Many books on startups and business talk about how there are right and wrong reasons for starting a business.  So, we asked a handful of successful founders about their reasons and the thought-process behind starting their business.

Valerie Mosley | Visual Storyteller

Photojournalism my passion. I love creating connections and helping people understand each other and their community through moment-driven documentary photography. I felt lucky to discover a profession that lit me up that way. I went to grad school for photojournalism and was a full-time newspaper photojournalist for about a decade. Unfortunately, it was a sad decade for journalism. Newsrooms lost about half their staff through a neverending series of layoffs and became more depressing difficult workplaces. I felt like I would have to strike out on my own eventually and decided to take the leap instead of waiting to be laid off. As a photojournalist, you get good at all genres of photography and I knew that my visual storytelling skills would translate incredibly well to working with other types of clients. Living in Fort Collins, I didn’t think I would be able to get enough work by freelancing for publications exclusively. Read more>>

Christina Pritchard | Christina Marie Makeup Artistry

Over 11 years ago I was asked to do makeup at a photo shoot for a local magazine here in Denver called Fly Magazine. Joking around or just trying to boost my confidence, I thought they were crazy asking me, because I had never done makeup on anyone else before. In this moment I knew my talent was seen. I started out just watching YouTube videos and creating makeup looks on myself, but from the moment I walked into the studio I fell in love with the whole production. From there forward I did makeup for all of their shoots and even started doing makeup at local fashion shows. I met a lot of photographers and models within the industry that opened the door to a lot more opportunities. When I first started on this journey of becoming a makeup artist, I had no idea it would turn into what it is today. Read more>>

Kristin Sutter & Shayna Pen | Stage Managers & Podcast Producers

HAPPY NEWS NETWORK started during a 3 hours phone call. We (Shayna Penn & Kristin Sutter) are theater stage managers and because of the pandemic, our industry completely shut down. We found ourselves calling each other every week and complaining for hours on end. Did you see this post on Facebook? Did you see this horrible thing in the news? It really started to take a toll on us both. On Wednesday, August 12 we were talking about the mainstream news being so hard to swallow – so much negativity that really affected our mental well-being. We agreed to find our own happiness and if we felt that way, there had to be others that felt similarly. How to share information with an unlimited amount of people, fast? A podcast. In that same conversation we researched streaming platforms, came up with a simple descriptive title, ideas for social media content, and decided our episode format. By the next Wednesday, August 19 our pilot episode dropped. Read more>>

Melissa Brei | SIFT Collective Co-Founder

The thought that pushed me to start my own business was “Why not me?” For two years, I made excuses for not taking the risk. In my head, I was too young and inexperienced so no one would take me seriously. So, I put my project on the back burner, but the issue of textile waste and, more broadly, climate change progressively worsened. After my summer internship in 2019, I realized that something had to be done because society could no longer wait. The thought then turned into “Why not now” and I have not looked back since. I took advantage of the resources that my university offers and found my partner. Together we have built SIFT Collective and aim to create an eco-fashion marketplace by establishing a universal sustainable fashion standard, closed-loop ecosystem, and integrated partnerships to reduce textile waste generation while increasing the accessibility of sustainable fashion. Read more>>

Redden Wood | Wedding Photographer

When I was in college, I had this idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but no idea what career path that actually fell under. I saw myself in some sort of formal setting- assisting with artistic decisions, gathering inspiration and material, and then giving all of it back, packaged and beautiful. Okay, but what career does that embody, really? So I went to my college advisor with this super vague life goal, and together we went major by major, class by class, until we figured out that I was drawn to events, curation, and business. In my career today, I find myself fulfilling all of those factors I hoped for. I get to be apart of these incredibly special events, where I jump into the chaos and assist in any way I can. I draw inspiration from my couples, their stories, and how I’ve gotten to know them over the year since they first hired me. I gather hundreds (really, thousands!) of photos, go home, and get to see these stories come to life. Read more>>

Ron Ben-Joseph | Storytelling and Content Coach

I initially started my own business out of necessity. After 5 years of struggling as an Adjunct Speech Instructor, I found myself wanting more. It was clear that the methods and exercises I was using in the classroom were working, but I wasn’t reaching a large enough audience (or working as much as I wanted to). As a result, I set out to start a public speaking coaching business in which I could have more freedom with who I work with, and how I can help them. Over time, the business expanded into helping clients not only with their presentations but also videos, podcasts, books, webinars, Facebook lives, and various other channels in which they need to create content and deliver it confidently and authentically. Read more>>

