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.

Meet Ice V. & Britt V. | Honey Lemon Hustle Co-Hosts

Honey Lemon Hustle’s vision is to share our diverse experiences and perspectives so that others may relate to them, in an effort to inspire others. We wanted to build a brand that promotes authenticity and community. Creating Honey Lemon Hustle also offered an opportunity to enhance our friendship by becoming business partners. This has allowed us to merge our skillsets to create a brand that will inspire others to work together and tackle their own endeavors as well. We want to build a safe space where everybody feels welcome and feels confident in expressing their true selves. The best way for us to be successful in achieving our vision was to create a Podcast so that we could have the opportunity to initiate the conversation about what early adulthood is like and what we’ve done so far to navigate this stage. Read more>>

Jason ‘Gordo’ Gordon | Musician & Small Business Owner

The thought process has evolved with the business over time. In the beginning I wasn’t even sure it was a good idea. I mean, the music business is generally not a sure thing if you’re looking at things form a strictly financial standpoint. However, at the time I had several years of writing songs, performing, recording, putting albums together and doing guerrilla-style marketing and promotion under my belt. After taking a couple of music business courses I was struck by the idea of professionalizing what I was already doing. Starting Gordophonic Records was a way of putting everything I was doing under one umbrella. I initially thought of it as a clearing house for the myriad artistic endeavors in my catalog, but as I moved forward others showed an interest in being involved. I feel honored that I get to collaborate with a group of incredible musicians and help their ideas become tangible artistic statements in the wider creative conversation of our music scene. Read more>>

Imani and Vanessa Frazier | Co-Owners and Photographers

We both discovered a passion for photography and individually we were considering starting a business on our own. It just so happened to come up and conversation and I, Imani, suggested we go into business together. My mom is more artistic and had amazing ideas of how to use photography to help new business owners and business owners who are established, define their brand. She has a knack for taking big, lavish ideas and doing them within a reasonable budget which is what every business owner wants. As for me I like doing portraits and capturing genuine moments. I just didn’t think there were many photographers who encouraged for there to be natural moments around us. I also felt like I saw a lot of people doing beautiful poses and taking beautiful pictures but I could tell they were uncomfortable. So I just wanted to provide a service where people feel comfortable and their natural personality comes through the pictures. Read more>>

Jordan Larson | Business Owner & Trail Guide

If there was one at all, it was that I wanted to find a way that I felt like I could help people in a different way than what I had been in some of my previous roles. Some things in the past just didn’t align with my own values or just felt like there was something missing. I found myself a bit lost in what I wanted to do with my future, so I started looking into guiding and after doing it for a bit, it clicked that this is such a great way for me to not only help protect the places I love but also meet new people and promote their health. After doing some research and seeing the potential in this idea, I knew I had to pursue it further and so I kind of stumbled into starting my own business more than anything. I really fell in love with the idea of having a really flexible approach to helping people get outdoors and raising awareness around mental health. Honestly felt like it was meant to be as I started to incorporate two of my passions into my own business. Read more>>

Kim Morgan | Colorado Portrait Photographer

My background is in education and after moving to Colorado six years ago, I was ready to focus more on my own business. I loved teaching photography and media, but could not find the right program to transition back into teaching, so I opened my own photography company. I do still offer one on one photography and editing lessons, so I still have my hand in education. I love creating memorable images for my clients and have a lot of fun at photo sessions. I always see the opportunity for growth and creativity in my work. I like being able to have some flexibility with my family schedule and my clients schedules. Once I had my son and seeing the wonder and imagination through his eyes, I wanted to capture that. Photographs have the ability to freeze a moment in time and bring you back to that memory. I like being a part of that process for my clients. Read more>>

Ashley Stiles | Founder of Tribe Development, proud citizen of the Chickasaw Nation

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and never thought I couldn’t do something. I knew how to hustle from a really young age. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so things like a bike or boombox I had to buy myself. I started a car washing business, would sell items I didn’t want to friends – really anything to make a buck! My commercial real estate career started in the corporate world, and it was good to me for a long time. I learned a lot and met many incredible, smart people, but I eventually reached a point where I needed my voice to be heard. I wanted to have creative freedom and the ability to pursue new ideas. I wanted a space where I could leverage all my skills and experience and push projects forward in a different, more meaningful way. Read more>>

Justin Brunson | Chef

Denver used to be a food Manufacturing city, I thought you seemed to be a huge hole in the food system not to have locally made natural meats. the stockyards here off of I 70 used to be the third largest in the United States which are completely gone now. Denver used to be a hub of food manufacturing for the Rocky Mountain area which has slowly died off in the last 50 years, It’s sad to see! I wanted to create local high quality meat businesses that uses properly raised animals to make great meat products. Read more>>

Derrick (Coopdaville) Cooper | Chef

My thought process behind starting my own business was just simply having the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I have worked in this industry since I was 14 years old and I saw a lot of the right ways to do things, and a lot of the wrong ways to do things. So taking that knowledge I wanted to grow a business that was focused on wowing the customer and making sure every guest is extremely satisfied when spending their hard earned money. My objective is to bring the “Gold standard” back! I want to set the curve, not follow trends. Also I wanted the opportunity to teach what I have learned to others and possibly help them start their own businesses. A mentor once told me that you cannot consider yourself successful until you’ve helped someone else be successful and I choose to live by that. Read more>>

