We had the good fortune of connecting with Sydney Ilg-Malone and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sydney, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I am a big believer in following peace. Anything worth having, professionally or personally, involves risk. Nothing given, nothing gained. To achieve growth, to reach our professional goals, and to shape our businesses with the times takes challenge and great risk. For me, I always think about risk in theoretical and monetary terms. For example, we undertook a major renovation this year, and our first question was: “how will this impact our guests” and our second was, “how will this impact the bottom line?” We had to understand the great financial and experiential risk and reward before approaching the practical application. But we followed the peace: the numbers added up, the gut feelings added up, so we went for it. I think that applies to all areas of life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I came out of college with a degree in Public Relations and ended up working at Starbucks and Marriott because I couldn’t find a job. No one would hire me in my field. I applied to hundreds of jobs, and had about 20 interviews and still, nothing. It was incredibly defeating because I knew I would be a good employee, but I just wasn’t the right fit for a myriad of reasons. That brought me down pretty low, and one day, pretty much out of the blue, my dad offered me my current job. Unbeknownst to me, the company was ready to take a new direction, and they wanted me to help. Suddenly I went to feeling so low and worthless to feeling completely over my head. I knew I could be a faithful PR employee, but run the branding and marketing for an entire company? That seemed too much. However, we made it work. I dove headfirst into the process of rebranding a 100-year-old hotel into a world-class hostel, and it’s working. The process has been so hard and exhausting. Small businesses take the brunt of economic downturn, city decisions, and often don’t have the safety net that larger corporations do. But I have never been a quitter, and we have a team of employees that are certainly not quitters, and they’ve helped us become. Ultimately, I think my success in this role has little to do with me, and everything to do with the people around me. If others didn’t carry the vision, if others didn’t listen and follow their boss, even if what they say sounds crazy, if others didn’t agree and encourage, I wouldn’t be here. I firmly believe it takes a village to create anything lasting and impactful, and I’m so grateful I have found mind and helped build its foundation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love Denver, and there are so many great places to visit! You absolutely must start your day at Jelly Cafe – it’s the best breakfast in Denver. I always recommend riding bike trails around Denver, visiting the Museum of Nature and Science, or taking a free State Capitol tour when friends are in town. They are the best ways to experience Denver like a local and see the entire city. I also always encourage a visit to Cheesman Park and grabbing a scoop at Lik’s Ice Cream while there. My favorite places to eat vary depending on my mood, but if we are feeling fancy, I love to visit ChoLon. Their french onion soup dumplings are amazing. A meal at City O’ City is always popular, plus I love freaking people out, especially meat lovers, with a vegetarian restaurant. A dinner or brunch at Trattoria Stella on Colfax feels like a trip straight to Italy. I also love Cuba Cuba. I’m not a big drinker, but I always recommend people visit LowDown Brewery, Banded Oak Brewing, and TRVE. They are three totally different brew houses that give you a real appreciation for the artisan beer scene in Denver.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The only way I have gotten where I am is a direct result of community. I’m a big dreamer, but dreams mean nothing unless people believe in them. I am so appreciative for all those in the USA hostel community, especially Thea D. of Ember Hostel for helping carry the torch and make the dream a reality. I also need to give a shoutout to literally every teacher who helped me become who I am. From my incredibly loving elementary teachers, to my exhausted high school teachers, to occasionally mean college professors. The role our educators play in society should never be overlooked, and I cannot thank them all enough for fostering my love of learning and encouraging me to work really hard.
Headshot by Rachel Grammes “Denver Mural” by Wynee’s World