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.

Dorian Canty | CEO & Chef

When the shutdown happened, it was an opportunity for a lot of people to reflect on their goals in life. I didn’t want to work for someone else for the rest of my life and becoming my own boss has always been important to me. Having that free time during quarantine I thought “ if I go for it now I may not have another opportunity “. The last thing I wanted was to regret not perusing my dream. Read more>>

Renee Preuss | Small Independent Shop Owner

My first inkling of wanting to own a business was in my early twenties, however, it was more of a fantastical idea than a tangible one. As time went on and my experiences stacked up, I kept revisiting the idea and the transition of critically thinking about it as opposed to merely mentioning it started to happen. More time went marked by both positive and negative ventures and at some point I began to believe it was possible and that I was capable of having something to offer, as well as a skillset that would help lay the foundation. Eventually I was at a point in my life where it felt like the right time to step up and take the leap!. Read more>>

Carla Pallares | Swimwear Designer & Lifestyle Blogger

I can’t really tell you my thought process when I started my business, I just knew I always wanted my own line. I had experience in many aspects of the fashion/production industry working from retail, to buying, to celebrity styling, etc so I felt somewhat confident that I knew some things. But at the same time, I had no idea what I was doing. One day I just knew I wanted to work hard for myself rather than for other people. I wanted to be creative in my own way and help women feel great and comfortable in a swimsuit in ways I knew I could b/c at that time, there wasn’t much of a market for it. The one thing I did have was belief and confidence in what I wanted to start and achieve. Read more>>

Brian Essig-Peppard | Freelance Concept Artist and Chief Marketing Officer For Ohms

Currently, I’m one of the founders of a tech startup called Ohms. We’ll be launching our first phase in June, which will be a wellness app (also called Ohms) dedicated to combating anxiety through procedurally generated guided breathing exercises and wellness programs tailored to each individual user’s needs. Ultimately, it was a confluence of talented friends all pooling their interests and specialties. I’ve had a great career so far not only telling visual narratives in comic books, tv, and film, but I’ve also had extensive experience with branding and marketing. Given the right place and time, I was very excited to apply those skills to the Ohms team and help the engineers, chemists, scientists, and designers achieve their goals. I’ve worked as a freelancer for so long. That transition took a lot of effort to achieve, and took quite a long time to grow accustomed to. Ironically, after a while I found it would be nice to work on a project I believed in for longer than two weeks. Read more>>

Dominique Miller | Cosemtologist & Salon Owner

I find importance to my actions and examples that I set to others. I am very passionate about my beliefs, and feel each of us have a strong connection to all of our surroundings. In order for each of us to shine, sometimes we must take control. This mindset is what encouraged me to start my own business and do my part. Read more>>

Kristi Hill | Owner/Photographer, Hillside Studios

It’s funny because I never meant to become a pro photographer! I went to art school to be an illustrator and wanted specifically to illustrate children’s books. I only did photography as a hobby and it was mostly centered around traveling. I never thought about making photography into a career. I’ve always liked learning new things, especially creative past times, and I took a continuing education class at a local college for digital photography. The instructor had us photograph models a few times, which I really wasn’t excited about until I actually did it! I LOVED it! And it turns out I was pretty good at it. My instructor asked me if I had ever considered being a portrait photographer and the rest is history, really. I always wanted to do something creative for a living. I believe that my years of art training to be an illustrator really helped me to be a better photographer and it is ultimately what put me on this path. I started my photography business. Read more>>

Molly WOODHULL | Founder of Woodhull Wellness and Corporate Wellness Consultant

Ever since I was a young girl I knew I would start my own business. I am from a family of entrepreneurs and my mom has always been an inspiration to me. I worked in the outdoor industry and in mental emotional health throughout college and after. Due to my own experience with meditation I ended up studying mindfulness and meditation through a few different programs, one at Stanford and the other at Duke University. After those experiences I became really excited about meditation and mindfulness and how important they both are. I got asked to teach a meditation class at the University of Denver. Literally that night after I taught, I called my mom and the next day I became incorporated. I just went for it! I could feel I was a good teachers and knew starting a corporate wellness company was the right thing to do. There are people all over the world that spends so much time at work. Read more>>