Blair Douglas | Yoga Instructor / Yoga Therapist in Training & Photographer / Artist

Early in the pandemic, when many yoga studios were closing, I really thought about the relationship between studios and teachers. It occurred to me how studios undervalued and underpaid their teachers. Further, they restricted many teachers’ freedoms and creative juices to customize their classes. As a yoga instructor myself, I believe teachers who have dedicated so much time advancing their knowledge and skills beyond the basic 200 hour training should be provided a space to teach where they can design classes as they see fit and make 100% of the revenue from each class they teach. Malachite was designed as a co-op for this very purpose; instructors pay a small dues fee every month (to help cover the co-op’s operating fees) and in return instructors can list as many classes as they’d like on the platform, including setting their own class prices (of which they keep everything). Another driving factor behind starting Malachite was the need to step up and support communities that in the past haven’t felt welcome by they yoga community. Read more>>

Keith Cassell | Dog Trainer/Behaviorist

I wanted to get away from corporate training methods and also be my own me. They way I train dogs is not the same as the place I was working. Dogs are my passion and I wanted to create a business for myself and my wife and something my son could have in the future. Read more>>

Sarah Hausdoerffer | Floral Artist

I ran my first business of mural painting and decorative finishing for 12 years, and although I loved it, I didn’t want to breathe in paint anymore (and construction fumes!). I decided I still wanted to be an artist, but needed to explore a different medium. I wanted to be as successful as I was with my first business, so I went to the Floral Design Institute in Portland for 3 weeks and took on the flower shop shortly after that. Read more>>

Sofia Kent | Therapist, Social Worker, & Pole Instructor

I think the seeds were planted in childhood when friends or new acquaintances would tell me I was really easy to talk to and they felt they could trust talking to me about what they’re struggling with. When I got to college and had to declare a major, psychology just made sense because I love learning about people and how we develop and function. During my junior year I took a counseling practicum and it reaffirmed my love of helping people with their mental health. As I approached graduation, I was exploring my options for pursuing a career as a therapist and decided to take a year off before going to graduate school for my MSW. I happened to graduate grad school in the middle of the COVID pandemic; therefore, the job market was tight and very competitive for social workers. I knew I wanted to continue my journey to being a therapist so once I completed all the credentials, I decided to open my own private practice. Read more>>

Ryan Wibby | President & Brewmaster

It has always been a goal of mine to own a brewery for 2 main reasons. The first reason is that I wanted to be able to brew the beers that I like to make and are of my own creation. Before we opened Wibby Brewing I worked at few different breweries. During these work experiences I realized how much I wanted to have full control of the different products that we were making but I wasn’t ever in a position to have that kind of decision power. Founding and owning Wibby Brewing means that I am able to create the products that we are producing and I am able to decide when changes or tweaks need to be made to improve the products. The second reason is that I always want to be in control of my career destiny. Growing up my father had worked his way to partner at his business. For many years he ran this company and the 2 founding members had very little to do with the day to day operations. Read more>>

Amie Swan | Founder & President

Prior to founding OTG|247, I led the regional marketing for a private bank. I also owned and operated a paper store called The Paper Tree. Having kids truly stirred up the practical nature of running a storefront, meaning the lack of flexibility was a huge challenge. That is when I starting thinking seriously about developing my own wholesale brand. If it is true that good ideas are born out of necessity, then OTG|247 is proof of concept. As my life grew busier and busier, I became aggravated with constantly digging through the bottomless pit of my bag. I felt like I was a “hot mess”…totally unorganized…not to mention I was trashing all of my fabulous bags. Remember, it only takes one lip gloss or pen explosion to ruin a bag and I have ruined MANY bags. I searched far and wide for a line of stylish bags to help organize and protect the INSIDE of my bag. Nothing with enough variety, style or good quality existed. I kept telling my husband that someone should design a chic but practical solution to address the bags’ inner content both for organization and protection. My husband said “just do it yourself or stop talking about it.” That is the moment OTG|247 was born. Read more>>

