Q & A with Alan Luu, RFL Academy 2020
June 11 2021
Reese Henry Portraits
Matt Power Photography
RFL alum, Alan Luu, first learned about Sacred Cycle through his civic project during RFL Academy 2020. Using his background as a graphic designer and marketing consultant, he, along with his team, helped the organization develop the “Healing our Community” message. The experience evolved into a much deeper involvement as Luu realized Sacred Cycle’s mission to empower sexual assault survivors through cycling and the outdoors resonated. We chatted with Alan about how RFL helped him lean into areas of his life outside of work and commit more deeply to his passion for community engagement and leadership through service.
Roaring Fork Leadership: How long have you lived in the valley?
Alan Luu: I was actually born and raised in Aspen, but after I graduated high school, I went to Arizona for college at Arizona State and stayed there six or so years doing design and marketing work. I missed Colorado and came back to Boulder and Denver where I met my now wife. Six years ago, we had an opportunity to move back up here [to the Roaring Fork Valley], so we jumped on it.
RFL: You transitioned from a salaried job to freelance work. How did that change come about?
AL: My background is in graphic design and for the first part of my career, I worked in-house for various agencies. When I got to Boulder, my boss identified my skills as being more of an account manager and operations manager, so I started flexing those skills of having the design background, but also managing projects. I ended up on more of an operational account management track and I got into bigger and bigger companies in Denver, like Integer. When I had an opportunity to move back to the Roaring Fork Valley, I worked as the operations director for a real estate agency in Aspen.
Throughout college and after, I’d always freelanced a bit here and there and when the agency dissolved spontaneously, it was an opportunity for me to pursue doing my own thing. I took it as a sign from the universe to take a break from working for other people.
RFL: And so you started your own marketing consulting firm (The Versant Co.)?
AL: Yes. It’s all-inclusive design marketing. A lot of it is social media and digital visual marketing strategy, but I also help produce content with photography and video shoots and editing and everything that comes with the world of marketing.
RFL: What inspired you to do RFL Academy?
AL: A few of the agents at the real estate company I worked for knew of RFL and they threw out the idea that I should do it. One of the biggest drivers for me was just wanting to reconnect with the community since I’d been gone from the valley for so long. Since I was trying to start my own company, my initial intention was to network. But once I began the program, it quickly became much more than networking.
RFL: How has your RFL experience shaped you as a human, both personally and professionally?
AL: I think it gave me the language to understand myself and communicate who I am and how I want to be as a person, as well as how to show up in the community and for the people I work with. I’ve always believed that everyone can be a leader, but it [RFL Academy] gave me the language to express that and make me more confident and authentic about who I am today.
Understanding how I work allowed me to grow and work on the things that I always made excuses for instead of seeing those areas as opportunities to actually improve.
Lastly, I valued being able to connect with a community of people who understood the same language and had a similar growth mindset and interest in leadership. All those things I gained from RFL have helped foster this next chapter of who I’ve become.
RFL: You got involved with the organization, Sacred Cycle, through RFL Academy. How has your work with them evolved?
AL: At the beginning of each Academy, you’re supposed to define what type of leader you want to be. Mine was “servant leadership” or becoming a leader through service. I didn’t fully understand that concept until I went through the program. Sacred Cycle was one of the civic project sponsors for my Academy year. I actually did not want to do the Sacred Cycle project because it was a very marketing focused kind of assignment and one of my other teammates felt the same way. Basically, we did not want to do the kind of work that we did every day for our careers. But our other teammates felt differently so we ended up doing the Sacred Cycle project and it was a great learning experience to try to show up by playing different roles.
I ended up loving what we did for Sacred cycle and that summer after graduation, I saw that Sacred Cycle was trying to recruit a volunteer community ride coordinator. Because of RFL and practicing civic leadership and engaging in the community and realizing I need to do things that resonate with me, I thought why not try out this new commitment? I like mountain biking, I understand this organization, I believe in what they do.
One of my challenges has always been prioritizing work too much. So, making this commitment to serve Sacred Cycle also forced me to get out of my rhythm of just defaulting to work and seeing the impact the organization has on participants just made me want to engage even more. I started as a community ride organizer and the next year, I had an opportunity to coach a participant, which was incredible. One thing led to another and I ended up connecting with one of the other coaches really well. When he was brought onto the board of directors, they asked me if I wanted to become part of the board.
RFL: Anything else you’d like to share about your RFL Experience that we haven’t touched on?
AL: RFL transforms you in unexpected ways. I think that’s the biggest thing — I went into RFL thinking that it would be a good opportunity to network, connect with people and meet new people. And yes, I did meet some great people that led to new friendships, but the transformation and growth I experienced at a personal level was incredible.