Thinking through whether to start a business – whether to take the risk, whether to go out on your own – isn’t easy.  So we asked some entrepreneurs we admire to tell us about how they thought through the process of starting a business.

Gio Toninelo | Film Producer, Creative Director

Starting your own business can be very rewarding. But it’s definitely also a scary challenge. Bottom line, I wanted to make a living doing something I really enjoyed doing. I love telling stories, the surprise factor, the connections they forge. When I made the jump from being a corporate designer to filmmaker, I found my new role to fit like a glove. Those dreadful Sunday nights anticipating another week of watching the clock for a paycheck were gone. But there are demands and you need to be on top of things. After all, your success depends on your reputation. Read more>>

Sara Hazard | Creative Director and Co-Owner of Passion House Media

The idea of Passion House Media grew from our past experience living in Oregon, where we spent our weekends selling artwork and handmade products at various markets and shows. What we both enjoyed most about participating in these events was the connections we made with the other makers in our community. I often found myself using any excuse I could to step away from my own booth so that I could go chat with my neighbors and learn more about what they do. Something that quickly became clear to us was the amount of hard work, sacrifice, and unknowns many makers and artists face, that customers often don’t see or understand. When I had the opportunity to listen to someone explain the process behind their work or what inspires them to do what they love even when faced with challenges, I would suddenly view their work in a whole new light. Colin and I both grew up in Colorado, so in 2018 we decided it was time to move back. Read more>>

Sarah Leone | LE & Master Lash Artist

In its most basic terms my motivation was survival. I was a young single mother when I got into the beauty industry, it really was the only thing that I had a passion for. Don’t get me wrong I worked about a million dead end and odd jobs before I really got a break in the industry. I worked as a freelance Makeup Artist for most of my 20’s and I loved it but it was hard to have balance between work and home while raising my daughter. The hours were long and the money unpredictable. So, about 10 years ago I decided I had to change gears to something I had more control over as far as my schedule but still provided me the financial stability that being a full time single parent requires. I had just started to hear the buzz about Lashes and thought I would give them a try. I took a class and oddly enough I had a natural ability for it, the only real struggle was training myself to sit and focus for long periods of time I was used to standing and moving. Read more>>

Laura Moore | Founder and Creator of Silk by Laura Whipped Shea Butter Series

Silk by Laura was actually a fluke! As a full time graduate student and working a full-time job, I never imagined randomly beginning a business to add to my already busy schedule. After formulating what I believed was the perfect shea butter mix, my close friends and family confirmed it when they raved about how great it was and the various ways they were able to use it. I knew my whipped shea butter was something that I had to share publicly, but I also knew it was going to take planning and preparation. As a one woman show, I recognized that the challenge was great, but I am also aware of my skillset and as my father always says, “Preparation meets opportunity.” Now, here I am, two months after launching my product, with a heavy influx of orders and keeping up with the flow of business. Silk by Laura has grown more than I have ever imagined, and I am excited to see where it goes. Read more>>

ISAIAH MCGREGORY | Founder – Venture Road

I remember the first time I experienced another part of the world. The food, the buildings, the smell in the air, the culture, the people; so much of it was different than anything I had encountered before, and much was even beyond what I could have imagined. And then, I started to notice all of the similarities as well: the smiles of the people, details in each culture and day to day life. My perspective of what our world was was irreversibly expanded, not only by our differences, but by our similarities at the core. For several years after that first experience, I had the opportunity to work all over the world with a study abroad program. And I witnessed firsthand, passions discovered, motivations ignited, hearts and perspectives opened, and lives profoundly impacted by the cultural immersion experience. I was ecstatic about the good this was doing in the world, and then my focus was drawn to the fact that many that desire to, cannot afford this type of opportunity. Read more>>

Carrie Washburn | Carrie Cathleen Photography

I had been taking photos as an amateur for awhile. Along the way, I entered photo competitions…. Some local and some international. I received really good responses in those competitions so I figured I would start marketing and selling my prints. Read more>>

Taylor Friesth | Drummer, Author, & Educator

My website is made for any drummer out there that is looking to go further with their ability on the drum kit and it will hopefully leave them with some universal skills needed for the music industry today. From finding a love for drums at the age of 6, I feel like I have seen music from an interesting perspective. Growing up, I would learn note for note how to play all the songs that my dad would show me, from Led Zeppelin to Def Leppard (dad bands). But what is great about learning an instrument as a kid, is you have no worries about “could I do this for a career?”. When you learn an instrument as a kid, you are doing it for only one reason, because it is fun. As we get older we need to start taking on more responsibilities and our time can become more limited, so the question of “can this make me money?” inevitably comes up. But I also was glad I learned as a kid because I have been noticing the changes that are happening with the music industry today. Read more>>

