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.

Shannon Ashley | Licensed Esthetician & Owner of The Hairless Hippie

When I first became an esthetician, owning my own business was never part of the plan. It was never even something I considered as a little girl, for that matter. However, once I became established in the beauty industry, it felt like the most natural next step. I have worked for so many amazing people in my professional life, and I’ve learned so much from each of them, that it felt like it was time for me to learn how to execute all those lessons in my own way. Read more>>

Ida Dickson-Kingston | Founder of AfriCoast Patterns

The idea of starting my own business has always been a part of me, but I always pushed back on all the ideas that I had to start. I was more focused on achieving my career and educational goals. In 2018, after a thorough research, planning and preparation, I finally gave in to putting my ideas into action and took the necessary steps to start my own small business in Colorado to help promote and sell African Arts, Crafts and Accessories. Read More>>

Ali Garcia | Photographer

I wanted to start my own business because I wanted the flexibility and freedom to pursue my dreams. I didn’t want to be stuck in a job that I didn’t love, so I decided to chase after what sets my soul on fire. As a photographer, I am able to create a schedule that works for me and my family, meet amazing clients from all over the world, and have a creative outlet that fulfills me both personally and professionally. Read more>>

Rachel Kerr | Founder of The Beauty Boost

I never felt fulfilled at my corporate job(s). Nothing was wrong but nothing was right. I felt guilty about that for a long time. Then I worked with a life coach and everything changed. She helped me take my own strengths + passions and create a “job” out of it while also helping others. Read more>>

Emma Ragland | Reseller & Slow Fashion Advocate

I began selling items from my personal closet that I no longer wanted to wear just on Instagram as a way to make some money while I was in between jobs. Then, suddenly, that began to take off! So I thought, ‘Why not start thrifting clothing in all different sizes and reselling them?’ and here I am! I was driven by my passion for sustainability and and my want for the end of the fast fashion takeover. Read more>>

Whitley Ambrose | Photographer & Social Media Manager

I was working in the manufacturing and logistics world for the past 5 years. I loved what I did in the corporate world, but I, unfortunately, lost my job during Covid. I was unemployed for 3 weeks and stumbled upon social media management. I had picked up a camera for the 1st time in years April 2020, and took that and ran with it. I have been amazed at the opportunity I was given to take the jump into full-time freelance work. Haven’t looked back since! Read more>>

Paul Magarelli | Medical and Lab Director CNY Fertility Colorado

Infertility care requires a unique combination of science, culture and medicine to achieve results, aka One healthy baby! I studied to become a reproductive scientist as a Ph.D> in Marine animal reproduction and moved to human reproduction for the challenge. While in medical school I received a scholarship from the department of psychiatry because of my skills in interpersonal communication and my passion for advocating for patients. My undergraduate studies were in Community Health Education focusing on the interplay between doctors and patients. Read more>>

Taeleen Woodard | Creative Director

For creatives like me, there’s not really ever a choice. You either do your own thing, or die slowly. Maybe I say that a little tongue-in-cheek – I’ve found real success, and found ways to inject some soul into the greater business world in Denver, but the truth is still just what it is. I think we all need an outlet for expression, and I’m lucky enough to be turning my passion for design and photography into something that people are connecting with. Read more>>

Donald Montero | Personal Trainer, Gym Manager, Model

During 2020 mid-quarantine I started to workout an unusual amount of times throughout the day , I would wake up at 5am to hit my friends backyard gym and I had developed a love for fitness unlike any other activity I have ever done my entire life. It brought me pure joy, confidence, and a sense of accomplishment in my life. Working out created a radiation of positivity that spread throughout other aspects of my life such as my discipline, my ability to get things done and motivated me to do good at work. People started to notice my physical change and started to ask for questions and tips pertaining to fitness and I remember talking to my mother one day and telling her “Mom, Imagine if I become a personal trainer one day?” Read more>>

Veronica Whitehead | Independent salon owner and stylist

When I decided that I was going to be opening my own business, I had some fear but knew if I didn’t take the chance to do it then, I probably wouldn’t have done it. At that point, I had worked in salons for over 13 years and had experience not just behind the chair but as an inventory specialist, salon manager, and training manager. With all the different roles I had during those years, I knew about the back end of the business and what to expect from working with vendors, promoting myself, and how to grow a successful business. After stepping down from managing a salon for over 2 years, I knew that there were things I wanted to do differently and give a better experience to my clients. Read more>>

