Starting a business is a commitment and requires dedication, resources and sacrifice. We asked some of the rising stars in our community how they thought through the idea of starting their own businesses.

Chelsea Ernst | Naturalist Mentor

It started as a spark over 10 years ago: an idea of combining recreation and natural history education into classes for anyone who was interested. Back then, I don’t know how serious my idea was. And I absolutely did not know what that looked like logistically at the time. After working towards my M.Ed through teaching various programs in the North Cascades for youth and adults, then working with several nature connection schools in the Pacific Northwest, the idea began to fully form. Read more>>

Orion Aon | Foraging Educator

Forage Colorado started as a community, a place for people interested in foraging to share what they were learning. It quickly morphed into an education platform for me to share what I was learning, and to help others learn with me. It was never really planned to become a business, the process has been a natural progression as more and more people become interested in learning about the wild foods all around us. Read more>>

Makaela Bamonti |

Because my work is still relatively new and under-funded for research purposes, it is important that clients trust our training, our expertise, and our experience with Kambo medicine, herbs, as well as other healing modalities that we offer. Heart Alchemy Integrative Wellness (HAIW) is a space for people to come to feel seen, heard, and healed through heart medicine that can take the form of Kambo, yoga, meditation, breathwork, talk therapy, psychedelic integration, cannabis consultation, and herbalism gifted by our certified herbalist Johnnie. Read more>>

Chris Becea | Professional Photographer

I worked in the industry prior to the digital revolution, but left photography to pursue another path after that. I always stayed in the game on the side, and after many years I decided to return to my passion and returned to photography full time in 2016. I felt I needed to get back into my creative pursuits, as well as realize my dream of working as a photographer; to be my own boss and spend the last stage of my working career doing what brings me joy. Read more>>

Shannon Curtis | Naturopathic Doctor & Holistic Acne Specialist

To be truthful, my thought process wasn’t linear and straightforward like many business owners. My business naturally evolved and transformed over the past couple years as I gained clarity on who I could help and how I could do it best. And truly, I wouldn’t have it any other way! It was the path of least resistance, and I find I work best when I’m in a state of flow and just following where the journey takes me. Read more>>

Bryan DeBates | Associate Broker/REALTOR

I have spent over 37 years in formal and informal education. When COVID struck, the non-profit I was the VP of Education for decided to downsize to save money and I found myself out of work. Through a series of fortunate events I found myself with the opportunity of becoming a real estate broker. I hadn’t thought very highly of real estate agents in the past-considering them similar to used car salesmen, so to take that step was very difficult. However, I realized that I didn’t want my professional and financial future in the hands of someone else making very poor decisions. Read more>>

Jillian Davis | Mom blogger

At first my of began as an outlet to get out all of the thoughts in my head. It was a way to get away from just being a mom. There is so much more to me than just that. Then as I hit my stride, I was able to begin making money. It was a light bulb moment. A moment where I realized I could make money from doing something that I love, writing and encouraging other moms around me. Read more>>

Alyssa Foster | Photographer

When I first started out with my photography business, I struggled. I had a hard time figuring out how I wanted to edit my photos, how I wanted to brand myself, and the direction I wanted to take with my business. I would study other local photographers and found myself trying to imitate their style. I struggles for almost a year trying to find where I fit in, or better yet, how I wanted my work defined. Once I quit worrying about what everyone else was doing and went in my own direction, finding my own niche, I was filled with a drive that fueled my passion, and after that, my business started to grow. Read more>>

Carissa Johnson | Luxury Picnic Owner & Nonprofit Leader

I have always wanted to create something myself, that I can be in complete control of and build how I want. Building a business is hard work, stressful, confusing, but also extremely rewarding to see your dreams come to fruition. Life is too short to be doing something you don’t love and are passionate about. My background is in marketing and event planning, so I love creating memories for people. My luxury picnic business fits perfectly with my passions. There wasn’t anything like this in my community, so I took a leap of faith to start something I knew there was a market for. Read more>>

Whitney Brofos | Elopement & Intimate Wedding Photographer

I sort of joke in saying that I feel like it was just.. time. With the way it all happened, I truly feel like the universe was telling me this was my time. I had been wanting to begin my own business for a while, I just didn’t know if I was stable enough, knowledgeable enough, or ready enough. Fast forward to October of 2020, I found myself getting laid off from my corporate marketing job in the Ski Industry and a company I had been with since 16 years old. I had been furloughed all of that summer and I used that time to really think about what I wanted, I began to explore taking photography and social media management clients on the side, and even building out a website. Read more>>

Carly Moree | Owner & Founder, Rocky Mountain Hiking Company

I worked in the Hedge Fund space after college, presenting our financial products to some of the largest pensions and Hedge Funds in the world. The job was thrilling in so many ways – I went to Monaco and Miami for conferences and worked with some incredibly brilliant people, but ultimately I was unhappy. So I started walking to and from work (8 miles round trip) each day. I lived in Chicago at the time, so I had a rule that I walked as long as it was 12 below zero or warmer. Those walks to work brought me so much joy, that I realized I had to make a change. Naturally, I decided to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2013. The empowerment I felt from that forever changed my view of myself for the better. Read more>>

