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March ConnectED Seminar: Building Legacy Through Your Business (Panel Discussion)

  • Better Business Bureau (BBB, Phoenix) 1010 East Missouri Avenue Phoenix, AZ, 85014 United States (map)

Building a legacy is not for the faint of heart. It takes drive, passion, motivation, and a lot of visioning. Join us for a unique panel discussion with distinct business owners, Joe Johnston (Agritopia), Craig DeMarco (Upward Projects), and Jan Wichayanuparp (Sweet Republic), and hear their story and their path to creating legacy in Arizona. 

Hear expert advise from seasoned business leaders on how they built a loyal following, and keep their customers happy, and coming back!


The Johnston family first bought the stretch of land out in Gilbert 1960 to farm and raise their three boys. In 2000, eldest son Joe chose to keep his family's land locally owned, and envisioned a community where agriculture, people, and place all came together and thrived. Today, Agritopia encompasses a mix of residential houses, restaurants, and newly built multi-tenant barns, called BarNone. Joe made a choice to invest in Gilbert, in his home, and has created a following like no other.


Craig DeMarco came from a robust restaurant background as a founding partner of LeGrande Orange and Chelsea's Kitchen before partnering with his wife, Kris DeMarco, and friends, Lauren and Wyatt Bailey, to launch Upward Projects. His vision for elevating the dining experience soon blossomed into multiple concepts, including: Windsor, Churn, Federal Pizza, Joyride Taco House, and Postino WineCafé, which has grown to over 13 locations.


Opening an ice cream shop in 2008 can only be described as tough... and maybe a little crazy. But that didn't deter Sweet Republic's, Jan Wichayanuparp. Instead, she and her business partner, Helen Yung, became creative forces and went from first-year struggle to celebrating ten years in business, and are now expanding to new markets with their award-winning ice cream.

Open questions welcome, or simply come to learn more from our panelists. Moderated by Thomas Barr, Local First Arizona. 

When: Thursday, March 29th from 6PM - 7:30PM
Where: BBB, Phoenix: 1010 E Missouri Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85014
Cost: $20
$0 for all Legacy Partners & ConnectED Members of Local First Arizona (email [email protected] to register)

Register for the ConnectED event below:

Are you a Local First AZ member?
This event is open to current LFA members only. Questions? Contact us at: [email protected]

About the panelists:


Craig DeMarco is a founding partner of Upward Projects, a portfolio of hospitality-focused restaurant brands including Postino WineCafé, Joyride Taco House, Federal Pizza, Windsor, and Churn, with 13 locations in Arizona, Colorado, and Texas.  In 2017, Upward Projects executed a partnership with Los Angeles-based private equity firm Brentwood Associates, to grow the Postino brand in new markets, and Craig joined the Postino WineCafé board of directors at the same time.  Craig is also a founding partner of Phoenix institutions La Grande Orange Grocery, La Grande Orange Pizzeria, and Chelsea’s Kitchen. Craig is an active member and current Chapter Chairman of the Arizona YPO Chapter, founding member of Devour Phoenix, and in 2014 was inducted into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame as Restaurateur of the Year as well as honored at by the Arizona Restaurant Association as 2014’s Food Pioneer.  In 2017, Upward Projects was named to the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing companies.


Jan Wichayanuparp opened Sweet Republic in 2008, and has grown the business to become highly beloved by loyal customers for its innovative flavors, local ingredients, and eco-friendly design.

Wichayanuparp was recently chosen as one of 21 participants in the James Beard Foundation's inaugural Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program. The fellowship will provide guidance to female entrepreneurs who want to grow their businesses. 

BIO Photo 2016 Small.jpg

Joe and Cindy Johnston both grew up in self-employed, mom and pop businesses: farming and dry cleaning. They have gone on to create The Coffee Plantation (a local chain of coffeehouses), Joe’s Real BBQ, Joe’s Farm Grill and Liberty Market, all restaurants in the Town of Gilbert occupying storied buildings of the area. On the development side, they have helped create and develop the Agritopia® community, including the new Barnone project that is home to 12 mom and pop businesses; from letterpress to pizza and wood craft to wine making. It is the location of their latest venture: The Johnston Machine Company, a machine shop serving the culinary arts.Watch his TEDx Talk here.