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Kimberly Moore built her business of providing offices to entrepreneurs and small businesses from a few desks in the First Bank Building to locations in both downtown Colorado Springs and Chapel Hills Mall with plans to add a third next year a building she is developing. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

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Kimberly Moore's career path wasn't a straight line to success; it often involved turning setbacks into triumphs and a few detours that nearly forced her into bankruptcy.

She has spent almost all of her nearly 30-year career creating and managing suites of offices that are designed for small businesses or satellite offices of major corporations in blocks of space she leased in a variety of Colorado Springs buildings. Moore is planning this fall to break ground on an $8 million building near Chapel Hills Mall that she plans as a hub where small businesses can open offices and also have access to on-site restaurants, a spa and many other services, including apartments they can rent.

Office suite centers are a collection of small offices, sometimes little more than a desk, that small businesses can rent by the month and add services such as internet access, reception, administrative support and meeting rooms. She has since added a coffee bar, spa operation and other services for her customers and other workers in the office buildings her centers occupy. For more information, go to her company, eSuite 360, or call 757-1111.

Moore grew up in rural northeast Kentucky in a home without running water for the first seven years of her life, mostly because her parents' home was at the top of hill that was too far away from water lines. Her parents were a brick mason and hospital controller who married when they were 17 and 15, respectively, and eventually gave her a middle-class life and encouraged her to develop musical talents she displayed while still in elementary school.

She used her musical talents to win scholarships in beauty pageants and eventually enrolled at Eastern Kentucky University as a vocal music major but soon realized she had gone from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in an ocean. After a semester, she returned home because of a medical issue and by the time she recovered, her father had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"You think you are pretty good in your little town, but I didn't have perfect pitch and I was insecure about performing. I also didn't have the dedication and focus to rehearse from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. like most of the other music majors did," Moore said. "I decided that I didn't want to try to make money moving from gig to gig. I didn't want to do that, so I gave up performing for practicality."

Moore instead enrolled in classes at a nearby community college in computer science, mostly because her brother was studying the same subject at the time, and earned an associate degree. She returned to Eastern Kentucky for another year, but decided to drop her vocal performance plans and instead commute to Ohio University and earn a degree in business administration while doing payroll and other office duties for her grandfather's construction business. That helped Moore develop a love for construction.

"I have always loved being a builder. The two men I admired most, my father and grandfather, both were in construction and if I had known it was an option, I may have grown up to be an engineer," Moore said.

Instead, Moore opened a convenience store in her hometown for her grandfather, who also owned car washes and other businesses. She managed the store for five years, which she called a "massive learning experience about everything retail, from inventory and buying to operating a deli, packaging and pricing. I had to learn it all." Moore might have stayed in Kentucky if her father hadn't died, but instead she married an aspiring preacher in Kentucky and they moved to Colorado Springs so he could attend Nazarene Bible College.

"Neither of us had a job, so after I got here on a Wednesday I went to an employment agency on Thursday and had an interview and was hired on Friday" as a property manager for a commercial real estate company managing The Presidio, a football-shaped office building near Chapel Hills Mall. Months into the job, the manager of office suites operation in the building was fired. Her boss told her to buy an advertisement seeking a replacement, but Moore saw an opportunity.

She instead lined up an investor to help her take over the operation, but  soon discovered that the investor was operating a Ponzi scheme and she had to scramble to find other funding. Moore instead went to her boss and proposed a unique financing plan in which she would pay him half of the operation's revenue plus another $2,000 a month for a year that he would repay with interest as long as she didn't miss any payments.

While the business thrived, Moore and her husband struggled since he was only earning small amounts doing services for a funeral home that allowed them to live rent-free in an apartment above the funeral home. She divorced him after three years and earned extra income by transcribing testimony for cadet disciplinary hearings at the Air Force Academy, doing other administrative work and teaching accounting and business management at a local junior college.

"I have never worked as a server or waitress, but I know what is to be served well and that is how you need to run a business — by serving your customers well," Moore said. "I was scared out of my wits for sure, but I was very careful and had the natural ability to sell and connect with people. We filled up the space, made all the payments and I got my money back" with interest from her boss.

Moore took those funds and other money she had set aside during the following year to buy a 2.6-acre parcel across Kelly Johnson Boulevard from The Presidio. That land is where she plans to build her $8 million office, restaurant and spa complex, though she sold off half of the site last year to a Denver developer for a hotel.

A booming Colorado Springs economy helped Moore expand quickly during the 1990s, adding office suite locations off Garden of the Gods Road in 1993 and in what is now the First Bank Building in downtown Colorado Springs in 1995. She remembers that on the day she opened the Garden of the Gods office suite operation, customers weren't exactly lining up to rent offices from her.

"No one showed up and I was worried because the floor was so big — 52 offices — three times what we had at The Presidio. I thought, 'Oh my God, what am I going to do,' but the space filled up quickly," she said. "I still have those fears; they never go away even though it seemed like in the '90s that I was an economic wizard and could do no wrong. I just rode the wave because I had nothing to compare it with."

After the boom of the 1990s, Moore had a few missteps with centers she opened in lower-quality office buildings along Academy Boulevard that closed a few months after they opened. But her biggest challenge came a year or so after she sold her suite business in a transaction in which she loaned the purchaser the money to complete the deal. Moore was ready for a new challenge and was doing consulting work in Colorado Springs for a London company.

"The buyer contacted me and told me they were going to file bankruptcy if I didn't take the business back from them," Moore said "I learned that they had leased the offices at cut-rate prices and were losing money. They were six months behind on their rent and I didn't have enough time to turn it around, so I closed the Garden of the Gods location and paid $150,000 to get out of the lease. I even seriously considered bankruptcy."

Moore tried to relocate that operation to the Rockrimmon area in a building owned by Nor'wood Development Group, but instead took over a small office suites operation in the South Tower of the Plaza of the Rockies. As that operation grew, it moved to a different floor and expanded to 52 offices and a large open area that eventually was converted into an event center, coffee bar and spa. As the Plaza of the Rockies operation grew, she closed the First Bank Building center in 2015 when the lease expired.

"It used to be that anytime there was 10,000 square feet of top-quality office space available, they would call me. I'm not doing that any more," Moore said. "I want to develop my own building for my next venture. This building is meant to be a prototype for businesses sharing services — it will include residences, an eatery, a barista, an events center, co-working space and a medical spa. Everything you need to run your business will be there."

The key to her plan is businesses in her building will share most everything they need — meeting rooms, technology, telecommunications and other services — to increase their efficiency by leasing only what they need, not buying what they might someday want. She still is seeking financing for the project, but hopes to start construction this fall and complete the 36,000-square-foot project in about a year.

Moore isn't worried about the trend of more people working from home; she believes small business owners benefit by being around each other and their productivity declines when they work from home. That is especially true with businesses that have to sell a product or service and need to maintain an image that their company is more than just another home-based business.

Contact Wayne Heilman 636-0234

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