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Local Spotlight – Nellie Bradshaw-Farafonova – Crystal Bay Post Office

January 2, 2024 | Meghan Ochs

Originally Published in IVCBA Live.Work.Play, Written by Meghan Ochs

Nellie Bradshaw-Farafonova is the senior, and only, passport clerk at the Crystal Bay Post Office. Nellie and her job have a lot in common, on the surface both might seem ordinary in a lovely, predictable way, perhaps even a bit outdated in today’s modern digital world. However, it turns out, her job, just as Nellie herself, is a lot more complicated than meets the eye. 

Nellie moved to Incline Village in 94’ with her second husband and their then, two young children. Today, she lives in Crystal Bay and the years between tell an interesting story about a unique woman. 

She began what she calls her ‘second career’, the one outside of raising her children, at The Hyatt as a hostess.  She soon became supervisor and moved onto the Regency Club and became a concierge manager. In early 2002, she made a big change and moved to Russia to teach English. The move was precipitated by both her divorce in 2001 and 9/11 which impacted tourism. Nellie loved her time and experiences in Moscow, but despite having a multi entry exit visa and visiting on occasion, she desperately missed her children. Listening to Nellie discuss her time in Russia it’s obvious that her time away fed her naturally adventurous spirit. While there, she earned good money to send back to her children and married her third husband who was Russian. In 2005 she came back to Tahoe and was devastated when soon thereafter her marriage ended. However, Nellie’s palpable tenacity kicked in. Nellie started what would become a long term career with The United States Post Office. 

Hard work and adaptability seem to come easily to Nellie which is incredibly useful in her role at USPO. The office at Crystal Bay is actually under the jurisdiction of The State Department in Los Angeles and is unique in the number of passports it processes. Prior to COVID, 65-70 a month were processed, now, Nellie and her single member staff, do over 1600 in a 6 month period. People come by multiple travel modalities to get to Nellies office for complicated travel cases. Nellie has an amicable nature that lends well to customer service and she loves all who visit. She notes that her job requires a lot of patience due to the long term nature of acquiring passports. She often encounters angry and disgruntled people.  However, she still builds lots of positive personal relationships. She can rattle off names and addresses the same way people remember land line phone numbers. Nellie has obvious, high level people skills. 

The Post Office in 2023 might seem irrelevant. Something similar could theoretically, and wrongly, be assumed about Nellie. As a short statured 68 year old woman, she seems quiet and unassuming. Nellie has the appearance of a young and kind grandmother. Talking to Nellie you quickly learn that both of these assumptions about her, and the place she works, are far from the truth. Nellie is anything but quiet, or tame. She is sweet and kind yes, but an emotionally strong, unique woman who forged her own path and collected a lot of stories of adventure, hard work, and heartbreak. As for the place she works, it doesn’t take long to learn how truly important the services she provides really are. Nellie and the Crystal Bay Post Office provide services and basic needs to individuals and families that many take for granted. There seem to be a lot of unspoken parallels between Nellie and her work, perhaps this is why she loves it.  Nellie hopes to stay in her current role for awhile longer. She thinks about retirement from her 6 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, job but knows it doesn’t make sense until she becomes a grandparent, or finds a new partner. For now, for the benefit of local residents and wannabe travelers, Nellie will be behind the counter at Crystal Bay in the signature USPO light blue shirt, and navy apron, with her big smile and warm heart, greeting all those who walk through the door. 

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Business Profile: Move Mountains

January 21, 2022 | Meghan Ochs

At Move Mountains, a membership-based leadership and coaching program for individuals and organizations, COVID-19 and the challenges the pandemic presented required its leader, Charles White, and his team of facilitators, to take a play out of their own handbook. Move Mountains had already been running a successful adventure-based leadership program; however, when the world began socially distancing, the outdoor adventures that Move Mountains organized, and the natural opportunities for personal growth that they present, came to a screeching halt. This global change forced Move Mountains to reevaluate how they were operating and take the same steps which they ask of their own clients. Over the course of 9 months, the organization put in the work and evolved. Move Mountains averted its attention inward, created a new intention about their level and type of engagement with their clients, and then took specific action to create a sustainable change about their operation. The results have been better than they could have anticipated. 

The core of what Move Mountains offers their clients has not changed; effective leadership training through a transformative and guided personal care journey. What has changed however is the method in which this journey is created and how it is delivered. The three words, attention, intention, and action have always been at the center of what Move Mountains focuses on. Charlie and his impressive team guide their clients to bring these three things into alignment so they can show up as their best selves. This approach requires clients to draw attention inward while working through the tough questions and situations that leaders often face with the intention of creating actionable positive change. Prior to COVID, this meant taking leaders outdoors on exciting and challenging recreational adventures to push them in a physical, naturally adverse environment. Simultaneously. leaders would facilitate tough conversations about socio-emotional issues related to their goals of personal growth and leadership. Now, post-COVID, Move Mountains has moved from an adventure-based model to a club-based one. The clients of Move Mountains are largely the same, individuals who are committed to personal growth, mindfulness, and personal and professional wellness. Typically, they are leaders in their field, and like most leaders, they are risk-takers and adventure seekers. Now, rather than one-off events in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, Charlie and his team offer memberships that provide monthly trainings, skill-building workshops, guided meditations, and regular practice sessions to help apply what they have learned. Adventure-based learning is still a part of the deal, but now, rather than being the primary leadership product, it is ancillary.