Leslie VanDerven | Owner & Visionary

First and foremost, I wanted to start a business that I was passionate about. I love the philosophy of Feng Shui, rearranging furniture, organizing everything, and most of all I find personal satisfaction in helping people achieve harmony and balance in their lives. I love seeing and hearing about the results of my work, how manipulating my clients’ home environment makes them FEEL better! Starting my own business was the result of taking a Feng Shui certification class in 2008. With the understanding of how our home energies affect our lives, it was clear to me that an organizing business could help so many people struggling with feelings of being overwhelmed. At that time, my husband and I were starting our family and I wanted to make my own hours and my own decisions regarding the work I was doing. Read more>>

Lora Cantele | Registered Clinical Aromatherapist, Educator, Author

I started working at 12 years old and have always worked up to three jobs at a time, one of them was always a business of my own. So you could say I always had an entrepeneurial spirit. At one time I worked in the home fashion business while having an interior design business. When I became pregnant with my first child, I looked forward my time as a mom. That was the time i was introduced to Aromatherapy by a natural perfumer I met through a mutual friend. I loved being a new mom, however I was so used to working and really missed it. I wanted to do both. I had started a gift shopping/delivery service in Chicago, but later changed the focus to selling Aromatherapy gift baskets. I started training as an aromatologist to be able to start making my own products and offering aromatherapeutic services. This allowed me the flexibility to raise my children and have my own business. Read more>>

Leslie Loomis | Owner | Mountain Sips Mobile Bar

I have been in the restaurant industry since I was 16. I started bartending at 23 & I loved the fast pace & multi tasking involved. Even when I was working in a nightclub setting I was always playing around with fun & tasty shots. In the years following I worked at bars that allowed me to contribute to the cocktail menu. I always knew I would want to open something for myself where there could be no limit to my creativity. I had an idea in my head that it would be a cocktail bar, a chic but fun place to gather with friends or family. I saw it as kind of far off & was enjoying my current job situation at an upscale lodge in Olympic National Park. Then Covid happened, I lost my job & I started getting crafty with drinks at home. I started to reimagine what my business would look like after witnessing the hardship of local restaurants & bars during shut down. Read more>>

Lev Averbakh | Music producer/DJ

I had been working in the music industry for quite some time as a tour manager and driver. After a fairly successful tour in the spring of 2017 it started to feel like tour managing wasn’t going anywhere for me so i decided it was time to start my own music project. In retrospect, as far as touring goes, its much more fun being a performer than on the touring crew. Read more>>

Amanda Little | Co-Founder

ABBY&FINN started when my husband, Lance, and I realized we were spending over $180 a month with another diaper subscription company to diaper our two girls, which seemed crazy! We wanted to use high quality products that were free of harmful chemicals and gentle on our kids’ sensitive skin, but didn’t think it needed to be so expensive. Our girls also regularly didn’t finish a diaper size when we bought in bulk, which meant we were left with a “diaper graveyard” – a bunch of diapers that were too small and couldn’t be used or donated due to open packaging. We worked with our good friends and neighbors, Matt and Kyle, to create a diaper subscription that actually grew with our kids and gave parents the ability and convenience to mix sizes in the same box at an affordable price, while being delivered right to the front door. After diving into the world of diapers, we learned that 1 in 3 U.S. families experience diaper need. Read more>>

Kathy Spanski | Family and Senior Photographer

I have a passion for documenting relationships, especially parent/child relationships, and wanted to share that skill with others. Our days are filled with little moments of big impact. My boys are teens now, but just today I was thinking about when they were toddlers and would cuddle with me at naptime. Photos can transport you back to that time in an instant. After I lost my own father, photos became the way I could transport myself back and keep my memories fresh. He would often play with my brother and I while my mom got dinner together. Dad would get on the floor and let me ride on his back like a horse. Thankfully I have a photo of one of those moments. My decision to start a business really was spurred on by my passion for photography, capturing moments in the family, and wanting everyone to have documentation of the love that is in their home. Read more>>