Kira Goff | Personal Brand, Wedding, and Family Photographer

I have always been extremely entrepreneurial minded. From selling full loaves of bread and cookies at my lemonade stands on the side of the road as a child to selling crafts at the farmer’s market as a tween, I’ve always had a bend towards running my own business even from those humble beginnings. I discovered my love for photography in college and knew almost immediately that it would be the perfect career path for me. I knew that getting to make my own hours and pivot as needed throughout my life would be a great fit for me beyond just loving photography itself. It didn’t hurt that the flexibility also came with getting to serve incredible clients in such a meaningful way by capturing all the important moments in their business and family lives. Read more>>

Alice Duncan | Entrepreneur, Healer and Spiritual Activist

Growing up in an all-white community I found myself being the only person of culture in al my yoga classes. When I moved to Denver I thought things would be different but they were not. Because I could not find a studio that was welcoming to people who look like me with teachers that reflected what I looked like, I decided to create a space that was welcoming to Black Indigenous People of Culture and LGBTQIA. Our intention is to create a wellness space where all people can feel safe and comfortable which we are able to do through our internal peer group who have a special understanding of the unique challenges faced on a daily basis. While all are encouraged to attend, we create classes that focus on specific identities as well as their intersectionalities such as bipoc, women, and the lgbtq community. The wide array of classes allows individuals to nurture and learn about themselves in a format that reflects each individual’s self-identification, which we find helps people to show up fully in the greater community. Read more>>

Julia Patterson | Artist

What was your thought process behind starting your own business? With the pandemic, my year, like that of many others, has looked much different than I expected. I started the year working for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and was shocked to find out in May that I was part of the layoffs resulting from the seismic shift that is COVID-19. I found myself with quite a lot of time on my hands and a very heavy amount of stress on my shoulders. So, I turned to my reliable escape: Art. Nothing makes me happier or allows me to get lost and forget the troubles of the world like painting, so it seemed the timing was perfect to focus on just creating work again. For years, I have hand painted cards to celebrate my family’s birthdays, anniversaries, and babies, so it seemed natural to start a company doing just that, but for everyone else. I set out writing lists of cards I wanted to create, reviewing favorite cards I had painted in the past, and then I just began. Read more>>

Deb Matlock | Nature-Based Spiritual Arts Practitioner

When I decided to start Wild Rhythms, I was inspired by the idea of creating a container for my work that could grow and change over time. I wanted my business to be its own being in a way and take on a life of its own. I did not want to have limits on what I was able to offer or what I might create. I also did not want to have to get approval from anyone else to try something new. Also, I have to admit, starting Wild Rhythms was an act of totally blind faith. I got the idea and ran with it. That was in December of 2003. Over the past 17 years, it has definitely taken me for a ride. Read more>>

Kinsey Kistler | Natural Skincare Company Cofounders

here is my edit: In 2013, Kelsey was accepted to a newly formed Entrepreneurship Business master’s degree program. She had recently visited her Great uncle and spent a day on the farm learning his skin cream recipe he had created for his child with sensitive skin issues. She decided to use this skincare formula as the practicum portion of her master’s program. She used Great Uncle Claude’s cream and her mock company to go through all the aspects of starting, building, and creating a company. After graduation, she moved to Colorado to be closer to her sister. One evening, they were making the skin cream for personal use in the dry Colorado climate. “We looked at each other, both knowing what the other was thinking, and said ‘this is simple and it’s incredible. We should be selling this!’” So, adding some full moon energy and good vibrations, Snake Oil Beauty Co. started as just two sisters making skin cream for fun. “We laugh about that conversation to this day because we thought it was going to be that easy. Read more>>

Karissa Layne Photography | Photographer and Educator

I believe that life is too short to work a job that you don’t absolutely love! It was not so easy to come to that conclusion, though! While I always absolutely LOVED photography and also loved the idea of working for myself, I was working another job and just did not think it was possible for me to pursue my dream full-time. It seemed like such a big risk at the time to leave everything I knew, had studied in college for, etc. and I was honestly so scared of the unknown. But I had a lot of support and encouragement and most importantly, I knew that God was calling me to it. So I had to trust and at least give it a try! Best decision of my life and I have not looked back. It is so cool that as a business owner, I can do something I love every single day, that I am passionate about, and that brings me so much joy, but even more importantly, I can really serve and love others. Read more>>

Henry Nguyen | Business Owner

20 years ago, I always wanted to start a new business where we could interact with customers and make them happy, so I quickly became interested in Boba tea. However, I had very little savings and people had very little interest in Boba tea at the time. Now that Boba is beginning to become popular and we had enough money, we were able to make our own shop. Our initial and current hope is to just make people happy through our tea. Read more>>