For Move Mountains, this change was a huge pivot. It is not that what they were doing before was ineffective, but like any good leader, they recognized a changing environment requires adaptation. Charlie and his team did exactly what they asked their clients to do, commit to the process by looking inward, asking the tough questions, and recognizing both their strengths and blind spots. Move Mountains is adamant about using the word blind spot vs weakness. A blind spot, while we may not always know what it is in it, generally we are aware of its existence. Contrarily, a weakness may be less obvious or identifiable. The self-evaluation approach of noting both strengths and blind spots allows Move Mountains to offer a more exhaustive range of coaching and leadership offerings to their clients. Their new membership platform takes a three-fold process which includes coaching, training and practice, and adventure. 

It is obvious that the Move Mountains team is reinvigorated by their new mindful leadership club format. Short-term events like their adventure packages are great openers, but as Charlie noted, “Sustained behavioral change takes time, plus consistent advocacy and support. We offer leadership skills but this type of change is a personal journey. We are here to help clients find their way, not to tell them the way.”  Clients of Move Mountains must be ready to have conversations about self-worth, self-esteem, conflict, and conflict avoidance, just to name a few. Commonly the Move Mountains team will see clients who want to create change in a specific area of their professional or personal life. This concept of separating the various spheres of life is discouraged since strengths and blind spots show up regularly in all areas. The goal at Move Mountains is to improve the overall, “Personal wellness to professional success works. It is an illusion that they are separate, ” explained Charlie. We want to build resilience and adaptability to chaos and evolving business and personal climates. Strength is gained from adversity, whether personal or professional.” Through coaching, training, guided practice, and the occasional adventure, Move Mountains provides its clients with practical tools and strategies for their overall success. Their new business model is proof that their coaching and leadership strategies are effective. In 2021, Move Mountains has formally become a product of their own product. 

For more information and a list of upcoming events visit Move Mountains online.

*This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 edition of LIVE.WORK.PLAY.*

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Business Profile: Sierra Mobile Storage

January 12, 2022 | Meghan Ochs

For many people COVID has been a great reminder of what is truly important. This has been true not just in the professional lives of many, but also in personal and private spaces. This past year and a half historic numbers of people have uprooted their lives and taken big gambles on major life changes such as moving and changing jobs. These life-altering events often require organization and space, enter Sierra Mobile Storage.

Perhaps one of the reasons Staci and Luke Stevenson, the dynamic and incredibly supportive husband and wife duo and owners of Sierra Mobile Storage, are such fervent believers in what they do is because they can relate to the needs of their customers. When the pandemic hit, the demand for Luke’s artistic talent as a local musician changed drastically. Staci who had been helping manage Luke’s musical career and operating high-end vacation and rental properties also saw a change in her career. Both had always been interested in the storage business.

For years they were already students of the industry and its nuances, attending seminars and doing research to one day possibly make a switch. They were prepared to leave their careers at the end of 2021; however, COVID forced their hand early and they placed all bets on starting a new business and adventure together.

Their professional move came with a personal one as well when they left Incline and moved to Reno. Their decision to leave Incline after living there for decades was not an easy one. They are nothing if not a product of their own product, their move and investment in this new large business has been taxing, Staci notes, “We did not realize we were getting into the stress management business.” The events of life, and all of the organization that come with it, can be incredibly stressful and Staci, Luke and their company are here to ease the burden. Staci especially loves connecting with the customers. She excels at getting to know them, their needs and helping them through their transitional phase, whether it is a move, remodel or something else. Luke noted that they have over fifty 5-star reviews on Google and credits all of that to Staci whose favorite part of their job is answering the phone and offering her personal touch. Staci understands that just like her and Luke’s decision to place all of their chips on the bet of their new business, many of their customers are taking similar risks or making big changes when they call to ask for help with their storage needs.

In addition to the personal component that this happy and professional couple obviously provide to their customers, their company also offers a few incredibly rare advantages over other traditional storage options. Their containers come in two sizes, 16’ and 20’, and they are capable of being stored in some tight and unusual spaces that other companies simply can’t match. Sierra Mobile Storage uses a remote control forklift which gives them a storage advantage that no one else can offer. This is critical to providing outdoor storage options in the rugged alpine environment of the Sierra. Also, many of their storage containers are beautifully wrapped and designed to blend in with the natural surroundings at their location. The others are white with a Sierra Mobile Storage logo which just happens to be a silhouette of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Both container types are emblazoned with the friendly reminder, ‘locally owned and operated.’ Customers can choose which wrap they prefer.

The difference between a small, locally owned business, and a larger corporate-run one is often one offering individual connection, accessibility, and exceptional customer service. Staci and Luke Stevenson, and their company Sierra Mobile Storage, exemplify every positive dissimilarity between these two types of business. While they are obviously passionate about what they do, and the quality of product they offer, they are also in business to help change the storage industry. Max be placed, that they succeed.

Learn more about Sierra Mobile Storage.

*This article originally appeared IVCBA’s Fall 2021 Live.Work.Play.

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