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.

Kelly Gulbrandsen | Fitness and Pilates Instructor, Studio Owner & Clothing Designer

I am co-owner of my Pilates studio, B. Pilates Boutique. I absolutely love movement and what it has done for me over the years. After speaking with my daughter one night, we came up with the idea about creating a clothing line so that we can touch and empower humans both near and far. Our message is simple, all we need is a subtle reminder about how powerful, strong, and loved we all truly are. With this mission in mind, we also knew that we wanted to make a difference for our community. Children’s Hospital Colorado has made such a tremendous impact on me and my families lives, the least we could do to thank them is try to raise money in their name. 20% of every sale Sweat Love Soul makes is donated directly to the hospital. Our mission is to be one of the smallest businesses that can make that greatest impact. Sweat Love Soul has only been born for just over a year now. We are working hard creating new pieces that should be out just in time for fall/winter. Read more>>

Julien Renaut | Owner

I always wanted to truly manage a business since I entered the working world. I slowly step up rank as a chef until I became Director of cuisine. After that, my next challenge was to open my own business to really put into reality what I wanted to do. As a employee, I often had barrier to get to the next step, now, the only barrier is myself. Read more>>

Luann Robinson Hull | A Trailblazer in Human Development

Starting my own business has been an organic process. I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way, having no idea what I was getting into when I began. Launching my career in a psychiatric hospital motivated me to make my contributions, learn what I could, and go into private practice as soon as possible. It took several years before I was ready and willing to fully embody the spirit of freedom necessary to do so—and what exercising that freedom would mean in terms of my career. I quickly learned that true freedom can only be accompanied by taking full responsibility for your life—both personally and professionally. When no one else has your back, you have to cultivate a strong spine—and in my view, doing so renders its own rewards. If you have a dream of what you want to contribute to the world, are willing to educate yourself on how you can be best equipped to do so, and choose to stay focused on your goal by avoiding distractions and discouragement, there is nothing you cannot achieve. Read more>>

Kristian Hval | Owner & Brewmaster

I started making kombucha because I liked the benefits of the beverage but I didn’t really like the way many of them tasted! Having a lifelong background in cooking, I knew how to play with flavors and set out to make the best tasting kombucha I could. As it turns out, I’m pretty good at it, and before long everyone I shared it with wanted what I was brewing. One friend in particular told me I should “go for it” and his opinion really made in impression on me – it made me question for the first time the idea that I could start my own company. As time went on and I became more serious about planning the business, my motives changed from “I can do this for my livelihood” to “I can do this for my livelihood and actually do something positive for the world and my immediate community.” That sense of purpose is what drives me today to continue creating the best products I possibly can. Read more>>

Patience Krupinski | Intuitive Health & Wellness Coach

I wanted my work to be a reflection of myself and to allow me to be of service to others. I have and continue to work tremendously hard to heal and pull myself out of chronic illness, ptsd, anxiety and depression. Most of us that live with chronic illness have been lost trying to find answers in western medicine, and don’t even know where to start. Our society does not focus on emotional wellness, or treating the root cause of illness. I have watched myself and so many other women hide their pain, be told there is nothing wrong with them and be made to think they are crazy. Worst of all, to accept that illness is something that we MUST endure. My thoughts on starting this business were based on being able to take the wisdom I have found in my own healing journey, and share it with other women who need to heal. Starting this business has also been an extension of my own healing journey because I create my work life. Read more>>

Kerry Audie | Pre/Postnatal Fitness Specialist & Gym Owner

My thought process when starting my business as a women’s fitness specialist has personal roots. I became a personal trainer with a women’s health focus after becoming a mom in 2016 to fill a void. Fitness and staying active were always part of my lifestyle, but I realized there was a major gap in the fitness industry when it came to caring for the pre and postnatal client. When I became a NASM certified personal trainer, I had no idea what direction it would take me in. All I knew was that I wanted to make sure other pregnant and postpartum women felt safe, supported and strong! Shortly after completing my personal trainer certification I became a certified barre instructor. Over the past three years I have completed several pre/postnatal certifications and courses to further my education and expand my reach. Read more>>

Taylor Fraser | Director

I am directing an audio drama podcast called Foreward, which chronicles one family’s story after the tragedy of a school shooting. The story is loosely based on my own. The word entrepreneur has never appealed to me, but alas, here I am! In Colorado, if you want to work in film, you have to wear a lot of hats. Companies want to hire a one-man band, which means you can’t just be a director – you need to have the skills to hold the camera, record the audio, recruit the actors, and then edit the final product! For the past decade, I’ve taught myself every piece of the puzzle. The pandemic gave me the time, the energy, and the push to pursue my podcast full time. I knew how to create a film from start to finish, so I went to work to do the same for my podcast. Read more>>

Hayden Cleverly | Founder

A couple of years ago, I wanted to develop a new web platform for civic and political engagement — aesthetically appealing, with a big focus on UX design, and interactive — that would help educate, inform, and engage people in State and local elections. The goal was to have a data-driven platform that would provide information on issues and candidates based on personal interests and present opportunities to get involved. Obviously, this was a huge undertaking and I realized I had a lot to learn, which is what got me interested in data science and data analytics. But one of the brand elements//revenue streams was going to be cool merchandise bringing a different tone to how we talk about politics and civic engagement. Fast forward to 2020, back in June I started developing an initiative proposal to hire data staffer for downballot Candidates of Color — creating a pipeline for employment and helping downballot candidates run more effective and efficient campaigns. Read more>>

