Rochelle Bergstrom earned her first pay-tax-on $1 as a carny, a game attendant at the Puyallup Fair. Shortly after graduating high school, she became a reservations agent for Alaska Airlines and recently celebrated her 20th anniversary with the Northwest’s “home town airline”  as she is now honored among 2017 “40 Under Forty.”

Quite early in her working life, Bergstrom learned that education was valuable, so she enrolled at Pierce College as an administrative role in the airline’s marketing department opened up. A transfer to night classes with Milgard School of Business at UW-T matched up with a promotion to Product Manager for airline-sponsored vacations, then Advertising Manager and today, she is leading the launch of Alaska’s first brand refresh in 25 years.

All along the way, daydreams of opening a small wedding chapel to provide a no frills, affordable and low-stress wedding option were percolating. And in April of this year, Rochelle Bergstrom opened Elope 253 in downtown Tacoma, with support from Spaceworks. Her biggest challenge is balancing work, family/friends, school and now, running her own company. Fortunately, she likes the rush of being busy and feeling productive.

“40 Under Forty” honoree Brandon Thompson also was known for being busy back to when he started his first company at age 23. Today, he’s the owner and president of Bay Shore Construction in Olympia, a family business started by his father that has been noted in national trade journals for its specialized expertise in onsite septic installations.

“Without my wife and three boys, I would never be able to accomplish the items I have and goals I am striving for,” Thompson says. His passions are “family and friends first and foremost.” And that goes back to his mentor, from the family’s prior generation.

“My grandfather has owned numerous businesses … and he has been been one of my best friends since I can remember. He is always there for me to sit down and strategize.” And now they can celebrate together Brandon Thompson’s recognition.

Cristina Ross is a relative newcomer to the South Sound, having relocated with her husband and daughter from rural Georgia four years ago, but they’ve certainly hit the ground running.

“Before moving to Tacoma, I had never been to Washington,” Ross says. “I only knew of the rain from textbooks … We were excited and scared, knew very few people (yet) were able to find our footing with multiple organizations to build our lives.”

Nowadays, the University Place resident is a realtor, helping other families find new homes, as well as a tireless volunteer with her church related social services, and as a coach for a competitive girls gymnastics team.

“My biggest challenge was growing up in rural Georgia as a Catholic, Hispanic person. My mother taught me to be the classiest version of myself at a young age (and) never let me be the victim,” she recalls. It’s apparent why she considers her mother to be her mentor, and how that impacts Cristina Ross’ approach to working with her own daughter and other young girls on her athletic team.

Meet Rochelle, Brandon and Cristina, plus 37 other remarkable members of 2017’s 40 Under Forty cohort at the celebration of their honors on Wednesday, October 11, at Foss Waterway Seaport in downtown Tacoma. It begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. and the recognition program will conclude before 8 o’clock.  Tickets are available at this link.