Kambri Preciado | Master Certified Spray Tan Artist and Educator

While working part-time doing airbrush spray tans and getting residency for dental school- I came up with the idea of offering spray tans and teeth whitening. Everyone loves convenience, and not having to leave the house is a win-win! I started up Bring Me Bronze, using my dental background for my teeth whitening service. I did a lot of research, finding the best whitening gel that would give great results but not make teeth overly sensitive and avoid any pain associated with whitening! I also tested out many tanning solutions, settling on a few great options- including a rapid solution that clients can rinse off in as little as 1-3 hours instead of the classic 8 hours a normal tan usually takes. And so the perfect combo of teeth whitening and tanning was born. I have focused on providing the best tanning experience possible, down to the tiniest details always ensuring a flawless tan every time! Since starting, word has spread fast and now Bring Me Bronze is booked and busy. Read more>>

Sarah Hipps | Opportunity Coach

4 years ago, I fell into starting my own business. I had just moved to Denver and didn’t have a job or know anyone. I truly had no idea what I was planning next, but what I did know was that I no longer wanted the same job I had in Virginia, where I had moved from. While event management was enjoyable, it was not my career. I had always been in in fitness, playing D1 volleyball in college and weightlifting since I was 16, so it felt like a comfortable choice. A year after I moved to Denver, I decided to make it official and follow the throngs of online personal trainers into the industry. At the time, I knew it was the first step in my journey to find what I aligned with. In 2019 I began feeling the tug to find the next step, and in 2020 I changed my business from personal training and wellness to Opportunity Coaching. I had already begun speaking to my clients and using my platform for discussions around mental health, personal fulfillment, and the broader journey through life. Read more>>

Kristina Scala | Founder & President

By the time I started my career in education, I’d seen other industries and businesses that worked and I could see the ways education (as an industry) could be improved to better serve the students and create leaders of tomorrow versus kids who could pass a test. That was the inspiration for Aspen Academy and our vision to be a national leader in innovative and transformative education. In addition to the on-campus experience we create for Pre-K through 8th Grade students, this vision has guided us to create Future Holders, an online curriculum that inspires students for the future by supporting their social emotional learning, character and leadership development, cultural competency, financial acumen, and entrepreneurial mindset. Read more>>

Michele Dillon | Running Coach

I started running late in the game and it felt very overwhelming and found myself continuously having questions. This only became more true when I jumped into the trail running game. As I gained experience over time, I really enjoyed the connections I was making and getting more and more adventurous. I would get a lot of questions about running and trail running via my Instagram and one day it just dawned on me, that I would love to be a coach to help people getting started in the running game so I could be a go to for someone that had all those million questions; about where to start, what to use, where to go and what was too little/too much. I have been coaching for a little over a year now and since then I have evolved my coaching from beginners to include runners and adventurers of all levels and it’s been such a fun and rewarding addition to my life. Read more>>

Sara Cook | Yoga Teacher, Trainer, Fitness Enthusiast, Mom, Wife, Wellness Ambassador and Inspirator

My thought process for creating Mind Body Battalion was largely influenced by my feeling of not belonging. I have never been an only yoga person. At the time I was coming up people were very into yoga everyday and who can be the best at asana, and I just have too many passions for that. So I stripped down what it would take for me to feel belonging, and paired it with the aspects of my offerings that people really appreciate and connect with. The result was this concept that the modalities don’t matter as much as HOW we pursue them. And those of us who feel that way belong to a community, a battalion if you will. Read more>>

David Rougely | CEO & Founder

My thought process is centered on my personal vision. I’ve always wanted to be a job creator and impact my community by providing opportunities. I also have this belief that having multiple streams of income is critical in regards to building wealth. In my opinion there is no greater way to achieve this than to start a business. Read more>>

Haylee Jordan | Brand Design + Itty Bitty Titty Goods Founder

The funny thing about Itty Bitty Titty Goods is that it was actually not started on purpose. I was dealing FDA recalled breast implants and breast implant illness. I just designed the classic Itty Bitty Titty Committee shirt before my explant for myself as a way to lighten the otherwise painful experience. A few of my friends asked for it on shirts, and then their friends asked for one and it spread like wildfire. Read more>>

