers on the future of work in the era of artificial intelligence on Nov. 16, 2018. Harlan Findley of Google and Dan Weeks, a local entrepreneur working with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship & SLO Partners, spoke on how they best see organizations and people adapting in the era of AI and machine learning. Jennifer Porcher of Leonard Group moderated a discussion that touched on how companies can reinvest their financial resources as certain jobs are automated and how organizations need to pivot to training employees on soft skills that machines cannot replace. Weeks spoke more directly to the local economy and his efforts in creating more head-of-household jobs for the large local workforce, while Harlan begged us not to forget about interpersonal skills and empathetic connection even if you must be oceans away and through a computer screen.

Thank you to our 2018 Insight Studio lead sponsor, Mindbody and supporting sponsors, City of San Luis ObispoComevoCuesta College and Express Employment Professionals.

View photos from the event, here.

AI In The Workplace | A Google-Eye View

The rapid adoption of machine learning and automation in the workplace can be anxiety-inducing, Google’s Harlan Findley notes in an overview of the trends. But integration done right can bring benefits to local businesses as well.

Distributed Teams

As automation begins to free up more positions, people can pivot to more collaborative and creative tasks even when separated by geography. Google’s Harlan Findley shares three ways San Luis Obispo business can keep productivity high while transitioning to machine learning and distributed teams.

Training To Stay On Top

As technology continues to change the way we work, continuous learning of new skills will be critical. Google’s Harlan Findley explains how business leaders can hire employees who will boost their production over the long haul.

Training For Tech

Screening for attitude and training for aptitude has led to success for SLO Partners’ apprenticeship program. Dan Weeks addresses how the organization’s framework can alleviate common problems faced by local employers.

Matchmaking In The Workplace

Matching employees to employers is a two-way street at SLO Partners. Dan Weeks explains how the education/business partnership screens both employers and employees as well as how the approach keeps local businesses competitive with bigger markets while keeping talent local.

Top Concerns

Harlan Findley of Google, Dan Weeks a local entrepreneur working with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship & SLO Partners and Jennifer Porcher of Leonard Group, share their top concerns about the accelerating integration of technology in the workforce and how employees can weather the transition.

The Future Is Now For Small And Medium Sized Businesses

Small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from automation, say Google’s Harlan Findley and Dan Weeks, an entrepreneur working with SLO Partners and the SLO HotHouse. But they must take the right steps to remain competitive in the market.

Rapid Change And Older Employees In The Workplace

Older workers may face higher hurdles in adjusting to the rapid pace of automation in the workplace. Google’s Harlan Findley and entrepreneur Dan Weeks share what employers can do to support their more senior employees.

Technology | Is Aptitude Universal?

Don’t think you get tech? Google’s Harlan Findley and entrepreneur Dan Weeks share how technology can be made accessible to small businesses and employees.

Top Skills Of The Future Workplace

With automation becoming more prevalent in the workplace, soft skills will be increasingly sought after. Google’s Harlan Findley and entrepreneur Dan Weeks share the top soft skills they look for and why communication is vital to company growth and culture.

How To Handle Disruption

Automation and artificial intelligence will inevitably bring disruption. Mitigating that disruption will require a collaborative effort between the government, private industry and education, Google’s Harlan Findley says. People will play a factor, too, in committing to retool towards technology.

Finding Inspiration

Harlan Findley of Google, Dan Weeks a local entrepreneur working with the Cal Poly Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship & SLO Partners and Jennifer Porcher of Leonard Group share what excites them most about the technology-driven changes pervading the workplace and the new career opportunities for future generations.

A Conversation with David Walker

david walkerEnlightening and inspiring Conversation with David Walker of Firestone Walker Brewing Company on September 11, 2018. Key takeaways included how Firestone Walker Brewing Company is constantly learning how to adapt with the push and pull of remaining local and preserving company culture while growing the business into new markets across the country.

Thank you to our 2018 Insight Studio lead sponsor, Mindbody and supporting sponsors, City of San Luis ObispoComevoCuesta College and Express Employment Professionals.

View photos from the event, here.

Inspiration Behind Firestone Walker's Logo

Ever wonder why there is a bear and a lion on the Firestone Walker Brewing Company logo? David Walker discusses how the iconic symbols sprang from the behind-the-scenes “rivalry” between him and co-founder Adam Firestone.

The Story of 805

David Walker shares the creation story behind Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s 805 beer and how cultivating and incorporating California’s Central Coast lifestyle played a large role in the success of both the brand and product. After all, he notes, 805 is more than a beer, it’s a lifestyle.

Innovation for the Future of Firestone Walker

David Walker shares recent undertakings in targeting new markets with new strategies, what they have learned along the way, and how remaining stagnant is not a viable option.

Firestone Walker Staying On Top of the Craft Brew Industry

David Walker shares how the surging craft beer scene can be viewed as both a good and bad thing for the industry, and how the California wine industry serves as a positive example of how local products can rise to become players in international markets.

Firestone Walker Company Culture

What it is like to work at Firestone Walker Brewing Company, inspiring employees by sharing the meaning behind the process, and how being “good people” and creating an enriching and supportive environment has been critical for the company and its employees during growth and expansion.

Challenges of Firestone Walker

What it was like introducing craft beer to a historically commercially saturated market, managing a company culture with 650 employees and how breaking into a wider market creates new challenges and introduces new and bigger competitors.

