"You realize there's a lot of wonderful ways to live life...If the people who live in COS can interact with people from every corner of the globe, that's a good thing for our community because we have lessons to learn from people in South and Central America who really embody family as the hub of their life. We have things to learn from people in Italy who are very careful not to let that work life balance get off kilter. We have things to learn from everyone all over the world. And we can take those things and transcribe them in a way that makes sense here in COS. We have things to learn here as a community from everyone who's visiting us."
Bobby and Brooke Mikulas are the founders and owners of Kinship Landing, a boutique hotel, cafe/bar, and event space in downtown Colorado Springs. “Built with exploring in mind,” Kinship Landing is more than just a place to spend the night. Acting as a personalized resource hub for both tourists and townies, the Kinship team provides recommendations for how to experience the Springs like a local through craft dining, culture, recreational activities, and more.
In this episode, discover the journey that led this husband/wife team toward a livelihood of hospitality, from family values instilled at birth to a life-changing trip around the world.
Listen to our conversation for a meaningful perspective on belonging and being a good neighbor. For more local entrepreneurial interviews, visit our full library.
Joe: Hi there. I’m Joe Dudeck, president and founder of Keyhole Marketing.
Shannon: And I’m Shannon Jirik. I work for Keyhole as the assistant brand manager.
Joe: And this is Metaphorically Speaking, a podcast that explores the mysterious side of marketing.
Shannon: We had a super meaningful conversation on this episode with Bobby, who is the founder and owner of Kinship Landing, which is a boutique hotel, cafe and event space in downtown Colorado Springs.
Joe: Yeah, it was great. We certainly wished to have both Bobby and his wife, Brooke, on the podcast, but unfortunately right before the recording, she got pulled away to work the front desk. But you know that happens in small businesses. Somebody’s got to pick up the slack somewhere, and we certainly rolled with it as much as we could.
Shannon: Absolutely. We’re so grateful to Bobby for giving us some time. As you mentioned, Joe, this is a husband and wife team. They met in high school, fell in love, got married young, and just discovered that they had very similar passions for hospitality, for travel, for just being a good community member and neighbor. And they have a really unique story, just talking specifically about this long trip that they went on, you know, when they were young. They saved for seven years and planned a trip around the world, essentially staying in hostels and, you know, shared spaces and just discovering culture around the world and discovering how they want it to be able to bring that back to their community.
Joe: Yeah, that was the most intriguing part to me about the podcast was just how they made that trip very intentional. They didn’t just pack their bags and make this just this self-serving trip of wanting to take in all the sights and sounds and foods — which also is awesome. But they were very intentional about setting the trip in a certain way. And he talks about the phases that they navigated the trip through, which was certainly interesting. And I loved, you know, just how it then fed their desire to be hospitable in their community. And they have done, I’m not sure how it’s worked during the COVID world, but they had done prior to COVID, you know, these community nights in their back yard, having up to 150 people back there.
So it’s definitely something that is just inside of them that they can help produce. And so Kinship Landing is a great by-product of that.
Shannon: Absolutely. And if you’re not familiar with the hotel itself, they have some really unique spaces, again, inspired by their travels together. Just some really cool, unique spaces, like a camping room where you can rent gear, you know, and spend the night under the stars with the mountain views and just really beautiful, unique spaces that are also affordable and designed for even local people too. Not just people coming from out of town, but really getting the local community plugged into where they are. So I love that.
Joe: Yeah. They love the collision, I guess you would say of tourists versus local. And so yeah, they would love for locals to get out of their house for a little bit, spend a weekend, spend a night in their hotel, just as much as the traveler who’s visiting for a weekend would. They’d love for them to stay there too. So it’s really great to kind of, again, intentionality of the space and the way they design these places.
Shannon: Absolutely. So thank you to Bobby for chatting with us. And we look forward to having you guys listen to the episode.
Joe: So I know you and your wife both grew up in Colorado Springs, met each other in high school. What was the kind of initial spark there? What stood out to each other as you recall it?
Bobby: Oh, man. Well, we grew up in Monument. I was in Monument from third grade on before that in Colorado Springs. So coming back to Colorado Springs in 2010, after some time in college was like rediscovering a new city because we really came south of North Academy living in Monument. I went to 32 blue for a couple of concerts growing up and that’s about it.
