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

Annie Mason | Couples, Wedding + Elopement Photographer

I always laugh a little when I hear questions like this because honestly, it started when I just wanted to be in control and make sure no one was able to delegate my “fun time.” The whole concept of wishing away my weekdays to only enjoy life on the weekends seemed absolutely mad to me. Life moves slow but it goes by fast, and at my core, I wanted to enjoy it with those around me, both clients and loved ones alike. Read more>>

Kristen Miller | Photographer

Like many people I found myself working in the corporate world, I started as a young receptionist in the auto industry in the service department and ended up working in many different roles, including a customer service manager and then eventually a service advisor. I worked in this field for about 11 years and did enjoy it for many years. In the back of my mind though I had always wanted to own my own business, I just never knew what it was going to be. In 2016 I found myself really looking for a career change and had been dabbling in photography on the side as a hobby around this time as well. Read more>>

Samantha Cabrera | Editor of Calla Press & Writer

I wanted to create a Christian literary journal that published work from new writers, namely, writers that haven’t found a home for their work because they haven’t found the right place. Calla Press is a place for emerging writers, and established ones, to share their work from poetry to articles. I also wanted to grow spiritually and academically in my field of creative writing; I have my ELAR 7-12 teacher certification and taught for two years, Read more>>

Malia Quinn | Painter

Since I was about 18, the idea to have my own art gallery began churning in my mind. To me that seemed like the most meaningful pursuit and career path. But I went to school for commercial art, raised a son, traveled a bit, and painted when I had time. Around 2007, I noticed a trend in painting realism to emerge again. When I had gone to art school in the nineties, realism was not encouraged in the classroom. So in between my graphic design projects, I took plein air workshops from top level painters to enhance my skills. Read more>>

Christina Dornbierer | Owner of Painting Company

What I love about owning my own business is freedom. I have the freedom to set my own rates, my own hours, my own work areas, my own lunch breaks (very important), and determine my own vision behind what I do. I think that was what lead me down the path of entrepreneurship, being able to shape my work to reflect what I am passionate about. For me, I love to see restoration. With my work, I get to see that tangibly almost every day. Read more>>

Kayd Miller | Owner at Kayd Miller Photography

I started my business because I have a passion and true calling for photography. Photography is a dream job for me. There isn’t a single aspect of it that I don’t love. One benefit of owning my own business is that I am able to make my own schedule. My babes are homeschooled so this is very imortant to me. Read more>>

Nicole Hartman | Photographer

I started my own business because I knew it was the next step for me on my photography path. I have been creating photographic art for over six years and will forever find thrill in being behind a camera. Being able to take one’s love and make it a career is a rare opportunity. The creation of my business has made me feel more empowered and on track with my photography. Read more>>

Colter Broadwell | Photographer

Growing up I had this idea of what success looked like. I thought it was going to college, getting a degree, and then getting a good job and working in that industry for the rest of my life. That seemed to be the epitome of a successful life. Why did I have this belief? Well, society seemed to tell me this was true. So I followed it. Read more>>

Dominick Gatto | Professional Photographer

I’ve been an avid hunter and outdoorsman since I was a child. Growing up, my father would take me on hikes and hunting trips – I loved every minute spent in the wilderness. I eventually went to college, studied photography and marketing, and started my own local photography business. For years it was a successful business, however when the COVID-19 pandemic started business slowed down considerably. With more free time, I started taking my camera gear with me on hikes and scouting runs for hunting season. Read more>>

Melissa Teichert | Founder & Owner of KALLISTII

I grew my passion for art through my grandfather, Wilson Patrick Hurley, who’s paintings are my current inspiration for some of the garments I have created. Since I was 16 years old I have tried to be successful in e-commerce but was never able to sell many of my creations. I was sewing my own clothes at the time because skinny jeans were not available in stores, so I would make my own out of the flared jeans my mother bought for me because I wanted to wear something different from the normal trend. Read more>>

Aida Stenholm | Shoe designer / Shoe maker

I have wanted to make shoes since I was a very little girl. Life happens and things get in the way but we ran into an opportunity to restart and I had the opportunity to do anything I wanted. I immediately knew what I wanted and off to Peru we went to take some design classes and make some contacts for materials and things. Read more>>

Laura Koch | Math, Science, and SAT Tutor

I’ve never been afraid of asking “why?” and as such, often find that I don’t follow the path people expect. I’m not afraid of breaking the mold and I’m not afraid of trying new things, even if they fail. I have started and own two business currently, and I had very different reasons for starting each of them. My first business was started primarily out of compassion and being willing to fail. I lied in India for a short time and connected with several businesses working to prevent human trafficking and exploitation of women. Read more>>

Daniel Gonzales | Designer & Photographer

I started Alive Pixel 15 years ago with the hopes of being able to help people that didn’t have access to the changing web technologies at the time. I wanted to provide people with high quality websites for a lower cost than a big company, and the only way I was able to do that was by starting my own company. I believe that anyone that’s going into business deserves to hit the ground running with a great website at a cost they can afford, so that’s what I strive to do. Read more>>

