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Jennifer May and Colleen Tebrake: “Leaders are people who bring more to the table than just what is required”

Thought Leaders are people who bring more to the table than just what is required. They pull experience from all aspects of their life and they see things beyond just a problem and a solution. They think outside the box and they are innovators. Thought Leaders are people that are successful not only in finding […]

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Thought Leaders are people who bring more to the table than just what is required. They pull experience from all aspects of their life and they see things beyond just a problem and a solution. They think outside the box and they are innovators. Thought Leaders are people that are successful not only in finding solutions but also “rallying the troops”, inspiring and motivating others.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer May and Colleen Tebrake.

Headquartered in Sedona, Ariz., Two Sister Bosses is a sister-owned and operated luxury hotel development and management company focused on creating one-of-a-kind experiences that are in-harmony with the natural environment. Founded by two Sedona natives, Jennifer May and Colleen Tebrake, the company is committed to the principles of sustainable tourism and bringing new and exciting experiences to the community. Two Sister Bosses is the new generation of a local Sedona family’s development company that has operated in Northern Arizona for close to 35 years.

Blending contemporary design with innovative architecture, the company’s first project is Ambiente, a Landscape Hotel, the first of its kind in North America that will open in Sedona in late 2020.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Jennifer: I graduated high school in 1988 and worked for our family business during my last year of high school. While I was at Northern Arizona University, I started a family and I was blessed enough to be able to stay home with my three children when they were young. After I enrolled in esthetician school at 29, I worked for a local salon for about 10 years, and then I jumped back in the family business again at 40 and have been involved in many capacities since then! I have learned so much about running a business, about creating new ideas and implementing them and about not giving up when the going gets hard. It’s been the greatest blessing of my life.

Colleen: After I attended both Arizona State University and Grand Canyon University, I graduated with a degree in marketing and went to work for my dad’s company, Mold In Graphics. Shortly after, I started a family and spent most of my time “marketing” breakfast, lunch, dinner, chores and schoolwork for several years. During that time, I also dabbled in real estate and I’ve had my license for almost 20 years! It’s very exciting to be jumping into this next venture with my family.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

This idea really came about because we bought the property with a hotel already planned by the previous owner. However, after walking the property and realizing the amount of natural beauty it possessed, we simply had to find a way to put 40 rooms in without harming any of the natural scenery. We really wanted to find a way to showcase the beauty of nature that was there. Most hotel concepts aim to create an environment within the manmade spaces, so we wanted to flip that concept inside out and put the natural beauty of this gorgeous property as the focal point by bringing the outdoors in while still maintaining the utmost in luxury.

We love challenges and being forced to think outside of the box. In this industry, you can’t be afraid to do things that have never been done before.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

We would say the most interesting aspect so far has been the amount of media attention this landscape hotel idea has garnered. We as a family thought the conceptual idea was very cool but we had no idea that it would resonate with others the way it has. The amount of interest that has generated has been both incredibly exciting and a little bit scary all at the same time, but we are up for the challenge and I know that our passion to create this will come together into something amazingly wonderful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We think the funniest mistake we made was naively thinking from the beginning that we would be done planning and well under construction in a year. That shows just how innocently ignorant we were and it makes me laugh to even think about it now.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

Thought Leaders are people who bring more to the table than just what is required. They pull experience from all aspects of their life and they see things beyond just a problem and a solution. They think outside the box and they are innovators. Thought Leaders are people that are successful not only in finding solutions but also “rallying the troops”, inspiring and motivating others.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

Most great movements, products and ideas come from Thought Leaders. They are innovators and they aren’t afraid of challenges. Humans have an amazing ability to be creative and we live in an amazing time to have a world of knowledge in our hands. We can look up any subject on our phones and learn how to push forward. We know more people who have learned entire careers without college by being self-sufficient and absorbing everything there is to learn via the internet on their subject of choice.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Being excited in what you are creating and being bold in how you present it is completely infectious to others around you. Thinking outside the box in any industry, depending on the timing, will result in growth and opportunities.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

1. Try to learn as much as you can about your concept. When you bring the first of anything into a new market, it’s up to you to lay the groundwork and do all of the initial research. After we came up with the overall concept, we started searching for glass and steel buildings online to solidify the style we wanted to emulate and it was some time after that when we came across Vivood and Juvet, both landscape hotels in Spain and Norway. We realized the landscape hotel description was the perfect concept for Ambiente, and at that point we were positive that was the direction we wanted to take.

2. Never be afraid or intimidated to listen to others thoughts or suggestions, you might learn something amazing. We have been very involved in the entire design process from the beginning and had a pretty clear vision of what we wanted to do, so not much has changed. With that being said, we have certainly had great suggestions from both the Landscape Architect, John Krizan, and the architecture firm, ASUL. They have both been absolutely instrumental in helping us fine tune our ideas to take our dream and turn it into reality.

3. Be BOLD and passionate when presenting your ideas to others. At the beginning, we had many meetings and presentations where the people we were meeting with didn’t feel positively about the project, but by the end of each they were fully supportive and willing to publicly demonstrate their support. That is full confirmation that people can appreciate the level of energy or dedication that you put in.

4. Trust yourself, trust your gut reactions, trust your family’s advice. Our father is our original Thought Leader. He has never settled for anything “regular” in life. Whatever he puts his mind to, he excels at and we have learned so much from working directly under him over the years. If we have any “Thought Leader” attributes at all it’s because he has encouraged, mentored and pushed us beyond our comfort zone to exceed.

5. Above all else, trust God and what he created you for and go for it!

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

We have had the benefit of being raised by a Thought Leader. We have surfed in my dad’s wake all our lives, as we like to say. Our dad not only saw a problem and always figured out a way to solve it, he found a better way to do things to avoid problems in the future. That concept birthed his first company, Mold In Graphics. If he puts his mind to something, he accomplishes it to the best of his abilities and he shines the whole time he is doing it.

Walt Disney is another great example who had a dream that no one thought would amount to anything as he was turned down over 300 times from banks. We bet in hindsight they all wished they’d been able to see his vision and had invested.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

In our opinion, the term Thought Leader brings to mind someone who is a visionary and sees beyond the normal, accepted ways of thinking. We think of it as a compliment and something that should be celebrated.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Balance your life, nurture your relationships, rely on your closest family and friends for down-time and for the truth (they know you best), feed your soul, get outside, get some exercise and get some rest! Never think that you know everything, ever. Always ask questions and commit to being a lifelong learner.

You are people of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Put God first, love each other, treat others as you want to be treated, be good at what you do, and honor your word. We’d love to inspire people to be to listen and engage with others with opposing views. Our world needs more civility.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Jennifer: I will live by faith even when I cannot see. This has been a clear and present truth for the past several years in my life and it was a learned lesson. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve learned to trust in it. There are times when you are not sure of how you might get past the roadblocks that life throws your way, but I am realizing more and more that there is a bigger picture and I’m thrilled to be a part of this beautiful thing unfolding ahead of me.

Colleen: Our dad always said, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” To me, it means staying true to yourself and always doing what you say you’re going to do.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jennifer: Elon Musk, I love how he takes chances, doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, marches to the beat of his own drum and pushes forward to make all of his ideas come to life. He creates his own path and that’s what I hope to do.

Colleen: I’d love to have brunch and mimosas with Joe Rogan. He has interviewed so many people from all corners of life, and he’d be an amazing person with great perspective to talk to.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/AmbienteSedona/
https://www.instagram.com/ambientesedona/

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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