Yvonne Min | Portrait Photographer

I’ll be honest, I never had any intention of starting my own business. I’m a math girl which finally led me to getting an MBA in Finance and then a long career doing financial analysis at a number of corporations in the Denver area. At about the exact same time that I bought my first DSLR camera, my company financial group was relocated to Minneapolis and my finance career came to an end. After long talks with my husband, we decided that this was one of those rare opportunities where you can try something else and if it doesn’t work out the way you planned, just go back into finance. And that was over ten years ago and I’ve never looked back. I love math and I love the concrete behavior of numbers. But I am so drawn to photographing people, whether they be high school seniors, corporate headshots or adorable families. Photography is a surprisingly intimate experience and I’m just obsessed with taking images of faces that make my subjects feel seen. Read more>>

Gabrielle Van Wyck | Adventurous Wedding & Family Photographer

Growing up I was always trying to start my own little businesses; lemonade stands, homemade jewelry, dog-walking, etc. So when I was reaching the end of high school and trying to decide what to do after I graduated, I was already doing photo shoots and decided that running my own business was the only thing that made sense for me – I felt like I had already been practicing my whole life for it. I had already taught myself how to build websites for fun, I spent time with the restaurant manager that I worked with to ask questions because I just wanted to know what it was like to manage a business like that out of curiosity, and I already had clients for photography. It almost felt like destiny to just jump into running a business. I loved the idea of living a creative life and the potential flexibility I could have when I started a family. Read more>>

Grace Martin | Real Estate Agent & Hairstylist

My thought process behind starting my own business was based on 2 things, passion and people. This is actually the second business I’ve started as an entrepreneur. I am a dreamer & believe in going after what you want and what excites you. For me that’s bringing joy into other people’s lives and living a lifestyle that is always growing into my best self so I can better serve myself, my family, my friends, my community, and my clients. While a Senior Loan Funder for HSBC bank, I began to gain interest in becoming a Real Estate agent. However, my years as a Funder abruptly ended, along with the industry coming to a crash in 2008. A couple years after that my family and I moved from California to Colorado. After moving to Colorado, I considered enrolling into school to obtain my Real Estate license. Coming from the lending side of things, I felt knowledgeable in the process and knew I could learn what the realty side had to teach me. Read more>>

Andrea Rector | Artist

I’ve been painting for fun since I was young, and always wanted to have my own business as an artist, whether that meant full-time or as a side hustle. Since I already have a full-time career, I’ve been painting during my free time for a number of years. What really turned it into a business was when I started to get requests for commissions. Suddenly I realized there was a market for my work! The idea of starting a real business was both exciting and scary, but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try. I formed my LLC in 2019 and have learned a ton along the way and met some great people in the art community. Read more>>

Jordan Kellerman | Founder and CEO, Rollie Creative

I started Rollie Creative with less thought than I should have. I had a six month old baby, I recently transitioned from a more than full-time job to a part time position in an effort to spend more time with my family, and I had free time that I felt the need to fill. My brain needed more, even though I knew I did not want to work full time for someone else. I met with a friend in the business who had been successful with his own Public Relations company, and he was generous enough to let me ask as many questions as I needed. I had no idea how to run a business, I knew how to do Public Relations, and I knew that I did not need or want to do it someone else’s way. I went home and registered an LLC and a website, and decided I was going to work this as a side job until I could build it into a full-time business. Read more>>