Jen Hammond | Artist & Designer

The short answer was that I had to start my own business. In any of my businesses (20 years as a wedding and event designer, 10 years as a visual artist) I found that I was compelled to create new concepts, play with color, space, aesthetic and message in a way that wasn’t possible when working for someone else. I had to find a way to make my living by doing what I need to do, and that is to tell a story, explore an idea, celebrate a life, create space, and tone through event design, interior design and fine art painting and sculpture. Sometimes that means working on what interests me, while paying the bills with side gigs, and trusting that when the timing is right my creative work will land in the right space. Creative integrity was central to striking out as a self-employed person, but being a mama to three, and now a grandmother to three added to the need to find a way to live flexibly so that I could accommodate the needs of my family and personal life. Read more>>

Becky Durigan | Photography Studio Owner

Owning my own business always felt like the direction I wanted to go, simply for the face that I could have a better work/life balance. I kept facing the same question though, what the heck do I want to do? Well, what I realized over time is that photography has been the one and only constant in my life. Thoughts, beliefs, jobs, people – all changed over time. But photography stuck with me. When I first came upon Denver Photo Collective, several years ago, my first impression was ‘dang, this is a brilliant business plan and it literally checks all my boxes’. DPC thought through work/life balance, creativity and profitability. It was the perfect marriage and when I heard DPC was for sale, I didn’t skip a beat. Read more>>

Sarah Beth Lombardo | Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master & Teacher

While learning the ropes of the massage industry the first five years I practiced, two concepts consistently returned to me. One, that we, as Licensed Massage Therapists, could be giving more tailored care and a more complete experience to our clients. And two, that as an industry standard, Licensed Massage Therapists are often under paid. In making the leap to open my own practice, one of my main visions was to break some of the paradigms of this industry. I knew in my heart that is was possible to create more supportive care for my clients, pay people what they deserve and still have a thriving, successful business. In most massage practices, sessions are booked on the hour. Time spent doing an intake with clients, allowing the client to get undressed and dressed, and sharing a treatment plan with them is all crammed into one hour. This can lead to the client feeling rushed, unheard and having their actual massage time cut short. Read more>>

Whitney Vestal | Small Business Owner | Climber

Golden Mountain Guides is the ultimate dream for us – and we’re living it! When we first started our company, we wanted to share our passion for climbing with others and TEACH them how to enjoy climbing and the outdoors safely and to reach all their climbing goals. We also wanted the freedom to control our future and still making a living while doing the things we love! Owning our own business was a way to do all of that. We a passionate about what we do and enjoy our “job”. It allows us the luxury of being home with our family, travel and live the life we want. We also wanted to provide a stable and desirable career for our employees. In the outdoor industry, it’s common for guides to work for multiple companies at once in order to make ends meet. At Golden Mountain Guides we strive to provide competitive pay and hours while also provide training, mentorship and help with continuing education in the guiding industry. Read more>>

Michelle Post | CEO & Certified Social Media Strategist

I have had the entrepreneurial spirit since I was 7 years old. And opened my first business when I was 18. Since then, I have started and run four businesses before starting my fifth and current business, The Post Institute: Center for Life-Long Learning. My thought process for starting this business was to offer adult training and development in social media, business, and professional development. I worked in both the IT and higher education industries simultaneously. I identified several opportunities for helping individuals and small businesses. Thus, the dream of The Post Institute: Center for Life-Long Learning was born in Oct 2013. The Institute is an alternative to traditional training and development. Read more>>

Greg Terch | Owner – Design/Build Firm

While working on my doctorate in architectural engineering, I came to the realization that teaching and researching was not going to fulfill my need for creativity and art. Despite the fact I loved teaching I knew I would not be happy over my lifetime. So, I made the difficult decision the leave CU Boulder and open a design-build firm. I had worked every summer in the trades to pay for school. I observed the huge disconnect between the architect and the builder. The architect was creative and designed beautiful buildings but most of them did not understand construction. On the other hand, the builder was a master at construction but lacked vision and an appreciation of the art in architecture. This experience was the foundation of my desire to be an artist, an engineer and then bring my art to life. The result is over 20 years of working with people to bring their vision into reality. It is truly a unique business because It involves people’s most expensive and passionate purchase. Read more>>