Taylor Liberatore | Curly Hair Expert

My thought process behind starting my own business was, time is all you have why waste it being unhappy? You are a boss and you already have the skill set. I wanted people to get to know me for me. I also thought a lot about my future and what is important to me. Read more>>

Duane Davis II | Entrepreneur & Recording Artist

As a kid I always wanted to have my own business, amongst many other career dreams. The idea for a resume services & career consulting company came to me while working in the adult corrections industry. As part of my last role, I was responsible for the hiring of staff in my department, and this was during the current world pandemic. We were conducting phone interviews, and I noticed that so many people did not know how to properly interview nor provide a relevant resume. I also thought about the many companies that have recruiting departments that “screen” applicants who turn out to be not so great candidates. I wanted to create a business that solved those problems in the modern digital/social media driven world and bring a fresh approach to the industry. Read more>>

Macqenna Ledford | Designer & Boutique Owner

I spent many years working for “the man” and I decided that I wanted to be that man. I was raised to be a leader and learned amazing communication skills from my religious background and my mother that is fascinated by mental health and different personalities. I wouldn’t trade those lessons for the world. Read more>>

Winter Wall | Founder, Kebon

I started Kebon after years of percolating on the idea that there should be a supportive, relational network for women-owned businesses globally. I have worked with many organizations that help women start businesses and champion that effort. It is essential. After the start-up stage, there is a drop off in support and up-skilling for those women who are really looking to grow and scale. Kebon is based on the three prong framework of scalability that includes access to market, access to capital and access to mentorship as the keys to business growth. From personal experience, I am convinced that when women succeed financially they re-invest in their families, in education, in healthy foods and in their community. Read more>>

Alexandra Oliver | Certified Aesthetician

I became an aesthetician 9 years ago and I’ll be honest, I’ve had a lot of jobs in this industry. Since the moment I started working under other people, I have witnessed too many unethical situations and safety concerns. I hopped from place to place, searching for a a healthy environment in which clients and employees were treated with respect. To my surprise, it was extremely difficult to find! Read more>>

Colin Hower | Owner Hower Built, LLC

I didn’t want to work for anyone…I think differently than people and I wanted the opportunity to do my own thing. I had been dreaming up this camper design for years and so I just decided to build the first one. I quickly learned more lessons than ever expected so I built the second and then the third. After 3 prototypes I felt very confident that I had “figured it out”. Read more>>

sherisse hawkins | CEO

Had a creative idea and wanted to run with it. As one person said “you start a business when you feel you can’t NOT start it” Read more>>

Brooke Pezdirtz | Creator and Owner

When I was 18 years old I moved to Kansas to play college volleyball. Our team was beautiful, full of different ethnicities, races and people from all over the world. My teammate would often request a “pit check” revealing white streaks against her dark skin. I was stunned this even had to be an insecurity for people of color. Contrasting streaks never crossed my mind because my deodorant matched my skin. I knew right there I was born to solve this problem and bring equality to armpits everywhere! Read more>>

Samantha Luegger | Owner of LUE Outdoors

LUE Outdoors started during a time in my life when I had to figure out how to begin making an income again: For the previous 3 years I had been battling health issues. Due to my health I could not promise to be reliable, and in turn did not get hired (except for odd jobs), so I was unemployed for most of that time – what business owner/manager wants to hire someone they cannot rely on to work their shift? The summer of 2018 LUE Outdoors began as an Ambassador and affiliate business for companies in the Outdoors and Snowboard Industries, and then the fall of 2019 we also began Air BNB’ing in our home to help pay the bills, and to grow LUE Outdoors. This decision allowed us to grow to do a collaboration with Findlay Hats (Spring 2020), be an online retailer (Summer 2020), and from there our journey has continued. (I was blessed to have my parents support during all of the ups & downs throughout my life caused by my health.) Read more>>