A Conversation with… HotHouse Entrepreneurs

insight studioBringing ideas to life, blazing trails and birthing companies – three San Luis Obispo entrepreneurs shared their insights in conversation with Sandy Duerr, former executive editor of The Tribune on May 7, 2018. Entrepreneurs included: Nesrine Majzoub, cofounder and chief creative officer of The Lens, a digital media publication that aims to humanize news by exploring the effects of politics, policy and culture on people’s lives, often from the readers themselves. Elan Timmons, cofounder of Ulzi, a personal security app that aims to prevent sexual assault. Ulzi won the first-ever Central California Angel Conference last month and has attracted about $1 million in investment. Rafael Pintor, cofounder and president of Atsá Foods, which produces premium snack bars from sustainable, wild-harvested Native American superfoods, partnering with the harvesters to share their stories as well as their foods.

Origin of Atsa Foods

Atsa Foods President/Co-founder Rafael Pintor shares the personal history behind the Native American food, culture and community behind the startup’s line of superfood snacks.

Behind The Lens

Nesrine Majzoub, cofounder and chief creative officer of The Lens, explains how the desire to document stories around the world morphed into a digital news platform.

Ulzi explained

Elan Timmons, cofounder of the personal safety app Ulzi, explains the imeptus behind the program and its key features.

From idea to business

Standing out from the crowd

What is success?

What's in a name?


A Conversation with Shanny, Robin and Jai

insight studioIt all started in a health food store in Cambria. The desire was simple: to make healthy and delicious food accessible to our community. Owners Robin and Shanny Covey dedicated themselves to giving guests a great experience and true hospitality. After a few tireless years of building a business with their own two hands, raising a family and growing a loyal following of customers, the Coveys had an opportunity in 1985 to open Robin’s Restaurant – now an iconic North Coast destination. They expanded into San Luis Obispo in 2003 with Novo, followed by Luna Red and most recently, Café Fiero and Mint+Craft.

Nearly 35 years and five eateries in, the commitment to fresh, local fare is stronger than ever, and Robin, Shanny and their son Jai continue to push the envelope of the Central Coast cuisine scene.

Starting Blue Mango Management



Attracting Customers


Expansion Plans

Best Business Decision

Worst Business Decision

Advice for Running a Successful Restaurant

Keeping Employees Engaged

Using Local Produce

Reading Yelp Reviews

Giving Back to The Community

Creating A Mission Statement

Work-Life Balance

Number One Reason for Success

Being Five Places At Once

Dreaming of The Restaurant Business

Management Philosophy


The Inclusivity Advantage

insight studioThe San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce brought two of the nation’s leading voices on shrinking the gender gap to SLO for an event exploring the business advantages of inclusivity: CEO of GoDaddy, Blake Irving and Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe.

The event was part of Insight Studio, The SLO Chamber’s year-long series designed to elevate businesses by delivering inspiration, learning and development to organizational leaders and employees alike.

As CEO of GoDaddy, Blake Irving transformed the company from one derided for its sexist image to one hailed as a top workplace for women in technology. Harvey Mudd College President Maria Klawe has redefined universities’ struggles to get women into technology, quadrupling the number of women computer science majors at the renowned STEM-focused school.

Maria Klawe | President of Harvey Mudd College

Blake Irving | CEO of GoDaddy

A technology pioneer for 35+ years, Irving has played a key role in shaping the internet of today through executive roles at Microsoft, Yahoo and GoDaddy. He’s emerged as a champion of women in technology, leading a 180 of the company’s historically sexist image, doubling female hires, naming women to leadership positions and producing the documentary “CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap.

Working Moms Thrive

Overcoming Obstacles

Diversity Hypothesis

Ensuring Balanced Compensation

Diversity Makes A Difference

Attracting A Diverse Interest

Resistance To Change

Shifts The Make Everyone Successful

Promoting Inclusivity

Changing Performance Reviews

Advocating For Wage Equity

Inclusion Is Everyone's Responsibility


Conversation with Bill Swanson

On Tuesday May 24, 2016 Bill Swanson, San Luis Obispo local, Cal Poly alum and former CEO of Raytheon, a major defense contractor, sat down for a conversation with Sandra Duerr, the executive editor of The Tribune.

Swanson talked about putting in domestic partner benefits at Raytheon in 2002, creating an environment of value and respect at a company with 65,000 employees, what he learned about respect from millenials, the advice that he gives to young professionals, and Washington and why he will never serve in public office.

Domestic Partner Benefits


Conversation with Rick Stollmeyer

On Tuesday July 21, 2015 Insight Studio sat down with MindBody CEO and Co-Founder Rick Stollmeyer for an intimate conversation at the tech company’s global headquarters.

Stollmeyer talked with SLO Chamber CEO Ermina Karim about the experience of going public, ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, the initial thrill and the subsequent break issue, as well as company values and what he talks about when he talks about San Luis Obispo with new hires.


Conversation with Entrepreneurial Women

On Tuesday June 30, 2015 Insight Studio hosted three local women for an intimate conversation that touched success, failure, advice, getting started and the unique experience it is to be a female entrepreneur.

Jenny Kompolt, co-founder of Junk Girls , Jasmine McDermott, co-found of Z Living Systems and Kimberly Walker, managing partner of Granada Hotel and Bistro, and creator of Wine Wipes, sat down and talked about failure and rejection, starting out, the importance of working with the community, creating an entrepreneurial hub, giving back, early influences and the best advice they’ve been given during the Insight Studio Conversation with Entrepreneurial Women event at the SLO Museum of Art.