alumni Tag

By Maegan Murray

Paul Carlisle had just completed his undergraduate degree in business administration from Washington State University Tri-Cities in 2005 when he decided to open his own technology solutions company.

Alumnus Paul Carlisle used the WSU Tri-Cities master’s in business administration program to found Tri-Cities-based tech company ‘elevate,’ which now contracts with more than 50 companies throughout the region and state.

The idea came after the organization he previously worked for sold to another company and he felt the work he was doing became less challenging.

“It was an opportunity for me to say ‘I’m going to jump off and try to tackle something larger,’” he said.

But rather than focusing on large equipment installations, like most technology infrastructure companies were doing at the time, Carlisle planned to serve companies as an end-to-end technology management firm. With that, ‘elevate’ was born.

Carlisle used the master’s in business program at WSU Tri-Cities to refine the business structure, launch the organization, as well as consult with his professors for what worked and what didn’t within the company.

“I leveraged a lot of my business school classes through the master’s in business administration program at WSU Tri-Cities for elevate,” he said. “I feel like WSU Tri-Cities really helped me identify and create a level of maturity when it was being launched.”

Seeing success

Since that period, the company has grown to contract with more than 50 companies throughout the mid-Columbia region and across the state. In 2016, elevate welcomed Gov. Jay Inslee to talk about job creation, focusing more specifically on companies that have worked from start-up to thriving operations that aren’t based around the Hanford Site. This year, Carlisle was recognized with the Richland Rotary’s Sam Vulpentest Entrepreneurial Leadership Award for his devotion to growing community through service and entrepreneurial ventures.

Photo of Paul Carlisle talking with a colleague at tech company elevate.

Paul Carlisle talks with a colleague at tech company elevate.

But with all the recognition, Carlisle said it was through community support that truly made him and his business a success.

“I certainly didn’t do it on my own,” he said. “I did it with the community. I’ve worked with people in the Tri-City Regional Chamber, at WSU Tri-Cities, through WSU Tri-Cities’ Carson College of Business Advisory Board and with co-working and startup programs. In the end, that community engagement is the differentiator, and that is what continues to be special at WSU Tri-Cities.”

Carlisle said WSU Tri-Cities is different from many college campuses because the courses are truly rooted in the community and the business connections that are already established locally.

“People come here because it has a cool connection with the community,” he said. “Students at WSU Tri-Cities learn from those they will be working with into the future after they graduate. These are the people they’re getting internships from and the same people who are recommending those internships. In the MBA, you are consistently meeting with managers who are mostly based here.”

Giving forward

Now, Carlisle is using his success in his own career to give back to students and future entrepreneurs.

Carlisle serves on the WSU Tri-Cities Carson College of Business Advisory Board, which aims to create opportunities for community partnerships between local businesses so that students may be connected with many more research experiences, internships, co-ops and more. Additionally, he serves as an adjunct faculty member teaching entrepreneurship.

Photo of elevate founder Paul Carlisle talking with a colleague.

elevate founder Paul Carlisle talks with a colleague.

“We’re working on lots of good ideas on how we can really help grow the idea of community engagement within the degree,” he said. “At the end of the day, if all you’re doing is learning the course material, you’re missing out on a lot, and really the main point. We’re looking to give students that real-world access, hands-on experience that is so unique here at the Tri-Cities campus.”

Carlisle also works with the Tri-City Regional Chamber on its board and on its regional affairs committee, where through community connections, they are working to provide further opportunities for local businesses to excel.

“By looking at the natural flow of businesses in the Tri-Cities, we can start to remove barriers and just let the natural momentum move forward,” he said. “There is some risk, but with that little bit of risk, creating even a little bit of traffic, we can make a large impact.”

Carlisle said it has always been his goal to use his own success as a catalyst for growing the success of others.

“I’ve been there,” he said. “I know the hurdles that some of these young people have to conquer because I’ve experienced it all with elevate. In my 20s, I worked to really form elevate. In my 30s, I quickly realized that helping these emerging businesses is what elevate is all about. In my 40s, I want to be invited to play with these fantastic new startups built by these bright young students because they are the future of our community.”

Carlisle says he hopes his involvement within the business community inspires positive momentum among the young and up-and-coming professionals.

“What I recommend to current and future students is to seize the moment to engage with these amazing local opportunities,” he said. “You don’t know what is possible until you take the leap.”

Zimmel-1 Zimmel-2 Zimmel-3

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Robb Zimmel remembers as a child watching his German relatives create concoctions from grapes and beets, onions and rhubarb. It wasn’t a stew, though, but wine that was cooked, bottled, capped with balloons and left to ferment.

“The balloons would get bigger and bigger,” said Zimmel, a Washington State University Tri-Cities graduate. “As soon as they deflated, my grandma would say ‘it is time’ and they would gather to finish the winemaking process.”

Since that early age, he has been comforted by the memory of winemaking, inspired by some of the most beautiful women in his life. This summer, he will release wines on his own label after graduating as part of WSU Tri-Cities’ first blended learning classes last year.

“I fell in love with that process, that romance, that wonderful feeling that came with making wine,” he said.

Education ‘changed my life’

While pursuing a full-time career as a flight paramedic in Portland, Ore., Zimmel followed his family’s example and made wine on the side. But after Sept. 11, 2001, he was called from the U.S. Army Reserves to serve overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He remembers calling his wife late one night in 2010 on a satellite phone from the middle of the desert: “I can’t do this anymore,” he said. She asked if he would be interested in putting his wine experience to use as a new career.

The day he got back to the United States, he headed to the WSU Vancouver campus where he studied for two years before transferring to WSU Tri-Cities to complete his degree in viticulture and enology.

“At WSU, I’ve studied with some of the nation’s best wine professors and worked with alumni who have studied all over the world,” he said. “My education at WSU changed my life.”

Winning ways … and wines

A little more than a year ago, Zimmel was recommended for a position in the tasting room at Barnard Griffin Winery in Richland by friend and fellow WSU viticulture and enology graduate Joel Perez.

Zimmel credits owners Deborah Barnard and Rob Griffin and their daughters Elise Jackson and Megan Hughes for his growth as a winemaker. Griffin would often invite him to bring in wine he made to be tasted and refined.

“Why would they go out of their way to help me?” Zimmel said. “But that’s just how they are. They are the most giving family I’ve ever met.”

“I’ve always been interested in the education part of the wine industry,” Griffin said. “I do it because I want the Washington wine industry to be great. If Washington wins, we all win.”

Embraced by family of vintners

With the support of the Barnard Griffin family and WSU, Zimmel said, he created the first batch of wine on his label, Cerebella. The name refers to a part of the brain and is a tie to his former career in the medical field.

He created 500 cases of wine in four varietals including a riesling, chardonnay, merlot and malbec. They will be available for purchase this summer.

To preorder or arrange a tasting, contact him through his Facebook page, Zimmel Unruh Cellars, athttps://www.facebook.com/ZimmelUnruhCellars.

“I just can’t believe that day has finally come,” Zimmel said. “I’m a winemaker, and I owe it all to the people who have helped me along the way. It’s a dream come true. It really is.”