Casey Murphy | Certified Sex Educator, Pleasure Products Industry Veteran

The Pleasure Parlor launched in 2016, after I spent about 10 years of working in the sexual wellness industry in both manufacturing and distribution. Marketing, sales, content creation, copywriting, PR, product education + more. Working with a lot of startup manufacturers, I was fortunate to find unique opportunities within different departments, always happy to be a big sponge, soaking it all in and lending the expertise that I had gathered along the way. Read more>>

Dason Smith | Co-Owner and Operations Manager

This poster design was born from when L.A. Green, a Korean War veteran, sat down to help his child do a history report some years ago. He created a unique design that puts all of the grade school history facts together in one glance. When we met him, we were thrilled to help him bring the design into a more 21st Century marketing forum and give him more time to enjoy retirement as a silent partner. Read more>>

Abby Hampson | Owner of Meringue & Co.

Meringue & Co. started because I was bound and determined to perfect the art of French Macarons. I loved the challenge of a difficult pastry, and the end result was incredibly rewarding. I started giving macarons away to friends, and they actually begged me to start selling them! I don’t know if I would have seriously considered it without the encouragement from the people close to me. Read more>>

Jessica Chan | Designer and Maker

I started my own business because everyone told me I should. I had been making some bags on the side for fun. I mostly made bags for friends or for myself. I was working a full time job at a bag company at the time and was comfortable with where I was at. Eventually I got laid off and a couple months afterwards of applying to new jobs, I finally decided that I should just start my own business. I always had ideas about bags I wanted to make and now seemed like the perfect time to make a business out of it and try it out. Read more>>

Kenna Hanson | Denver Realtor

I was tired of doing things the way I was raised to do them. As far back as I can remember, I was told to get a job. I started working at 15 years old as a lifeguard. Fast forward through high school, college, and post graduation I was always employed and working for someone else. There came a point where I wanted to be more in control of my life, my choices, my schedule, my money, and one day I said I am ready for a change. I took a leap, received my Real Estate license, and my company was born. Read more>>

Samantha Sargent | The Guide by your Side

Basically I was an accidental professional volunteer for many years, one day I “woke up” and said “I need to do this professionally”, so I started talking to a few friends, they offered me their space and it began…. Read more>>

Kim Secco | Licensed Massage Therapist & Reiki Master Teacher

For 20 years I worked in the mortgage industry as an underwriter, working 40+ hours a week, making a very decent living but not actually “living”… . I’ve always had a passion for holistic health, held a massage license and reiki master teacher certification but never made the jump to leaving a cushy salary.
Finally in 2017 I decided to walk away from my work at home 80k salary plus bonus job, to open a massage and reiki practice….. everyone I knew thought I was insane. Read more>>

Justin Christensen | Independent Insurance Agent

I had been a Insurance Agent representing one insurance company, following their agenda as a “1099” business owner. even though I was “self employed” I still had to run my business how they suggested. I decided to open my Independent Agency so that I may continue in the industry that I enjoy and have the creative freedom to take my agency in the direction that I thought was best. Read more>>

Aaron Garland | Life Coach for Teens

Good question. It was both a thought process and an emotional response to what I saw in the classroom over 2 decades as a high school English teacher and special ed instructor. When I considered that what I was seeing in my classroom must be repeating itself over and over in classrooms across the country the rational response was alarm. Why? Because some large percentage of high school students are graduating without direction, with a weak understanding of how to think for themselves and tragically, Read more>>

Miki Williamsen | Hair Stylist

My thought process for starting my own business was to be independent. I wanted to work for myself and choose my own destiny. I also wanted a challenge. I have never done anything like this and it starting my own business has definitely been a challenge! It has also been very rewarding watching my business grow. Read more>>

Gaelle Ahl | Portrait Photographer and Stop Motion Artist

Everyone knows that when you do what you love, you don’t work a day in your life. And since I truly believe that life is meant to be a joyful and happy adventure, it was easy for me to make the decision to start my business. Read more>>

Itsel Obadiah | Travel Agent

I have always enjoyed traveling and seeing new cultures. I was invited to become a travel agent where my goal was to help others enjoy and save money on their trips . So my passion was going to become my work, my side job for now at least. I am so enthusiastic about it! Doing something that I enjoy is definitely my goal. Read more>>

Annalicia Magdaleno | Licensed Esthetician & Beauty Business Owner

Starting a business for me was more than just an opportunity to be my own boss. I wanted to take my time on really understanding what I wanted the brand to stand for, who I was, and where I wanted to focus within the industry. At the time, I was stuck in a position where there was no room left to grow. I was restricted on the services I could provide and never really felt I could be myself which created a lot of mental blocks for me. Venturing out on my own was solely for my own growth. I always hoped to be a part of something more, something different. Read more>>