But I met Brooke my sophomore year of high school and, you know, we had a lot of shared interests. She had a locker next to my younger brother. So I ran into her a bit there. Both of us were pretty committed and pretty focused on our faith pursuit at the time. And that was a great binding agent for our friendship and love being outside, did a lot of hiking and fishing together. Our families ran in mutual circles. And so we found ourselves on the same trip, a boating trip, out in Missouri one year. And that’s the short answer to your question. I was struck with all these emotions when you said, what did you first, what was the first spark? I was like, well, she was pretty good looking and really nice to be around.
Joe: That’s awesome. Yeah. I was kind of asked a little bit of my own background and when I, you know, had girlfriends or people I was interested back then it was, it was short-lived for sure. So it’s kind of interesting to see how it sort of started there and it really moved pretty quickly. Cause you got married what…five years later?
Bobby: Six years later. We met in, I want to say 2003, something like that. And we got married in 2010. Okay. So yeah, it was sometime we got married about halfway through college.
Joe: What, what was the… Yeah, kind of walk me through a little bit of like sort of, you know, some people might consider that a fast track to marriage. Was that like how early on in your relationship did marriage sort of become something that you started thinking about? Like this might be where this is headed and maybe pretty quickly.
I know my wife and I were married pretty young and that was mostly, we were 22 and 24. I thought that was pretty young. And that was mostly from our parents’ desire to basically tie the knot for us if they could. But I was curious sort of like, you know, how that, how that came around, maybe. So in a lot of people’s minds so quickly. Yeah.
Bobby: Aziz Ansari has got a funny book called Modern Romance and his, some of his research or the research they did for that book helped lead to some conclusions that support, you know, marrying people in your proximal community and earlier, but the short answer to your question is that I knew I would not be married until I was at least 30 and marriage was not a word I like to use very much. I was dating Brooke with no intention of really marrying her any time in the near future. Of course I could imagine that scenario one time or sometime in the future, but Brooke and I couldn’t be more different.
She was, she was probably envisioning a marriage like about the timeline we did. I’m not sure that that was something, she was more comfortable thinking about that we really didn’t talk about marriage for years and years until we did. And then we got married. I was 22. I was 22 when we got married. I was 21. I was 21. Just about to be 22 and Brooke was 20. So I was her newly signed legal guardian so she could get, have a good time drinking at our wedding.
Joe: That’s awesome. What, I mean, you’ve got, what about 10 years under your, under your belt now as far as marriage. I mean, I know that my wife and I, again, we did have a lot of autonomy over our, over our lives. At that point, our parents were kind of dictating the terms in a lot of ways, even though I had moved out and lived in Chicago, there was a lot of pressure to get, to get married. And I know that we kind of rewrite history a little bit in our minds to think like, you know, we would have loved to have waited longer. Maybe, you know, certainly dated longer. Do you guys, now that you’re 10 years in, you know, kind of make any thoughts or changes of that or are you sort of happy with, you know, that was, that was the right time and the right way to go.
Bobby: I think for us it was right. Everyone is different. Everyone’s got their thing that works for them. For us, it’s been a blast. It’s been, it’s been a wild ride and a fun ride. And you know, we had a lot of fun the first five, six, seven years of our marriage. We still have a lot of fun, but I don’t think I would change it. Had I never met Brooke then maybe I would have forecasted a different scenario, but she’s, she’s great. I love being around her still. And so it was a good, it was a good path for us and I don’t think I’d anything different.
Joe: Yeah. Normally I don’t tend, tend to camp out too long on the marriage. But obviously with you guys working together, I was really curious kind of how that all came together. What were your childhoods like in the Springs? I mean, what did you, did you have aspirations, dreams about your city things you were like, I can’t wait to do this for our city one day or, or, you know, I don’t know how, what, what was that like?
Bobby: I bailed out in 2007, heading towards Boulder, Colorado, reluctantly, staying in the state, knowing that I would never live in Colorado Springs or Monument. It’s just wasn’t a place that I envisioned my future being, at least not at that time. So we were civically engaged if you want to use that type of language in Monument, you know, on, on sports teams. And my parents helped plant a church when I was in fifth grade. So we were part of that whole thing and showing up to community gatherings and things like that. So certainly involved, but I didn’t really have vision for contributing, especially not to the downtown urban core of Colorado Springs, which is where most of our focus is these days; that was not on my radar until later, until after we’d boomeranged back to Colorado Springs and really began to recognize, at least for me, began to recognize number one, this place is pretty, pretty great actually.
