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Moving Everything Forward: Lara Grosjean’s Business Practices at CityROCK

By Courtney Rael

I began climbing at CityROCK almost a year ago and was amazed by the helpful staff, the impressive size of the gym and the welcoming community that it had to offer. So, it was much to my delight when I found out that CityROCK was owned by Fellowship Alum Lara Grosjean, Class of 1999.

Since finishing her Fellowship in 2001, Lara has served in the military, traveled around the world, earned her MBA, become a mom and opened a successful climbing gym in Colorado Springs. She is proof that women can have it all. I joined Lara on Zoom in June to discuss her adventures and successes.

CityROCK opened in downtown Colorado Springs in 2009. Their goal from the beginning was to create an inclusive and welcoming space for people to challenge themselves. Lara wanted to create this kind of culture for the gym after realizing the importance of a strong support system when she was a new mother.

When her son was a toddler, Lara was working on her Executive Masters of Business Administration at the University of Denver and felt fortunate that she had family nearby to lean on when she needed it. Now that she runs her own business, Lara has the opportunity to create an environment that best supports her employees and customers.

“We can at least help our employees maintain a work-life balance,” Lara explains. “We can try to accommodate their climbing trips or if they need to go home to their children. If we’re going to be a business that values a way of life, we need to practice what we preach.”

This accepting, balanced atmosphere is very evident in the gym, even as a customer. When I go to CityROCK to climb, I see experienced climbers showing patience as young kids learn to climb and people cast friendly smiles at parents teaching their babies to walk in between climbing their own routes.

CityROCK partners with different organizations to support the community and displays artwork from local artists, and has also partnered with science festivals and hosted physics demonstrations.

“We try to make the climbing gym reflect the community in all different aspects,” Lara said.

Lara reflected on her Fellowship and recognized that she took several key things away from it that later helped her in her business practices, such as working with numbers, having ownership over programs and departments, and prioritizing education and professional development.

Lara also took the value of philanthropy from the Fellowship to her business. She has done her best to give back to the community in ways that are meaningful to her staff. One hundred percent of initiation fees are donated to non-profit organizations every year, she said. They’ve donated to Humane Society and the Climb Fund. This year’s initiation fees are going to support a Palestinian climbing team that is based out of Wadi Climbing, CityROCK’s sister gym in Ramallah, Palestine.

In 2016, for ten weeks, Lara and others went to Palestine to build the climbing gym and help them set up their business. Since then, CityROCK has maintained its relationship with Wadi Climbing and their team, which has competed in Jordan and Vail.

“It’s the power of sport to transform lives,” Lara said. “You don’t have to win the events to be transformed. It’s a really cool business and I feel like it does really impact the community.”

Lara’s daily mantra is “move everything forward.” It applies to her job as she works to expand CityROCK to a second location in northern Colorado Springs, and her personal climbing projects. Even if it’s just one more business call or one more hand placement on the rock, it is forward progress.

“I think that’s the beauty of climbing,” Lara said. “It forces you into positions and situations where you push yourself and then you get that feeling of accomplishment.”

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