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Combining business and baskets

The one constant with Heather Atencio-Zambrano of Falcon is change. She admits she cannot sit still for long and will try anything once.ìIt is the evolution of Heather,î she said. ìYou never know where Iím going to be.îAtencio-Zambranoís sense for adventure started early in life. Born and raised in Durango, Colo., she graduated from Durango High School in 1996. For her senior trip, Atencio-Zambranoís class went to Hawaii. ìI came home and sat down with my parents and said, ëIím going to Hawaii for college.í Their response was, ëDo you want to go car shopping?íî She said it was her parentís way of encouraging her to reconsider her choice for college. It worked: Atencio-Zambrano opted for the new car and decided to attend Fort Lewis College in Durango.Staying close to home proved beneficial in more ways than one. During her freshman year of college, Atencio-Zambrano met her husband-to-be, Dominic Zambrano. ìIf I had gone gallivanting around in Hawaii, I wouldnít have met Dominic,î she said. ìAnd I wouldnít have wanted to miss out on that.îAtencio-Zambrano finished the required credits for her bachelorís degree in psychology within three years, so she spent her last year in an accelerated teacherís program offered through the college. For her student teaching requirement, she was assigned to teach at the same elementary school she attended. However, Atencio-Zambrano eventually decided teaching was ìnot her calling.îAtencio-Zambrano remained in Durango after she graduated from college but spent weekends in Colorado Springs to be near her fiancÈ and to finalize their wedding plans. She applied for several jobs in Colorado Springs, and eventually landed an interview with T. Rowe Price in the Springs. Less than a month after getting married, Atencio-Zambrano began working for T. Rowe Price as a phone representative, even though the job did not relate to her degree. After just 16 months, she moved to a processing job at T. Rowe Price, where she updated retirement funds for the employees of 10 companies.After another six months, Atencio-Zambrano became a supervisor. ìI spent probably half my career with T. Rowe Price in a supervisor capacity,î she said. Her last role at the company was supervisor of the training division in the Colorado Springs office, along with training divisions in Florida and Maryland. She stayed in that role for about 18 months before her job was cut as a result of the poor economy. ìThe market started to tank and what is the first thing to go? Training,î she said. ìAbout 300 people were let go. Half of my team was let go, and I was there right along with them.îAfter working about 10 years with T. Rowe Price and pregnant with her third child, Atencio-Zambrano decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Six months later, she began interviewing again and received a job offer at a company in south Denver. Atencio-Zambrano and her husband discussed their options since the new job would require travel. Her husband suggested they consider owning a business. ìHe gave me a list of businesses that he had been researching,î she said. ìThere were about 12 on the list, and we have always wanted to open our own business so maybe this was the time to do it.î The list included everything from restaurants to childrenís play centers, but one business caught Atencio-Zambranoís eye. ìWe met with the corporate owner of the Original Basket Boutique and knew immediately that this was it,î she said.Original Basket Boutique, based out of Canada, has 54 franchises in Canada, 14 franchises in the United States and several overseas. Atencio-Zambrano was drawn to the companyís overall corporate image, along with the fact that she would be able to work from home. ìI still had this idea of being out in the business world, ìshe said. ìBut (with this business) I could do it from my home and still be a mom. That family dynamic was really important to me.î Atencio-Zambrano and her husband opened their business in April 2010.Unlike most gift basket companies, Atencio-Zambrano focused on selling business to business. ìSelling business to business is great because I have a nice corporate business-savvy background,î she said. ìIt allows me to go in and talk to people on a regular basis, and I can speak their lingo.î In her first seven months, Atencio-Zambrano made $26,000 in sales and doubled that number the following year. ìThat is how much focus I have put into this business,î she said. ìI told my husband, ëThere is no option to fail. We spent a lot of money on this business and Iím going to make it work.íîFour months ago, the company asked Atencio-Zambrano to join the Original Basket Boutiqueís executive board. As a member, she meets with other franchise owners and shares her ideas of how to succeed in a sales-driven business.When Atencio-Zambrano is not in business mode or helping with various charities, she describes herself as ìvery family focused.î She enjoys driving her kids to soccer practice or gymnastics. ìMy world revolves around my children,î she said. Atencio-Zambrano and her family also love to travel. Her favorite place to travel is the same place she fell in love with in high school ñ Hawaii. ìThe way people feel about the mountains here is how I feel about the ocean and the rainforest,î she said. ìHawaii just has something I love.î Atencio-Zambrano pictures herself retiring in Hawaii someday; but, until then, she said she is happy working and living in Falcon.

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