Every time we publish our 573 Person of the Year issue, we get hundreds of emails inquiring how and why we chose the person. Here is how it works. We believe we are honest and trustworthy purveyors of the 573 region. We cover the people and places of the 573 without bias or agenda. Simply put, we show what we see. We tell stories of all the cool places we travel and the outstanding people we meet. We help all our communities to present themselves in a positive light. We pride ourselves on giving the underdog a voice. No matter your color, race, sex, age, religion, politics… if you have a passion for something, we will get you in. You tell us what to feature and who is interesting. That’s how people end up in the 573 Magazine.
A 573 Person of the Year is a different story -they are selected. We look at hundreds of people we came across in the year and pick out whom we feel is the most deserving. We ask ourselves, has this person made a positive contribution to the 573 that is worthy of recognition? Does the honoree personify the 573 Magazine -passionate, driven, honest, giving, hard-working, innovative, unbiased…? And lastly, is the honoree a nice person?
Choosing a few to be a 573 Person of the Year is very, very difficult. If you don’t see yourself listed as a 573 Person of the Year, just crawl out of that sunken sofa...
The 573 is thick with outstanding people. Choosing a few to be a 573 Person of the Year is very, very difficult. If you don’t see yourself listed as a 573 Person of the Year, just crawl out of that sunken sofa, turn that stupid device off, get out there and taste some reality for a change. Explore your world in real time. 573 Magazine wants to get to know you.
I’ve always been attracted to and fascinated by independent thinking people and entrepreneurs. Some go into business for a love or interest, moving a hobby into a career. Others start a business out of a need—survival or otherwise. Coming from a poor family with little possible means of support, my path to entrepreneurship was definitely survival and determination. I was determined to survive independently without working for others. Years later, I am thrilled every time I meet an entrepreneur, especially because now much of my business is helping other entrepreneurs.
...independent spirit needed to make a successful business and he’s done it from scratch, right here, and with nothing more than a need.
Recently, I met a local entrepreneur who definitely has the independent spirit needed to make a successful business and he’s done it from scratch, right here, and with nothing more than a need. But there’s more to this story than just a guy with a need. This is also a story of David and Goliath. In case you don’t know of the story of David and Goliath, David was a young man who slew a giant with only a slingshot. In case you don’t know what a slingshot is, a slingshot was a leather sack with two leather strings attached. You place a golf ball-sized rock in the sack, swing the sack around real fast, then let loose of one of the straps shooting the rock, hopefully where you want it to hit. If you don’t know what a golf ball is, you’ll just have to look that one up.
Many people have no idea what’s going on in the mind of a business owner at a startup and all the interest and negativity you have to control in order to do what you want and make money doing it. You have to drive your success 24/7 in the face of insurmountable obstacles and engage with others in a way that benefits both you and your clients. Like I said before, you either have to really, really want it or have no alternatives but to make it.
Anyways, meet Cole Smith, father, entrepreneur, local boy done good, owner of Aptitude Internet Solutions.
An inherent ability, as for learning; a talent.
The condition or quality of being suitable; appropriateness.
The state or quality of being apt or fit for or suited to a purpose, place, or situation; fitness; suitableness.
We met up with Cole on a work site to get the low down on the fiber he’s spreading around—fiber-connectivity, to be exact.
573: Cole, tell us about you and your family.
I was born and raised in the 573 area. I grew up in Farmington on my family’s rural homestead which was established in the late 1800s, which wasn’t easy given my passion for technology.
I have two children. My daughter, Quincy, is 12. She is one of the most passionate people that I have ever met. She pours enormous amounts of energy into anything she does. I call her “my little gust of wind”. She loves to help others, even with simple things like folding the laundry. She is incredibly empathetic and caring.
My son, Dean, is nine. Dean has a huge heart. For his 8th birthday, in lieu of gifts, he asked me to donate some toys to children who don’t have any. Dean understands the emotional struggles that people endure in a way that shows he is wise well beyond his years. I think Dean could be dropped into a middle management position of a Fortune 500 company at the age of nine and within a month or two, have the job figured out. They make being a dad easy.
573: Tell us about Aptitude and the services you provide.
Aptitude is a rural internet service provider. We started providing wireless internet service in rural parts around the 573 area in 2010. We built our first service tower in 2011, and over the past ten years, we have expanded with over 20 towers and 40 points of presence in our service area. In 2019, we began the shift from wireless to fiber optics.
573: Tell us how you first started Aptitude and why.
I remember being in high school and living outside of town when DSL first came to Farmington. I was an avid technology enthusiast and spent hours building computers. Living in the country, internet access was always a challenge. I called the big DSL provider for Farmington, and they told me they were at least 6 months away from being able to provide my mother’s address with DSL services. Time went on, I graduated high school and joined the workforce, got married and had my daughter Quincy, and moved back to the area.
Cole Smith tells us about his journey from a need to a business.
I called that same provider back after moving back home to check on DSL services, and they were still at least 6 months away from being able to bring DSL services to me. I set out to find a way to get high-speed internet services at my rural address and quickly learned of several friends and neighbors that had the same issue. Aptitude began as a quest to provide me, my family, and my neighbors with high-speed internet services.
573: Were there times while growing Aptitude where you almost gave up?
We had just started maybe two months before and we had equipment on three towers. A storm came through on a Friday evening and fried everything on all three towers. We had put all of our budget onto these towers. We didn’t have any operating cash left and people were set to pay the following week, but we knew it wasn’t right to have people pay without service. I didn’t know what to do.
We begged and borrowed as much as we could to replace the equipment but there was definitely a period that Friday where I remember feeling so dejected. It amounted to about $5,000 of damage, which felt like everything at the time. Levi and I worked a grueling 18-hour day, sleeping at the tower site, and two 12-hour days to repair all the damaged equipment and get service back online. I don’t know what I would have done without a business partner like Levi.
The actual fiber can be thinner than a human hair—at least thinner than the hair on our installer.
573: You are moving away from towers to fiber cable—why?
We’ve paid careful attention to our customers’ needs since day one. In 2010, the average home used 6 GB per month, which doubled and doubled as time passed. In 2019, we saw it spike to 250 GB per home. We were spending more time updating our current network to meet increasing demands than we were expanding our network. At that point, we knew wireless technologies would be a thing of the past and that we were experiencing a paradigm shift. It became evident in order to remain relevant and provide our customers with the service they need, we had to lean into that shift and change our model. Fiber optics is future-proof!
My advice to a start up business...whether it’s my employees, subcontractors, or customers. They are ultimately your measure of success. Most importantly, be lucky. And don’t go into internets, it’s taken!
573: Is there anything you can share with other startup entrepreneurs? (advice)
Be passionate about your project to the point that you could talk endlessly without reading from a prompt. Have it be something you care to do, there has to be a care there. There are a lot of days when it’s hard, but it’s a lot less hard if you care about it. It’s always served me well to empathize with the people I work with, whether it’s my employees, subcontractors, or customers. They are ultimately your measure of success. Most importantly, be lucky. And don’t go into internets, it’s taken!
You have to love a guy who puts all his passion into what he creates. Stay tuned for more 573 People of teh Year and Get Out There.