Zach Barricklow is a runner. The word “runner” is a bit if an understatement. “Distance runner” is a more accurate descriptor. He has competed in the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, touted as one of the toughest marathons in the country. He had a 3:04 hour time in the storied Boston Marathon in 2015. And he is a frequent competitor in 200 mile relay races such as the Blue Ridge Relay and this year’s inaugural Get Outside Mountain Relay held here in Alleghany County. His success on the race course is reflective of a work ethic that began in his teenage years.
As a 16 year-old, Zach began mowing lawns in his hometown of Brooklyn, Michigan. His customers grew from 10 in 1999 to 120 in 2005. To meet this growing demand for services, he employed many of his friends. The business revenue grew from $5,700 the first year to almost $60,000 six years later. The success of his business earned an award for Young Entrepreneur of Michigan and paid Zach’s way through college.
During his college years, Zach expanded his service orientation through jobs with the AmeriCorps in Southern California, a Spanish language tutoring program in Michigan, and Habitat for Humanity International in Mexico. After graduating from Hope College in 2005, Zach became a Peace Corp volunteer. The Peace Corp challenges their volunteers to “Make the Most of Your World” and Zach set out to do just that in the Republic of Panama.
During his five years in Panama, Zach responsibilities grew from consultant to trainer to associate director. While his titles and roles changed, he spent those five years on community economic development projects. Through a network of governmental agencies and non-profit community groups, Zach and his group helped entrepreneurs develop and grow small businesses. All his work in rural cooperative development, eco-tourism, community mobilization and volunteer training was focused on empowering local people to develop local solutions that were sustainable over time.
One of the best things that happened during those years in Panama was Zach meeting Lauren Edwards of Sparta. They shared common values and a desire to empower local community members to take charge of their economic and social destinies. Zach and Lauren were married on December 29, 2007.
In 2010, Zach and Lauren returned to Sparta. They were drawn to the close-knit community, the outdoor recreation opportunities, the rich cultural heritage, the beautiful scenery at every turn, and the ability to have a vibrant, engaging social life. The couple plunged into Alleghany County life with Zach serving on the board of Alleghany County Community Foundation and helping co-found the Blue Ridge Developmental Day, a five-star rated daycare facility. Lauren put her Spanish language skills to work as Alleghany County School’s Migrant Education Program Coordinator.
The entrepreneurial spirit was still alive in Zach. He and Lauren co-founded Barricklow Holdings a commercial property management firm with properties in Boone, Wake Forest, and North Wilkesboro. They are also co-founders of Anytime Fitness, a 24 hour fitness facility in North Wilkesboro.
Their boldest step was partnering with Zach’s siblings to found and launch Versado Training. In seven short years, the company has developed a global footprint. They now have 30 full-time employees who live across the country and employ 100 contractors. Versado recently earned national recognition as an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies. This places them in the 99.98 percentile of small businesses in the United States.
A key element of Versado’s mission is to engage in local communities. To facilitate this vision, the Barricklows setup the Versado Foundation, the nonprofit arm of their business. Zach has begun transitioning away from the for-profit side of Versado to spend more time with the foundation. He is using this transitional period as a sabbatical as he begins channeling his entrepreneurial energy into the social sector.
A beneficiary of this transition is Sparta. Zach has agreed to partner with the Chamber of Commerce and the Blue Ridge Business Development Center to develop a communication and community engagement plan for the upcoming Streetscape project. It is his hope that this plan will have applications and usefulness long after the work on Main Street is complete.
Which brings us back to the thought of the marathon. Most of us can’t just wake up one morning and run 26.2 miles. To prepare for a run of that length requires incremental and focused action steps. Runners must attend to minute details and be willing to make lifestyle changes. They must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and have the determination to finish the race well.
Sustainable economic vitality follows a similar path. There is no simple formula for economic growth. It takes actionable steps by a number of people working together toward a common goal. Zach and Lauren Barricklow are committed to helping us grow our community in a way that honors our heritage and culture while meeting the needs of the future.