By Mandy Holmes
Photo by Claudia Johnstone
While some people look for tranquility in their favorite coffee shop, Cafe Au Plait owner Danielle Pyatt has fostered a space in which parents can enjoy a cup of joe while their children play and socialize in a safe, clean environment.
Pyatt and her husband Taylor share a passion for coffee shops, but after their daughter was born, they realized it was difficult to find a place that caters to families, where gourmet beverages and snacks are paired with a space in which little ones can get their wiggles out. As a result, in October 2018, the Pyatts opened the European-inspired Cafe Au Plait along McDowell Mountain Ranch Road to do just that.
With midwestern roots and a background in culinary arts, Pyatt followed in her parents’ footsteps by starting a small business, something she had always imagined doing.
“There is such a sense of community that comes with owning a small business,” she says. “I wanted to build something like that for my daughters to grow up with.”
Pyatt says the inspiration for both their business and their personal life comes from the various cuisines, cultures and fashions they’ve been lucky enough to experience thanks to Taylor’s career in professional hockey and the opportunity to live and travel throughout the world.
“We take away pieces of what we love from each of those places, and we’ve been able to integrate them into our business and home life,” Pyatt says.
Today, the Scottsdale transplant is busy settling into her new home, chasing her two-year-old, and getting ready for the family’s newest addition, arriving in February.
The focus on family stays as strong as ever as Pyatt works on the next phase of Cafe Au Plait, which will include options for private parties, children’s birthday parties, baby showers and more.
“My favorite thing about our business is getting to do it side by side with my husband,” Pyatt shares. “Being able to create a business that goes along with our current lifestyle and seeing that other people in similar situations appreciate what we’ve built is gratifying.”
By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Claudia Johnstone
While most of the country settles in for what will likely be a long, dark winter, Arizona is expecting sun all season long – which is exactly what Joe Cunningham, the co-founder of Sunny Energy, likes.
Cunningham’s road to Sunny Energy, one of Arizona’s largest providers of residential and commercial solar energy systems, began in New York.
“In my teens, I was an avid road cyclist in Buffalo, and then I studied civil engineering at Cornell University in New York City,” Cunningham shares. “Solar energy was a topic of study, and it immediately fascinated me. Given it was the 1970s, however, the concept was still in its infancy.”
It was so new that Cunningham, who moved to the Valley in 1985, spent the next 20 years leading the charge for other technologies, including computers, cable television, and wireless internet.
“By the mid-2000s, solar technology was finally gaining steam. I started selling and installing solar systems, then connected with one of the largest producers of solar technology, CentroSolar, whose U.S. operations were based in Scottsdale,” Cunningham says.
He joined the CentroSolar team, eventually managing its entire North American footprint.
In 2014, Cunningham and colleague Chris Wood began developing Sunny Energy. “The business didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it wasn’t until 2016 that I fully left CentroSolar,” Cunningham says. “A year later, I also co-founded the Distributed Energy Resource Alliance (DERA), a nonprofit dedicated to the development of solutions to ensure reliable, clean, renewable energy.”
Today, while growing Sunny Energy’s footprint across the region – with a recent acquisition in Northern California – as well as heading up DERA and still making time to cycle 5,000-plus miles a year, Cunningham is focused on ensuring a new generation of engineers is prepared to continue the charge of creating sustainable solar solutions worldwide.
“Right now, I’m working with students in ASU’s professional science master’s program in solar energy engineering and commercialization, taking them beyond the classroom and into the real world to develop hands-on projects that will drive our industry forward.”