And number two, there’s a lot of opportunity here, a lot of opportunity that you might not find in other cities or other regions and a lot of opportunity to inform progress because it is certainly growing and will continue to grow and there’s opportunity to inform that growth a little bit. So that was when I think the light bulb clicked for me a little bit. It was man, this is a place I love people I love and there’s space for my voice and energy here, and access. I mean, you could meet with the mayor, you know, pretty easily if you wanted to.
Joe: That’s awesome. What were, you know, you guys are, I don’t know what the right word is. Obsessed. Passionate maybe is a better word with hospitality. And I’ve read a few stories of just your opening your house up to the local community and, and you certainly have some Airbnbs you run as well, but do you have any memories when you were kids like where this hospitality bent was first formed? Was there people in your lives or experiences that you, you, that you had with, you went through that just instilled that within you?
Bobby: For sure. I mean, I’ll repeat another comment. Everyone’s got their own way of doing things and stuff that works for them. So Brooke and I… I’m sure there are many people this would work as just as well for them as it does for us, but getting married early, doing a lot of things together. For example, starting and running and owning a business and working together, living with other people. We’ve only ever lived on our own in the house that we currently live in. We bought that 2012. We only ever lived by ourselves there for about a year out of the last eight years. We always have at least a couple of roommates or housemates or guests with us. And so that, that just works for us to be in that communal environment. You know, people, especially when we first bought the house and invited a flock of friends to live with us, there was a lot of like, I don’t think you want to do that.
You’re, you’re married. That’s not a good idea, but it just, it works for us. And I think part of that is when you have people around you that you let in and you choose to be open and vulnerable and honest and courageous in your speech and action, there’s this opportunity for them to hold a mirror up and show you who you are and how you can grow and how you can change and what’s great about you and really help inform and reveal your identity. And I think as we understand ourselves more honestly and truly, we can take that understanding and translate to action in our community and let our identity start to contribute to the communities around us. But to speak to your question, I have very vivid and fond memories of this type of hospitality being expressed in my home growing up.
We would host foreign exchange students on a couple of different accounts and our house just always seemed to be a place where people could be if they wanted to be. I think this is largely driven by my mom. I know my dad would be rolling his eyes. We’d have 60 or a hundred kids in the basement for youth group once a week, trying to kick the ceiling and wrestle and my dad just would roll his eyes. And of course my mom loved it, that that was our home that that was happening. But I do remember growing up with people living in one of our basement rooms for a time in between transition or having foreign exchange students live with us and kind of helping them out of another scenario that wasn’t good.
And I was always drawn to maybe, I don’t know if you call it the “outsider” or something. I’m drawn to people who were on the fringe and, and maybe looking in. So I just, I love helping connect people to what they’re looking for. And usually that’s belonging. That’s usually what most people are looking for, but it’s so fun to help people find the resources that they need beyond themselves. And beyond me too, like the best scenarios, people don’t remember my name or remember any interaction with me, but they have found belonging and fulfillment as a result of some tiny little trickles that I may have been lucky to be a part of.
Joe: Yeah. Yeah. So it was experiences that you may not even recall, but it was super important for them and transform the way they orient life.
Bobby: Anchoring just happens beyond me. You know, we first moved to Colorado Springs. We didn’t have any friends. Cause all of our friends were either in Monument or had scattered about. We had one friend, her name was Becca. We started hosting community nights in our apartment off Garden of the Gods road. And we would invite anyone we met that we thought might be looking for friendship, cause we were as well. So we would just say, we’re going to have beer, bring some food and a gas station clerk a guy we met at the grocery store, if you want to swing by here’s our apartment number, we’re just gonna be hanging out and going into a way for us to meet a lot of friends. It, it got to the point where we didn’t really like have that same need for a bunch of new relationships, but we recognized other people did.
