20 Under 40: Emily Hagen helps business community weather COVID-19
Emily Hagen is making a tremendous difference as the executive director of the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce, and she’s doing it at a time when the coronavirus has shaken the business community.
Hagen stepped in as interim director in February 2019 before taking the job as executive director. She just celebrated her 34th birthday on Memorial Day, a day on which she climbed a ladder to live stream the town’s remembrance ceremony. Since Hagen joined the chamber, it also has hosted live Facebook forums for candidates in the town’s municipal elections. Even more importantly, Hagen was nominated for her “tireless work” to help the devastated business community find solutions during the COVID-19 closures.
What made you choose to live and work in Grand County?
I came up with my family about five years ago as a temporary resident. When it came time to move on, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave. I always tell people that we came on accident, we stayed on purpose and it’s the best choice we’ve ever made.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you have to do business?
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If anything the COVID-19 pandemic has shown me how resilient and giving our community is. It’s changed the way I’ve done business, where a lot of our summer plans have been altered, and I’ve taken a much more heavy hand in helping businesses through this time with creative avenues and support systems.
But really, I’ve taken some time to reflect on this and I’ve seen a lot of growth in my personal and business relationships because we’re helping each other through the hardships. I don’t think that relationship growth would happen without going through this together.
It’s going to continue to change. We need to stay relevant and we need to evolve because I don’t think anyone knows exactly how this going to play out. I think our community is flexible, and we’re going to come out of this stronger.
Who is your hero and why?
My brothers, Thomas and Alexej, they were just wildly fun to grow up with. They were my biggest encouragers and a huge support system growing up. They continue to serve their country, and they do it with so much love for the people that they care about. I will always be thankful for siblings that make me feel like I can do anything.
What advice or encouragement would you offer a young professional trying to make it in the county?
I would tell them to lean into the community, volunteer with the elementary school, show up on town cleanup day and this summer ask a business if they need help. We lived here for four years before I got involved with the community, and I just look back and I think, ‘Wow, our lives have been so enriched just getting involved.’ I suggest that anyone who wants to put down roots, that’s where you start.
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