Twanta Moore | Educator & Author

As a single mother and an African American woman, I want to build not only generational wealth but generational habits. Unfortunately, I did not learn money management habits such as investing, saving, and building a business growing up, and I strongly believe that it is time to break unhealthy cycles. I want to leave a legacy of wealth behind for my children and my future grandchildren. Read more>>

Erin Sampson | You Tube Yoga Instructor and International Retreat Leader

I have always wanted to teach and I took my time finding the avenue that led me to where I am today. My love for the practice of yoga and the career of teaching landed me in a Yoga Teacher Training program. I received my 200-hour teaching certification in 2008 in Arvada, Colorado. For the next several years, I taught classes at my neighborhood studio. In December of 2011, my family of five moved to Tamarindo, Costa Rica for six months. We wanted to expose our kids to a different culture and lifestyle and to find out if we could sustain our businesses outside of the U.S. We fell in love with Costa Rica and decided to split our time between Colorado and Costa Rica. Upon my first return to Colorado, I opened my own studio, Five Parks Yoga, in my home. This allowed me to teach in both Colorado and Costa Rica on my own schedule with my own vision. In an effort to bridge the gap between Colorado and Costa Rica, in February of 2015, my husband Matt and I started filming yoga classes and posting them on YouTube. Read more>>

Ryan Dearth | Photographer

I started my business almost exactly ten years ago, which is wild to think about. Back then, I was young and dumb, but I had a lot of heart and passion for photography. At the time, I felt that I would regret not trying to start a photography career – I was working a corporate job in an industry I felt I didn’t belong in, but I was making good money, saving up and practicing photography as much as I could. And I was having a lot of fun outside of work. I looked at my life and saw some of the benefits, but mostly I saw drawbacks when I looked ten years into my future on the path I was walking. I wanted to create something – not just photography, but a business, and my own life. Without thinking too much, I let my emotions get the best of me and I quit my job to start on my own. When I look back, I see myself as so foolish! There was so much that I didn’t even realize that I had to learn, and so much of it was stuff I could have figured out while I still had a steady paycheck coming in! If I had stayed on for another 6 months or a year, I might have been able to start the business in a totally different way. Read more>>

Kelissa Hieber | Head Brewer, Co-Owner and Janitor

As soon as I started home brewing and getting into craft beer I was really enamored by the sense of community in the industry and the creativity in the variety of beers that could be made. Both of these components inspired me to own my own business. I wasn’t the original owner of Goldspot, but I was around from almost the start and was able to create a new beer every week and be really creative on the brewing side and I really focused on beer education for my customers and prioritized community building and charity brews to try to create a space that was doing more than just creating delicious brews. When Goldspot became available for sale it was a no brainer for me to be part owner and take these ideas to the next level. Read more>>

Audrey Snyder Natasha Lloyd | Co-Founders of ReKaivery

Two years ago, neither of us could have anticipated being business owners. Our backgrounds are a unique combination of conservation biology and healthcare. But, we share a passion for making a positive impact which led us to join the Colorado State University Impact MBA program. It was here, our outgoing and enthusiastic personalities bonded quickly. Our knowledge and previous experiences meant we were (somewhat) aware of the inequality and environmental problems of food supply. Empowered by our Impact MBA program to question the status quo, we began investigating. After countless interviews with stakeholders and experts, it became apparent that the problems were far worse than we initially realized. The supply chain hosted an environment of food and resource waste, social inequities, inefficiencies, and lost opportunities. Our research saw small farms putting so much time and effort into sales events to reach their sales quotas. Read more>>

Topher | Billboard Hip-Hop Artist and Political TikTok Star

Freedom carries a heavy price tag and owning your own successful business is a great way to leverage that cost. From the moment I was old enough to count money, I increasingly learned that money isn’t everything but everything requires money one way or another. I’ve felt the cruelty that this world delivers to those less fortunate so I made it my mission in life to exorcise the spirit of poverty and create a prosperous lifestyle that my family and friends can enjoy for decades to come. Being a business owner grants me the ability to control my schedule, workload, salary, product, and effort unlike any other type of employment. It also allows me to pass along my wealth to my kids, grandkids, and everyone to come. That principle alone is the key to unlocking generational wealth for marginalized communities and those areas that have been critically disenfranchised. Self-employment comes with the privilege of independency from the government. Read more>>