So we would have massive community nights in our home and we continue those throughout the year? And the mark of success there is people didn’t know it was our house. They didn’t know who we were and they just showed up to these events. And in the best case scenarios, they were connected to the things they were looking for: jobs, girlfriends, hobbies, climbing partner, beer, whatever it is.
Joe: Yeah. It’s beautiful. Yeah. We, when we moved out here from Indiana, that was kind of our intention with this house. We got one that’s definitely larger than we need on a daily basis, but we’ve had so many guests out here and just, just love opening the house and we have a child who’s a consummate extrovert. So he’s, he’s dying for people to come over and entertain.
Shannon: Okay, Joe. So I know it’s been a long time for you, but I want to know if you remember getting grades back in school.
Joe: Oh gosh decades. Yeah. I think they brought them on a little slate chalkboards that we would carry like to, and from school both ways, you know, through the Prairie school. Yeah.
Shannon: Oh yes. Wow. You’ve dated yourself. Okay.
Joe: Why do you ask? So you can rub in how much better you are than I was in school.
Shannon: Oh, you know, you know, I love to do that, but I’m going to spare you this time. No, I’m asking because that’s exactly what we hand out to small business owners with our score sheet, marketing assessment, just an overall grade of their current marketing efforts.
Joe: Yeah. I love those. Maybe it’s just cause I love finally giving out a grant for, to get into here.
Shannon: Yeah, in this assessment, we just check five pieces of your marketing story. So your brand content, SEO, social media and photography, and just give a final score out of a hundred points, kind of showing how well you’re doing and sharing your compelling story to prospective customers who may know nothing about you.
Joe: Yeah. I think what I love best about him other than the grade, it’s just that we don’t just Pat them on the back and wish them the best and say, good luck out there. We’ll get like your teacher said, yeah, exactly. It turned out, but we give them a score. And then we actually give them some top strengths that they’re currently just killing it with and some top opportunities to pursue and then really just give them some low hanging fruit that they could go after, right away and start to start to find those prospects and customers.
Shannon: Absolutely. I think it can just really help you understand quickly how to stand out in the crowd. So if you’re a small business owner and you would love some feedback on the strength of your story and how well you stand out from the competition, visit keyholemarketing.us/marketing-scorecard today to sign up. And we would love to give you that grade!
Joe: Talk about a little bit as we transition into the business idea — Kinship Landing — obviously from what I’ve, from what I’ve read that sort of came about as a, the trip you took around the world. Was that something that you, that idea had already been sparked before you went on a trip or was it while you were, while you were traveling, that thing came together.
Bobby: So the idea of hospitality being a significant part of our life was always in my heart and mind and for sure Brooke’s, that was expressed in our home. We’ve got a little mother-in-law suite in our backyard where friends and family were living. So hospitality as a passion was not sparked on the trip — that was deep within us. A hotel in downtown Colorado Springs…that was not deep within us. That that was something that came as a result of really two things. One is certainly the trip. The trip was the catalyzing event that opened our eyes to the idea of a hospitality concept in downtown Colorado Springs. But using the word hotel is not really something we started to do until we got back from that trip and started putting together the business model based on the needs in the city, what would actually pencil on paper financially, what we were passionate about interested in, and that came by working with our partner, Nate Grim and early founders, Jason Phillips and Lauren Lancaster and a hospitality concept in downtown Colorado Springs started to take the form that it is now as a result of that team really building something out beyond what Brooke and I probably would’ve come up with on her own.
But yeah, I mean the catalyzing event was for sure the trip being the recipient of outrageous hospitality and hostels and Airbnbs and bungalows and homestays, it, it clicked the light bulb on. I was like, we, we have to offer this in Colorado Springs. I remember my friend, Amber asking us a question. What are you guys uniquely qualified to do that no one else can do in Colorado Springs?
And you have to be okay sounding like an arrogant person answering that question. But one answer was a really cool place for people who are traveling to sleep because we can identify with the points of pain and moments of delight that travelers have had because we’ve been traveling the world for a year, living out of our backpack and we know the Springs really well, so we can help connect those people. And we can help connect people who live here to people who aren’t from here. Cause that’s cool too. So that question really pushed us into that concept as well as just being the recipient like I said, of just unmerited grace and generosity and kindness and adventure.