Sarah Branner | Ayurveda Counselor

I wanted to help women heal naturally so they could feel healthy and balanced in their mind & body. So many of us are working toward something great. Whether that’s a career, being a mother, or just trying to navigate this thing we call life. And oftentimes, we get lost in the shuffle. So much so that we forget about ourselves. I want to change that. I went into business to not only heal, but to empower women to take control of their health, and more importantly their life. I teach my clients that it’s not normal to feel overwhelmed everyday, and that they should never have to put themselves on the backburner (as it truly benefits no one). Living a healthy, balanced lifestyle doesn’t have to be a nightmare. One just needs to know and understand their unique mind-body type, or unique nature and natural tendencies. Read more>>

Lauren Ferrara | Documentary Producer for Families

We watch documentaries and read biographies about people we don’t know, politicians, athletes, celebrities, the list goes on. I think we all crave knowing more about the people close to us, yet so often we’re afraid to ask the right questions, and eventually it becomes too late. Enter Why Wait Stories a documentary production company for families!. Read more>>

Karilyn Harper | Entrepreneur, Business Owner

I loathed shopping for clothes for the longest time, anything fashionable never got me properly, and I blamed myself not the clothing industry. I learned almost six years ago now, that not every body is the same, body positivity has played a huge factor in my career, and I enjoy sewing for all sizes. I’m 6’2″ and plus size, standard ankle length are like long capris on my legs, and most regular tees were too short on my torso, it made me so self conscious, I started buying men’s tees and basically lived in hoodies because it was what I was comfortable in. Back in 2014 my grandmother gifted me one of her seven sewing machines, I was pregnant with my second daughter and she told me it would be good of me to teach myself how to sew; she clearly didn’t have the patience to teach me anything more past threading it. So I did. I started with throw pillows, with quilting cotton, then I moved onto something a bit more challenging, a car seat cover for my unborn child. Read more>>

Mindy Delmez | Freelance Photographer

Every individual is uniquely beautiful. I want to help capture that uniqueness. Read more>>

Jeni Kemper | Owner & Founder of Kemper Dance Academy

Just like Nike says “Just Do It!” was the thought process behind Kemper Dance Academy. I was a single mom at the time and trying to figure out what to do after having a performance career. When I was younger, I never knew there was a life after high school in dance. I had wonderful teachers who helped me find the love for dance but never had the knowledge for what came after high school. Once I figured it out on my own, I was upset that I never was shown or even taught that dance could help me through college on a full ride scholarship (thank you dance department at the University of Arizona), I could travel the world on a cruise ship and dance company or that I could make it part of my adult life. I love to teach and inspire younger dancers which brought me to the thought process of opening a dance studio in Colorado Springs. I wanted to help the younger generation understand that you can use dance in all ways. Read more>>

Ryan DiFranco | Restauranteur

I grew up in an Italian family. I bet you know where this is going… we like to eat. Every social event with the family revolves around food. So much so that every holiday while we eating, we are talking about what we are going to make to eat next year. So that is how DiFranco’s was born. My focus is to serve great food with great service, in a fun, yet casual atmosphere. My background is restaurants and it’s what I love. So putting family, food, and my passion together was a no brainer. Read more>>

Levi Smith | Songwriter/ Instrumentalist/ Vocalist

Malibu Nights came into being in 2014 while I was living at the THE WICK compound in Denver, Colorado. My songwriting was inspired by a retro electronic dance sound from the 80’s and early 90’s, coupled with some of the higher energy rock and hardcore outfits that I loved. I also have a deep love for classic funk and wanted to incorporate some of that energy into the project as well. My goal was to bring the sound into a live performance as a band, not simply djing tracks, to showcase the live energy of the project and bring a fresh sound to the music landscape. Read more>>

Ericka Maestas | Business Owner & Makeup Artist

When I initially got started in makeup, I really didn’t have any expectations! I started out teaching myself and watching you tubers. I actually never really wore much makeup until after I graduated high school. So if someone would have told me I would be a freelance makeup artist someday, I would have laughed! I decided to apply for Sephora on a whim. On my first day, I KNEW makeup was something I was going to love for the rest of my life. It was like I had found my “home”. I started to incorporate my other artistic capabilities into my work, and I started to make a knew dream of becoming a freelance artist. I wanted to be able to help people look & feel beautiful on my own terms. I thought of the kind of standards & morals I wanted to build my client base on, and I knew that owning my business was the best way to accomplish it. Read more>>

Lauren Hargreaves | Performer, Artist & Business Owner

Starting Simply City Designs was a weird happenstance, I’ll be honest! One night during quarantine, I decided to teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator, then that turned into making custom illustrations and about a month later, I started an instagram to share my art. Then a few weeks later I opened my Etsy shop with digital downloads of prints and the range of products have developed even more since then! Now I sell stickers, totes, and apparel and it’s quite crazy how it’s all happened. I love it, though, and I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received from friends, family, and strangers on this journey. Read more>>

Alex Grissom | Founder and CEO of DeisgnNGlory

At first, I was more focused on landing a software developer job right after college. However I had a divine experience in which I felt led to start a web agency. At first I was afraid to start my own business because it was something outside of my comfort zone , and I didn’t know how I would be able to accomplish such a daunting feat. The more I thought about it, meditated, and consulted other entrepreneurs in my network of friends and associates, I finally started to build some confidence in myself, and I began to have the faith that I could do it. Read more>>