Kevin Barrett | Artist and Clothing Designer

I was designing for another company when I started my own creative business. They were already doing what I ultimately wanted to do, make awesome art for musicians, travel around the country, and just have a good time. I was let go a few months later but having had the experience, it really prepared me for what I wanted to continue to do. I made the move back to Colorado from Chicago, and was now my own boss, giving me total creative freedom, which I now know I absolutely need. I can go where I want, anytime, and create what makes me happy, as long as I get a little money out of it. Bear Fruit Designs are uplifting patterns and art pieces, while finding tranquility and joy through creation. Read more>>

Lucy Eden | Romance Author, Content Creator & all around creative person

I started my first business in the fourth grade and I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since. I love the freedom, control, and creativity involved in being an entrepreneur. It’s not always easy but if you love what you do, it doesn’t feel quite like a job. Read more>>

Gary Heferle | Gourmet Mushroom Farmer, Scientist and Entrepreneur

Starting our own gourmet mushroom farm was an easy decision. I had been working in corporate America for some time building skills in medical laboratory science, supervising a microbiology lab and have always worked hard while saving money on the side to start our capital venture. I knew there was a ceiling when it came to growth working for someone else, so the hardest part of starting our business was deciding when. Read more>>

Blake Stine | Chef / Owner

There were several thoughts going through my head before taking the plunge and starting Denver Private Chef. It was in the middle of the pandemic, restaurants were closing their doors left and right and work was hard to come by. I knew that the general public still needed great restaurant quality meals even though there were not many places capable of supplying that type of food given the new restrictions and closures. Read more>>

Krysta Parr | Graphic Designer & Wonder Woman cosplayer

I’m a graphic designer, and I technically started my business shortly after college. I think what convinced me to do so, was by the end of college, I already had a couple of people ask for my work – I helped visually design a website working with a developer, and a friend of a friend asked for illustrations for his music thing… so it just made sense to go ahead and get a business set up even though that wasn’t my full-time job at the time. I honestly didn’t expect it to become my full-time job ever, but I wanted to stay in the industry even if just on the side (I wasn’t having luck with landing a design job with an agency).  Read more>>

Zekilah Carter | Candle Maker

I came up with the idea to begin my own business during the initial lockdown of the pandemic. I was just let go of my job and became depressed. I sat down with myself and decided that I was the only one who could change my fate, my mindset. That day I vowed to honor myself and put up a fight against my depression. I chose candles as a way to let my light shine. Read more>>

Aaron Uhl | Founder, Owner, Head Brewer, Qulaity Control Manager, Lead Sales Rep, Delivery Guy

When I first started thinking about building my brand I continuously wrote business model, after business model. Each time more deterred then the next to even think about finding the investors to get a brewhouse together. The amount of money necessary was unfathomable to me so I continued to think of other ways the brand could get going. I read a lot of articles about gypsy brewing at the time, inspired by He’Brew, Mikkeller and Evil Twin at the time. But the breweries they were brewing at were massive. Sometimes in excess of 100bbl brew houses. But they had all done a really good job at branding and marketing. Then one day, one of my local liquor store guys told me he was leaving and would be starting his own business. Read more>>


Kristi Hurley | Educator & Equine Assisted Learning Coach

My name is Kristi Hurley, and I am the owner and founder of The Giggling Life Care Farm. The thought process behind starting my business all stemmed from overcoming many obstacles and tragedies throughout my life, and especially within the last 14 years. It all started with the devastating loss of my 21 yr. old brother in 2006, his best friend also in 2006, financial devastation in 2008, our house burning down in 2015, losing my son’s best friend and roommate at age 23 in 2017, to yet another devastating loss of my 18 yr. old nephew in 2018. Read more>>

Ryan Pachmayer | Owner Puzzah! Escape Room

I’ve always been fascinated with owning my own business. From buying, sell and trading collectible cards as a kid to my first official business in the asphalt industry. I enjoy the flexibility and control that it offers. Even when you’re working the typical 60-80 hour weeks during your initial phase, it often feels like half of that due to the excitement of building something that you own and have designed. While there is tedious work, and even some of the best delegating owners have many unforeseen emergencies fall on their shoulders, there is never a dull moment, it’s not monotonous. Read more>>