Joe: Yeah. How did, and maybe this is just me. I always feel like I have some amazing ideas on trips or vacations, at least that in my own mind, they seem, they seem awesome. And then, you know, you come back to reality and, and they fade away, something else comes up on the, on the radar and it never does come to fruition. What was it about this idea that just kept burning? Or how did you keep it burning when you came back to make sure it wasn’t just a vacation idea, trip idea, but actually became something real.
Bobby: Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a difference between an idea you have and an intention towards the right idea. So we, you can ask Brooke, she basically lives with three children, our two boys and myself. And so we have to have structure with children. They just, they thrive under structure and that’s the same with me and any adult. So we structured our trip in three segments. The first was to just rest. The second was to dream. And then the third was to plan, and I remember I’m always coming up with ideas and throwing these ideas at Brooke the first two months of our trip. And she’s like, stop, I’m resting. Don’t, don’t tell me what we’re going to do. Or any ideas you have, we’re resting, we’re chilling, we’re letting the cortisol levels go down.
And then we started to dream and we narrowed those dreams down to a couple of options that all probably would have been pretty cool, and ultimately picked one. And the answer to your question, I’m giving you is that picking one, like we are doing this until it doesn’t, it doesn’t or can’t work. And so the second half of our trip, we’re spending our vacation days writing business plans and doing research and looking at other models and talking to hotel owners. And then when we came back to Colorado Springs, we turned down positions at companies that we really respected that we would have loved to work at because we were fully committed to this. So I think an idea is great when that idea becomes what you are doing.
That’s that’s the reality in life. This is happening. That’s when it shifts into something different and that kind of all-in commitment can really be exemplified in the language you use. We didn’t go meet with the downtown partnership and tell them we’re thinking about doing a hospitality concept. We said, we are bringing a hospitality concept to downtown Colorado Springs and want to help understand how we can make that better. But it wasn’t like, I wonder if this will happen, Brooke and I, when we got back, we said, we’re going to give this project two years of our all-in, full commitment. And we might obtain a ton of debt. We might, it might not work, but for two years, the answer is no, you keep moving forward.
Even if there’s a problem or hurdle, the answer is we were doing this all-in for two years until we just can’t anymore. And if it wasn’t that type of all-in commitment, I just, I can tell, tell you about at least five conversations that would have pushed it towards eh, let’s just not do it anymore.
Joe: Yeah. I love that. I love that intentionality with the trip and how you built that out. I know you’re really intentional about creating a space where locals and travelers can collide. Why, why is that collision so important to you? And how are you creating some of those?
Bobby: Yeah, I love that question. Thanks for asking it. In Colorado Springs, we’re so lucky cause it’s amazing here. Amazing people, amazing landscape. We have 25 million visitors to the area every year. And when you’re very lucky to be able to travel the world, like we were, you quickly realize America is not the only country in the world. As a matter of fact, there are people on the other side of the world with very real lives, solving very real problems that have never even heard of Colorado Springs. Don’t know where Nevada Avenue or Colorado Avenue is. And they’re doing just fine.
So some of our trip was just asking the question, how does the world do fill in the blank: healthcare, childcare, education, food, leisure, work-life balance. You know, how do you do that in Italy? How do you do that in Zambia? How do you do that in Thailand? And you realize there’s a lot of wonderful ways to live life, including the ways we live them here in America. But beyond that. And so if the people who live in Colorado Springs can interact with people from every corner of the globe, that’s a good thing for our community because we have lessons to learn from people in South America, who, and Central America who really embody family as the hub of their life.
And we have things to learn from people in Italy, who, who are very careful not to let that work-life balance get off kilter. And we have things to learn from, you know, everyone all over the world and we can take those things and transcribe them in a way that makes sense here in Colorado Springs. So that’s the first thing is we have things to learn here as a community from everyone who’s visiting us. And then the second is people who are coming here and people like you, Joe, and me, when we travel, we want to get the essence of where we travel, generally speaking. There’s time and place for like bottomless margaritas on the beach and you just sleep for a week. That’s a great trip too. But a lot of the times when I’m traveling it’s man, what, what does Banff Canada or Jasper Canada actually look and feel like on a local level?