Russ Barber | Co-Owner/Sales Manager

My sister Janice and I talked about starting our own business for years, we were both with great companies but the commute was horrible. I was 32 miles from my door to the office and it would take 2-3 hours some days, on a good day it was an hour and half with stop and go traffic. We kicked around several business ideas, anything from indoor sports facilities, document storage, gyms and even vending machines. Ultimately we found Storm Guard Roofing and Construction which is part of a National Franchise System. With my 20+ years of construction experience and Janice’s background in finance it just made sense. As of March 2021 we have been in business for 5 years!. Read more>>

Taylor Fisher | Photographer & Business Coach

I never thought I’d run my own business. My mom kept trying to get me to take entrepreneurial courses at my university, and I avoided them like the plague. However, I got my first “big girl job” in Denver in August 2012 at what I thought would be a very long career. It was just before Labor Day weekend and I had been working my butt off for this company; late hours, early mornings, with no appreciation. My boyfriend (husband now) and I were camping and he told me he was heading on vacation with his family and asked me to come. I told him I had to work and he asked a followup question that would forever change the trajectory of my life: “What do you want to be doing by the time you’re 30?” I replied, quite overconfidently, “I’m going to be a photographer, of course.” He then explained to me, with his business and marketing background tone, that it takes 4-6 years for a business to be running itself. He then asked me if I wanted the job my boss had. “Gosh, no!” was my answer. And that was that. Read more>>

Tristan Chan | Founder of The Porch Collective & PorchDrinking.com

Honestly, The Porch Collective was partially born out of necessity and opportunity. I had been the Marketing Manager for Ratio Beerworks for the previous four years. But when the pandemic hit, I like many others were furloughed. And while I had toyed with the idea of launching my own hospitality marketing firm in previous years, this was the push I needed to take the leap. Read more>>

Merry Cox | Artist…3D Mixed Media

When one lives in a resort, is a single parent of a kidlet in school & the best paying jobs are at night as a waitron in good restaurant, the choice to create your own job or struggle along at a limited wage was a no brainer. I didn’t want a night job. I would never see my child. I figured that I could give my pottery biz a shot, work hard for myself & see how it would develop. There was just a hint in the corner of my mind that I could always retreat. After rounding up my courage, I headed out to find just one store that would like to carry my work. The right time, right designs, right store all aligned in order for me to be a creative for most of my adult life. Read more>>

Laura Wolfgang | Wedding & Portrait Photographer

I love photography, so it came naturally when I started my business when I had friends and family asking for pictures. I love being challenged, so when I looked at my business I realized it was a big challenge for me to not only grow a business but to grow in my skills as a photographer, as well. So I continued to push myself to learn more about business and photography and seek success. Read more>>

Jennifer Rhode | Interior Designer and Writer

My biggest priority has always been my two children and being available for them. As an interior designer I had two options: to work for an established firm or to start my own business. While there is much more financial stability in working for someone else, I realized that I would have far less control over my schedule and the amount of work I took on. Ultimately, the need for flexibility drove my decision. For some, my hours might seem a bit unorthodox – I frequently get up at the crack of dawn to work before my children are awake (I think best in the morning anyway!) and I take a lot of meetings on Saturdays when my kids are with their father. Many of my clients appreciate weekend appointments as they work during the week as well and it allows me to have plenty of family time. Read more>>

Mirasol Gomez Nicole Carrillo | Field to Table Boutique Catering Company, Lady Chefs

The thought process behind starting our own business was really born of our desires to forge our own path as women business owners. At the time just before we started our business we were each individually ready to find a way to do things our own way, and began a dialogue about what it would look like to do it together. We had been close friends for a long time already and so we knew we had a very similar and special feeling that we wanted to foster into a larger platform of a business that could grow with us. We were looking to unify all our of our shared skills cooking, gathering, managing, farming, aesthetics, and feeding community into one place where we could share it with other people. By the fall of 2018 after years of imagining what it would look like to create something together we decided to take the leap. Read more>>

Zoe Deutsch & Kate Lange | Pastry Chefs/Co-owners

We were working together at a local wholesale bakery and realized that there wasn’t a bakery or other pastry job in Denver that met all of our criteria; somewhere that highlights locally sourced ingredients, honors community investment, and allows for work life balance. So, we decided to create our own space that held these values. Read more>>