Maddy Gawler | Founder of E-CO Alternatives

I am all about filling in the holes, I like to find solutions for holes we have in society. I kept hearing a disconnect between consumers and sustainable businesses (especially small & medium size businesses). Its great that we have resources like google but with pages on pages of results, those smaller businesses get buried. I wanted to find a way to help consumers find sustainable alternatives to their regular shopping and help these sustainable businesses with their hurdles (from being found, raising awareness, expanding their sustainability, finding affordable sources of ingredients/packaging, more man-power, etc). Read more>>

Megan Morris | Owner

I have always dreamed of owning a retail store. I have been a jeweler for the past 18 yrs and have always wanted to do something to use my creativity. I I have always had people ask me to create a custom piece of jewelry for them or teach them how to make their own piece. I thought that was such a great idea for a business! I bring different artists together to sell their handcrafted items. My local artists then come in and teach classes on their art medium. My goal is to make art accessible to everyone! Read more>>

Reed Pimental Kaitlyn Sands | Founder, Owner, Creator

My first thoughts when creating Buckin’ Nuts were how much I love boiled peanuts and how I must find a way to have them in Denver! However, since then, it has been a wave of creativity from building a brand that’s fun, unique, and exciting to building products that are mind blowing and flavorful. The process of us both becoming a business owners has been pretty remarkable. We always knew it would be difficult (as most new things are), but we have learned more about life and ourselves then we could have imagined. We get to connect with people through Buckin Nuts! Read more>>

Bailey Palmer | Entrepreneur & Day Of Coordinator

I’ve been very fortunate and have been given many opportunities in entrepreneurship. In high school I owned a welding company, in college I owned a clothing boutique, and now, I currently own Hermosa Events, LLC. I have learned so much in each of those companies. Each venture has altered my thought process for the next one, but my core thought process has always been the same. My parents got me into anything and everything growing up, Read more>>

Ben McQueen | Chief Executive of Getting People Rooted

The thought process behind starting Karuna Kava was simple. I’d become passionately enthralled with kava, the relaxing and socially uplifting beverage from the South Pacific Islands. Using kava as a harm reduction technique, I was able to straighten my life out and distance myself from my destructive drinking habits. Read more>>

Lu$t | Music Producer & Entrepreneur

Would Separate It’s Self From Other Artists. I Wanted To Give People Industry Quality Music , Videos And Content In Creative Ways Even Using QR codes On Clothing To Promote And Drop New Content. I wanted to independently take over the market in the city by making my clothing brand as unique as possible…….we all know the saying “Love Is Pain” In conjunction With My Life Experiences And My Stage Name I Named The Brand “Lu$t Is Pain” Creating Dope Designs That Were Put Together By My Graphic Designer “” Read more>>

Huston Sonhouse | Musician

My youth and most of my twenties was spent building and joining bands only to have them break up due to members disagreeing creatively and having changes of heart. It is easy to find passionate and inspired people in an artistic field like the music industry, but it can be difficult, in the early stages at least, to find people who take it seriously as a business. This has been my experience and is one of the main reasons I built my current project as a solo artist. Read more>>

Mikayla Chin | Eco-Conscious Digital Illustrator & Graphic Designer

I’ve always been an artistic kid and knew that I wanted a creative career. Growing up, I made and tried a lot of different art mediums. From nail art to jewelry making to digital drawing, I loved venturing out and exploring what each medium can do. My family noticed all of the creative stuff that I was doing and kept saying over the years that I should start selling them. I now knew that I wanted to sell and share my artwork, but I also wanted to make sure that I was also sustainable about it. Read more>>

Jose Yustiz | Wedding & Elopement Photographer

There was honestly no thought process or planning behind starting my business. Photography came to me as a hobby at first. I experimented with my first camera a lot with my friends and didn’t really think too much of it. Eventually, some friends of mine ended up asking me to take their engagement photos and when I got that first $50 for my first paid photoshoot, it sparked something in me. I started taking things a bit more seriously and ended up building my own website, got me a nicer lens and camera and before I knew it, I started booking more and more sessions. Read more>>

Lori Helke | Travel Writer and Author

I have been a travel blogger since 2011, but in 2019, before I published my first children’s book, Beatrice The Little Camper Gets Rescued, I knew I had to start my business. Until that time, my blog wasn’t making any money and hoped the book and future books would elevate me into a profitable business at some point. I wanted legitimacy. Read more>>

Kam Fletcher | The Haphazard Sourdough Baker

As everyone knows, Covid gave us all a lot of time to think, reset our priorities, our goals and what matters in our lives. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to continue my other part-time teaching job, and all my friends kept telling me to sell my sourdough bread. I love making bread but couldn’t imagine spending all my time in a kitchen by myself. I wanted to share how to make sourdough bread and all the other scrumptious baked goods that can be made with the starter. I’ve always been a teacher in one form or another, so what’s more natural than sharing my passion with others. Read more>>