And what does the day to day rhythm of climbing and eating and sleeping and working look like for these full-time mountaineers. I want to understand what that life actually is. And so these people who are coming to Colorado Springs, many of them are longing for that authentic connection to the local scene: local art, local music, local food, local outdoor recreation in a way that doesn’t feel like a tourist thing, but that is true to the place. And so that’s the other part of that connection is making sure that people are traveling here have a way to access authentic local, a local experience, which is why the main level of our hotel is really for people who live here first, because people who sleep here a great chance to find the local scene without leaving property and hopefully quickly leave property to go experience the best of our region.
Joe: Yeah. I love that. We lived in Chicago for five years and we constantly encountered people who grew up there and had never been to the art museum and had never gone to some local bars or restaurants. And we were always intentional about trying to be a tourist in that area. If we knew we weren’t going to live there forever. So we try to take in as much as we could, but it was always just surprising to us how many had not really ventured out in their own town very much.
Bobby: And that’s okay. Not everyone has that desire, but if you just push a little bit harder, you can usually find some pretty good stuff.
Joe: For sure. For sure. One more question. Obviously 2020 everybody knows how hard that was on the hospitality industry. But you know, rather than asking, you know, what were some of those hardships that you endured? What, why do you think your space might be even more necessary today than it was before COVID’s arrival?
Bobby: Sure. Well, I’ve used this word a lot in this time, which I don’t typically find myself using, but belonging is something we’re all looking for. And when you are alone in your house for a year, that sense of belonging to something beyond yourself, bigger than yourself gets really tough. Zoom can only go so far. So I think after the events of the last year, our community and the world in general is looking for a place to express that interconnectedness, to express that belonging to something bigger and belonging to place, especially. It’s so fun to know that you are a contributing member of a space or a place like Colorado Springs.
So I would say just the culture of the world is ripe for belonging to be manifested. And in ways that turns into action, like, you know, book clubs that are meeting together in person and trail building and trail cleanup groups that are going and doing things in person in real life, real, tangible things. So I think Kinship Landing is a space where that expression of belonging, that expression of friendship and connectedness can happen organically. At least that’s the hope.
Joe: Yeah. That’s what I experienced when I was there. I mean, it was just, it’s always great to have a vision on paper and try to create that space, but I can attest to living it out in there. And it was just, it’s always a place where you see community come together and you don’t, and you don’t know who’s a tourist, who’s a local and everybody’s just interacting. And even with all the restrictions and boundaries, it still works really well. I can’t wait till it continues to open up more and you can, you can really get the heart of what you’re trying to create there.
Bobby: Good. Well, I’m so glad you experienced that. Like, like community nights, if we’re doing anything, right you know, one, two, three years from now that type of culture will be propagating itself and no matter who is or is not there, it will be a space where stories are shared, where courage is expressed and transmitted and where those organic friendships and relationships happen and inspire people to go do great things in the world.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. Well, thanks so much for the time today. Can’t wait to head down there and get a room for a night and check it out for real.
Bobby: Yeah, no problem. Love chatting with you a little bit and would love to see you stay overnight. It’s a gift to be here, at least in my, in my opinion, in my experience. So hopefully you can find some respite there. The one thing I always try to tell people who live here in Colorado Springs, if you can do anything to help me, it’s really two things. Number one: host people in your home when they come to town, that’s the best hospitality they’re gonna, they’re gonna find memories sleeping in someone’s home, who lives here, that they can’t find elsewhere. And then number two is just be here. Like you have been, it sounds like already, you know, people make the place at Kinship Landing. And so for this space to be filled with real live human beings, with real stories and interesting and unique language and perspectives, that’s what’s gonna set us apart from another place that you can sleep.
Joe: Yeah. I love that. Thanks so much again.
Bobby: Okay, Joe. Thanks for time. I’ll see you around. I hope.
Joe: Yep. That sounds great.
Bobby: All right. Cheers, man.
Shannon: You’ve been listening to the Metaphorically Speaking podcast. At Keyhole Marketing, we tell big stories for small businesses. If you’re in the Colorado Springs area and ready to tell your business story, we’d love to come alongside you and help you with your content, branding, SEO, social media, or photography needs. For an instant glimpse at your current marketing strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, take our free marketing assessment at keyholemarketing.us/marketing-assessment, or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help tell your story.