Brenden Matthews | Photographer, Stylist and Creative Director

If I’m being honest, there wasn’t much thought Behind my business at first. all i knew is that i wanted to build it from the ground up, and that I wasn’t going to let money take away from y passion for the art. I was 17, a Senior at Cherokee Trail High School, and I had a lot of options. Track Athlete, Potential Engineer or Professional photographer were the paths I’d carved out through high school. My Photo Teacher, Michael Chimento, asked me if this was something I wanted to do for a long time and It was the first time i’d really looked at photography as a career. Both my Parents are engineers, and seeing how they worked desk jobs and I had no interest in that, I realized that photography was one fo the only things that gave me the freedom to literally shoot what i wan or who I want, while also maintaining some sort of steady income. Read more>>

Jenny Balagna | Self Published Author of Noryn’s Legend

I’ve spent a lot of my life writing, mainly for fun. I never really thought about turning it into something I could sell and share with the world until about a year ago. After six years of writing my draft for my book, Noryn’s Legend, I decided that I’d finally finish it. Even then, I didn’t think about self publishing it or creating a brand for it. It wasn’t until I was in the final stages of editing that I thought I’d give it a shot and see if I could become a published author with a book that could sell. Having a business of my own was something I was always interested in, and I had a few roads that I could take in that direction. Turns out, the road I needed to travel down was as an author!. Read more>>

Matthew White | Content Creator & Cannabis Educator

I just wanted to help people with their questions about legal cannabis. When I first got started in the cannabis industry, people would reach out to me with questions about their new medicine or their new career path all the time. I really enjoyed helping people with their questions, and I was learning interesting stuff every day. I wanted to share all of this with as many people as I could, so I started uploading videos to youtube. Read more>>

Rick Harrigan | Career & Life Purpose Coach

I was immersed in a fast-paced, high-paying career doing advertising sales and business development in the Los Angeles corporate entertainment world. On the surface, I was living the American Dream – big salary, big house, nice car, fancy dinners and movie premieres. Beneath the façade of success, however, I felt overwhelmed, stuck, and completely disconnected from myself. My “success” sure didn’t feel like it. I. Was. Utterly. Burnt. Out. At the end of my rope, I underwent what I like to call a “mid-life awakening”. I re-invested in my self, my spirituality, and, most importantly, I got some outside guidance from a coach. I started making changes. Big changes. I started asking – and answering! – the “really big” questions about my life. I clarified my beliefs and values. I started making my own rules. I created my own, unique definition of success. Read more>>

Cehlsea Plummer | Recipe Creator & Food Blogger

I’ve always loved cooking and finally wanted to do something with it. I knew I didn’t want to work in a restaurant and I often joked with my friends that I wanted to be a stay-at-home dog mom blogger, so I quit my job and went for it. Read more>>

Courtney La Marine | Aesthetician, Owner, Clove Studios & Clove Apothecary

When I decided to start my own business 14 years ago it came from a desire to be in control of my life and the type of Aesthetician I wanted to be. Working with so many different skin care lines and spas all over the country allowed me to take notes from some of the best out there. I wanted to take a slow approach to healthy skin, being in Colorado it works well for my clients. So when decisions to grow came my way, it was easy to move forward. I spent many years focusing on building my clientele in Denver. Having a strong base here at home is very important to me. I also wanted to travel for work and the opportunity presented itself in 2016. I expanded to Uvita, Costa Rica and began taking clients in Los Angeles as well. The way my business has unfolded so far is what I’ve envisioned for my life. During the pandemic I began working on Clove Apothecary, a small batch botanical based skin care and body line. Read more>>