Katalina G | Pet Care Professional

Since forming my business in 2018, we have morphed into a full-service company. Our goal is to differentiate ourselves from other local companies by offering services all over Colorado. We do not have a specific service area, and thanks to our affiliated businesses, we are not limited to the type of services offered. Read more>>

Nicole Vanderburg | Beyond Gouda Founder & Designer

I am a little bit of a workaholic. I grew up watching my parents passionately work long hours, both as entrepreneurs. Their hard work and dedication to their jobs inspired me as a young girl to be just like them someday. Ever since I started working in the Hospitality Industry, I craved more hours and more experience. So, I started my own business as a “side gig”. My full-time job only keeps me busy through a peak catering season of March-November, and it was one November that I thought “well, I must keep going”. Beyond Gouda was born with the intention of creating party platters for the winter holidays. During this time, I realized how special of a moment grazing boards create for group gatherings. Grazing boards are a way for loved ones, and new friends, to socialize over an artfully displayed food array. How cool, right?! Or maybe I’m just a nerd for food and good times. To this day, Beyond Gouda strives to create beautifully designed charcuterie gift boxes, to give or to share with others. Read more>>

Rodney Scott | Scalp Micropigmention Artist

Ultimately I wanted to be in control of my schedule and experience financial freedom as most owners set out to do. I knew in order for that to happen I had to make a bigger impact and be able to clearly convey my brand messaging. So I used the same principals I picked up from my M.B.A courses on how to properly idenfity my target audience and establish a unique brand character and solely focus on them. That involved finding a problem and providing a solution I was pasionate about which was helping individuals who were struggling with hair loss. I really wanted to show my children you can truly create your own success so I knew I needed to plan things out which I was aslo able to show them the steps along the way. Read more>>

Brittani Balint | Licensed Medical Esthetician

I’ve always known That I wanted to have my own business just wasn’t sure exactly what. I worked at a large waxing chain for 6 years and while I was pregnant with our second child I started thinking about how I stayed home with our first child for 3 years and how I knew after our daughter was born that would become a possibility in my mind. After she was born I got extremely sick and everything changed, she became very colicky, she had digestion issues, reflux etc. cried non stop and hardly slept. At this time I was on maternity leave and knew I would struggle putting her in daycare with how much she cried and didn’t trust anyone to care for her or handle the crying the way I could, also going back to work part time just wouldn’t be worth my while because again I would have to put her in daycare. I decided to give my notice and be a full time stay at home mom. After a couple months I really missed my career and told my husband that I wanted to start my own business and he was completely supportive. Read more>>

Stephanie Reisner | Author and Publisher

I suppose I had a predisposition to starting my own business. My parents were business owners, so I grew up watching them financially struggle at times, and at other times celebrate years of success. They grew their business from running it out of our home to owning a commercial building and property and employing about 40 people. Their time was always their own and they had a freedom that other people didn’t seem to have, which I always found appealing. Due to that, the entrepreneur spirit was always with me. I chose publishing because I’ve always loved books and I had always wanted to be a writer. I went to school and got a degree in English/Journalism. I worked in traditional publishing from 1995-2004 before print-on-demand and distribution services for indie authors/publishers came onto the scene and made the process a lot easier. So I dipped my toes into that river with a few of my own books, and realized I could make more from my work by running things myself than I could with a traditional publisher. After a few successful years, I decided to take on a few more authors. The rest is history. Read more>>

Heather Behrends | Owner and Parenting Blogger

Initially, my best friend, Lisa, and I started Made in a Pinch as an easy way to share parenting wins and lessons with each other. We used to be college roommates but now live across the country from each other, and when we became parents, we found it hard to connect with each other as we had before. Made in a Pinch allowed us to do that a little easier. It was kind of diary of sorts. Then, over time, we began focusing less on sharing them between us and more on sharing these parenting tidbits with other families to help them out as they travel on this parenting journey. Parenting is hard and stressful and overwhelming, and if we can help reduce those feelings for other parents so that they can actually enjoy the wonder and gift that is parenting, then we’ve done our job. Read more>>

At’Eaze | Hip Hop Artist

Well, seeing as I am a hip hop artist, like most musicians these days, I had to realize that I, myself, am the brand, the product, the entity. I mean think about the infamous Jay-Z quote. “I’m not a business man, I’m a business, man.” That mindset is what drove me to be more than just an artist. Read more>>