Carla Boyd | Founder of Hemp Way Foods

I was looking for a nourishing source of clean plant-based protein that could be prepared quickly without sacrificing comfort and real flavor. I grew up in the South. I was always gardening and always cooking. I wanted to create something that would feel like a home cooked meal. At the time, the only “veggie” products I could find in the freezer aisles were soy and allergen-ridden and tasted “too healthy”– like cardboard. Read more>>

Marissa Mavis | Artist

The thought process behind starting my own business was that I loved making art for my friends and family anytime a birthday or holiday would come around. I loved seeing the joy and happiness my own art would bring to them whenever I created something from my heart. But the one thing that started it all was that my step mom absolutely loves clocks so for Christmas one year I thought how awesome would it be to make her one instead of just buying one and it turned out great and more family and friends wanted one so I got the idea to start making more and selling to the public. Read more>>

Laura Adriana Soto-Ruvalcaba | Communications Specialist

Starting my own business is directly related to my personal healing from being an immigrant growing-up in the U.S. experiencing lack of opportunities due to institutionalized racism and systemic oppression; and directly related to our collective healing by means of creating bridges of understanding that are very needed to heal community divide. Read more>>

Chas Mizer | Indubitably- Music Producer & Sound Engineer

I wanted to be a rockstar. I have always loved music. To be a professional musician has been a goal of mine ever since I picked up my first pair of drumsticks around the age of four. Eventually I started music producing and sound engineering for myself. I figured, I like what I do, and other people might too… enough to pay for it! Being immersed in music my whole life has given me the opportunity to grow and learn the skills I needed to focus my music to start making money for me, and that’s exactly what I am tying to do. Read more>>

Bruno and Fae | Brazilian Zouk dance instructors & event organizers

Dance has been our life for as long as we can remember! We’ve met each other social dancing. So, it’s only natural that we have started a business that fully revolves around social dancing. We believe there’s nothing better than going out dancing for mental health, building social connections and healthy exercise that’s also fun! There are literally no drawbacks! Read more>>

Kim Pierpoint | Prickly Pear Sports Founder and Avid Sprint Triathlete

Great question! I have always been athletic, but like a lot of women, I put my fitness on hold while I raised kids and established my career. When my then college-aged daughter invited me to do a sprint triathlon I jumped at the chance. I had visions of a top 3 finish, proof that I still “had it.” I barely finished the course. Undaunted, I vowed to train for the following season. Working with a coach, I started to feel like I could reclaim my athleticism – except for one problem. Read more>>

Amy Brophy | Life Coach for young adults

I was born in Colorado and grew up as a swimmer. I’ve coached all levels of swimmers from toddlers to Olympic trials athletes and Olympic triathletes. A year before the pandemic I got burnt out on coaching swimming. I needed a new direction, a totally different take on life. I got a job at a brewery. Then the pandemic hit. While deeply grateful for a job in which I got to be with people and collect a paycheck, I realized that I wanted to connect with people on a deeper level in my professional life. Read more>>

Buba Basishvili Meghan Frank | Theatre maker, producer, educator, actor,

The process is complex but to summon it in a sentence is that it is necessary for us as a civic society to have a place where we can create and talk about our social life together through the arts. You might call non profit a business but I call it a social service Read more>>

Lola McCabe | Mom, Wife & Sugar Artist

Honestly, my first thought when it came to starting my own business was ‘I don’t know how to run a business!!’ That thought was immediately followed by, ‘I’ll never know if I don’t try!!’ Starting your own business sends a whirlwind of emotions, thoughts and even butterflies throughout your soul!! I was lucky enough to have so many people, especially my husband and kids, supporting me 1000%! This was fortunate for me since they are the ones who drive me and factor into every decision I will ever make for the rest of my life!! And almost 2 years into this new adventure, they prove it every day with their understanding & willingness to help where they can!! Read more>>

Kassandra Hill | CEO | Business Administrator | Website Developer | Graphic Designer | Business Consultant | Software Specialist,

My thought process behind my business was to help break generational curses for my community and me. I grew up in the foster care system, my mother’s rights were terminated when I was 4 years old. I ended up moving through 52 different placements throughout Colorado. I even remember being on Wednesday’s child with Channel 4 and making pizza hoping to find a family. Unfortunately, I ended up staying in the foster care system until I was 17, and was emancipated from the foster care system. Read more>>

Vinny & Saul Jimenez | Fashion Designers

We wanted create a fantasy that brought people into a world of creativity and bravery. A place where we can experiment with fashion and design. MENEZ was a way to bring our designs into reality, we started MENEZ to offer people something that would empower them to take on the day, night, or whatever time you want to take over the world. Read more>>

Matthew fotomatt” Lit | Colorado Photographer & Educator”

I’m not sure there was one, honestly! I had grown frustrated (for a number of reasons) working for newspapers. Upon my return from Israel in 1991 I had an opportunity to do contract work as a managing editor for a start-up 4-color publication. In the process I learned computer design and – more importantly – job costing, project management and a host of other skills. Read more>>