Jamal Bowen | Professor/ Program Chair

I was inspired to start a business called, “Empowering Community Entrepreneurs.” In 2016, the vision of this program is to create events that encourage, teach, and mentor young adults to proactively generate business ideas and construct a plan of action to make them successful. The purpose is to train entrepreneurs with specific tools that would produce outward thinking to maintain a business of progression. Empowering Community Entrepreneurs (ECE) provides and creates opportunities for the youth and young adults to connect with others, through skills and services. ECE creates opportunities to assist educational experiences that help frame the mindset of the youth and develop leadership. Creating a platform to discuss issues, needs and available resources influence and guide the community. ECE also looks to provide and implement insights in other organizations, as well as to inspire individuals to become ambassadors and to produce a strong and diverse foundation. Read more>>

Marek Hosek | Creative Director & Artist

I all honesty I had no idea what kind of business I wanted to run. I just graduated from art school and was thrown into the freelancing design world. All I knew is i needed to be service oriented and learn as I go. This allowed me to be pretty flexible with whom I choose to work with and how I structure my business and the growth comes. Read more>>

Elan Wenzel | Chef and Owner/Operator of Element Knife Company

The notion of working for myself was attractive to me much like I think it is for a lot of folks. I may have been naïve to some of the depths of involvement and the daily minutia of running one’s own business, but I was not naïve to the fact that there is an endless amount of work involved, I’m not shy of working. The trade off is well worth it. The romantic notions of calling the shots and running things the way I see fit based from years of experience called to me. The understanding that I have experience and knowledge that could be put to use educating and supporting my peers also called to me, almost to the point of obligation. It became clear that the sensibilities, merits and sharing of knowledge that were instilled in me from my schooling and career are what I want to impart to my community. Along with awesome knives!. Read more>>

Chelsea Sweeney | Registered Nurse, Case Manager and Certified Placement Referral Specialist

My husband and I were on a roadtrip and listening to a podcast about a nurse and her husband in real estate which was identical to our situation. They discussed how as a nurse it was not common to branch outside of the healthcare system and start something new. I had discussed with my husband several times what it would look like to have children and the commitment I had to work which would equate to me being away for 4 days in a row, often 12-14 hours a day. This did not seem to be the life I wanted even though I loved my job and had been in healthcare for years. I was then discussing with my husband the struggle I had as a case manager in the hospital when my patients would readmit regardless of the efforts and countless resources provided. I told him that often times my patients had all the resources they needed however did not have the ability to prioritize them and execute. Read more>>

Tamara Wolff | Middle School English Language Arts Teacher, Creator of “Beets and Sweets” | A Cottage Foods Company Promising Health and Happiness Through Soulful Food

I want to make people happy with good food that is what I call “Soulful food”… food that has been touched, loved, grown with love and cooked/created with love with REAL ingredients. Read more>>

Samantha Webb | Bookstore Owner

“I want to open a bookstore.” I announced in the fall of 2019. Some people were thrilled at the idea of having a local bookstore. Others gave me the half cocked look. I knew they were thinking, do people still read books? My husband’s stomach churned. Our kids were out of the house and he was looking forward to getting us financially positioned for eventual retirement. And here I was wanting to potentially put us in a financial bind. I was undeterred and plowed ahead to show him this could work. I have always wanted to have a business of my own but didn’t do the work to focus that desire into a productive internal discussion of what the business should be. Most of my ideas were reasonable but not my passion and would inevitably fizzle. My work experience included some office jobs and a lot of retail from working in a small store (just the owner and myself), to managing a department for a multi-million dollar store (with a variety of stops along the way). For many years I’d resented the amount of time I’d spent in retail feeling I hadn’t utilized my best skills or the money spent on my degree. Read more>>

Dick Cooley | Artist

I went to school for welding back in 79 I learned how to weld and did it as a hobby for 15 years and then 21 years ago I went full-time doing an average of 20 to 30 art and craft shows a year I’ve sold average sales before Cove it was just over $100,000 in artwork which most of my artwork is $100 or less and most of it is $50 or less so that’s a lot of sculpture sculptures I make small metal sculptures using spark plugs as my people doing work occupation at Sportz pub and over. Read more>>