Lorraine C. Ladish | Co-Founder Viva Fifty Media LLC

I have always worked for myself and when I’ve worked for others it has been on a contractor basis. I’m 58, and worked full-time from the age of 20, so that’s a long time. It also means that it’s possible to pull this off. My latest venture, Viva Fifty Media, that includes a bilingual website, for women over 50,, a website that focuses on yoga, and my personal website, was initiated in 2014, when I asked myself what I could be passionate about, day in, day out, in the next 5-10 years, while making a living with it. Read more>>

Amber Kosloske | Suicide & Self-Harm Prevention Counselor

When I started Convenient Colorado Counseling I was working for a government agency providing vocational counseling to people with disabilities. I enjoyed being a vocational counselor but due to my high caseload size my time with each individual was limited. I found myself feeling like I was just scratching the surface with many of my clients on what they were truly needing support with. So, I started Convenient Colorado Counseling out of my desire to have the freedom to help others in a person-centered, creative, and innovative way. Read more>>

Ben Smrecansky | Owner

HID Kit Pros was founded in 2008 and started when there was a need for high quality aftermarket HID Kits and lighting systems and no one sold them. We began with research and development and in 2006, we began producing our own brand of high quality OEM style and aftermarket HID Kits. The company has grown to the largest automotive lighting supplier in the Northwest, stocking not only the highest quality HID Kits but also LED’s, from off road light bars to LED turn signals and more! We are with fully stocked inventory and have a large installation center. Read more>>

Emiliano Ponzi | Illustrator

I moved to Milano (Italy) in 1997 to attend the European Institute of Design from a small town in the Norths-center. I graduated in illustration in 2000. Illustration wasn’t like it is Today and neither the knowledge of the business itself. Internet was spreading but we all lived in our small bubble, world was smaller and we had no access to the informations we could easily have now just checking Google. Read more>>

Betsy Mitten | Surface Pattern Designer, Teacher and Artist

I’ve worked for many decades, for myself and for profit and non profits. Depending on what stage of life I’ve been in and other responsibilities I’ve needed to juggle, both have been important. You learn a lot working for others, and also for yourself. When I became a mom I realized I needed the flexibility that running my own business would offer. I’ve been able to draw on my work experience and education to put together a business that focuses on what I enjoy most – teaching and pattern design. Read more>>

Cary Colleran | ADHD Navigator & Coach

When my oldest son struggled through his first year of college I had an epiphany: I had helped him get through high school with his ADHD, but had I really taught him how to succeed WITH his ADHD? It was then that I asked myself if I had ever really learned to succeed with my own ADHD? I realized then that so many people with ADHD fight with it every day and then wonder why the tools that work so well for everyone else never seem to work for us. Read more>>

Jessica Stoakes | Owner of Harper Mae Children’s Boutique & Party Venue

I have been a stay at home mom for the past 18 years, my kids are growing up, and I felt it was time to rediscover myself and to step out of my comfort zone. My youngest daughter Harper ,who the store is named after, is one of the driving forces for me to succeed. I want to show her that women can thrive in the business world. My kids are my world, and I really struggled with finding cute, unique children’s clothes, so like every great idea I decided to bring it to northern Colorado. And thus, Harper Mae was born. Read more>>

Trenton Simper | Entrepreneur Organic Fertilizer Distribution Service

The rise of the economy & the worry over bills and my families health and future. The future is very unstable and in need of more millionaires to care for others and our country. Heck who says millionaire is where im stopping nah dont think so you will see big things from myself for America and our Soil health. Healthy American Soil with organic farming will increase crops and the overall health of our population. Read more>>

Sarah Leistico | Artist & Adventurer

Giving others the opportunity to chase and create their own adventures to remember is what drove the creation of Abstract Adventures. I enjoy connecting with people and providing them with the tools and support they need to have a memorable experience – no matter their outdoor or artistic ability. Read more>>

Angel Henry | Professional Speaker | Author | Agile Mindset Expert

“Okay, Angel- so what are you going to do to help them?” was the question from Dr. Avis Jones DeWeever my coach. She was lovingly guiding me into the realization that simply revealing the challenges of inequity of Corporate America was enough. It was the summer of 2021, and I was planning to launch my book, Dents in the Ceiling: Tools Women and Allies Need to Breakthrough and Dr. Avis was already asking me…”what’s next?” Well, I honestly didn’t have a clue and didn’t even consider it until that point! Read more>>

Alex Harz | Explorer & Filmmaker

While standing on the summit of Denali (aka Mt. McKinley), the highest mountain in North America, I had an epiphany. Gazing out at the amazingly beautiful expanse of the Alaska Range from 20,310 feet above sea level alone with just my good buddy and climbing partner, Ben Sorensen, I realized that my dream of successfully scaling the highest points on each continent (aka Seven Summits) may ultimately be feasible, but can’t be my sole purpose for achieving such a goal. Read more>>