Dana Lynch | Image Consultant & Personal Stylist

I actually never wanted to own my own business. When my husband and I moved back to Colorado after a few years in Southern California, I was totally ready for a new career. Image consulting and styling were on my list of possibilities. Since I wanted to make a choice that would make me happy for a long time, I did lots of soul searching and due diligence…lots of informational interviews! Even though I had a few fields I was looking into, I knew in my heart of hearts image consulting was really the only thing I wanted to do. After researching, what I found was about 99% of image consultants owned their own business. Even though I failed all of the “are you an entrepreneur” quizzes, my passion for styling and helping women transform their lives won out. So I “hung out my shingle” and the rest is history. One other bit of important info here is I knew I didn’t want to build my business on just my eye for style, so I took extensive training so I’d be able to objectively explain style recommendations to my clients. Read more>>

Nate Axvig | Owner & Recovering Lawyer

We were sitting in an Oslo coffee house (where we lived for 13 months) watching all of these Norwegians come and go in their fantastic outdoor wear and we thought, “This is like Colorado, just different brands.” As we purchased and got to know the Scandinavian companies we discovered that they were 1. much better than many brands popular in American 2, built for the active lifestyle many Coloradans lead. That started a discussion which led to the founding of our website, two years ago and eventually our first brick and mortar shop at Stanley Marketplace. Read more>>

Rachel Gomez and Carly Benewith | Co-Owner and Web Developer & Co-Owner and SEO Genius

Throughout the years of working for other companies, we came in contact with many small business owners; many of whom felt lost or taken advantage of when it came to promoting their business. (Carly came from a corporate plug and chug marketing company and Rachel worked for international and government agencies.) Both of us have over 10 years of marketing experience. Over time we learned that these entrepreneurs had difficulty understanding what services they actually needed and not some one-size fits all up-sold packages that were more of a money pit than a service that promoted their situation. Our work backgrounds and the complimentary ways our skill sets fit together, made us realize that we should start our own agency. An agency that offers a culture of trust and transparency coupled with ethical marketing practices. Read more>>

Gaby Wentworth | Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant

I have a masters degree in social work and worked in mental health prior to being a sleep consultant. Working in mental health you learn that it can take a long time before your clients experience dramatic change. Being a sleep consultant you learn that your clients can experience dramatic change in a few days. It’s amazing. When I became a mom I struggled with my children’s sleep so so much. Because I was exhausted from being up all night with kids my work suffered, my marriage suffered, and I second guessed my abilities as a mom. Back then sleep consultants were not as well known but I heard about one in Atlanta from a friend and hired her immediately. With her help and guidance my children started sleeping well rather quickly. Soon after they slept well, my husband and I started sleeping well. Then everything in life became easier and we all functioned better. The dramatic turnaround was incredible. It was 2 weeks and we were like a different family. Read more>>

Taylor Stonack | Founder

I had always dreamed of working for myself. After college I worked, as a server, in the restaurant industry into my early 30s and never thought I would be able to get my foot in the door to start a “big girl job”. But, as with life, in any job there’s always opportunity and I volunteered for them all and always put myself out there. Through a growing restaurant company, I was able to become part of the training team and eventually grew to start their hiring and training program which moved me to Denver. From there I worked with a large tech company and got into marketing and community management. I developed so many relationships with small business owners, entrepreneurs, influencers and volunteers. Everything that came my way was opportunity that showed me that I am capable of offering my skillset and explosive personality on my own. Read more>>

Lara Buelow | Creative Mid-Career & Business Coach

No matter what I am up to in life, I’m always kicking around a side project, a passionate hobby, or planning an adventure. Every opportunity I have ever pursued is one I have framed as a learning experience. I have had a million different jobs and have considered myself a serial job-hopper. Most of those jobs I didn’t like very much, but they were a means to an end. They provided me with customer service experience, working on a team, getting to know new people, money to spend or save, and always taught me something about myself. I have always dreamt of having my own businesses – and those ideas were manifested through my projects and hobbies. Often times it meant leading a group of people or developing products. Once I deemed my situation “secure enough” and understood what it meant to me to be able to pursue my own business, I went for it. No matter what your situation is, there’s always an opportunity to stay connected to what you are most passionate about. Read more>>

Hajra Khan | Custom Cake and Dessert Designer, Baker & Lawyer

My love for baking began around the age of 10. My mom made the best chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles for all my school events, and baking with her was always my favorite pastime. Later, throughout my university studies, making a cake or brownies was how I relaxed during my time off. After finishing law school, I wanted to stay connected to baking while continuing my legal career, so I started my custom cake business, Just Us Cupcakes (“Just Us” being a play on the word “justice”). While I value and love my legal profession, my baking career lets me explore my creative side through bold color palettes, interesting flavor combinations and edible art forms. I make custom cakes, cupcakes, cake pops, decorated cookies and many more delicious, beautiful treats. I never thought I would be working as a practicing lawyer while running a baking business, but here I am, and it’s great! Read more>>

Lindsay Gurney | Physical Therapist

I have been a physical therapist for over 16 years and never entertained the idea of opening my own practice until about 18 months ago. In fact, I was very much against the idea! It seemed like more of an undertaking than I would ever want to do. I worked full time for the first 9 years, and then part time after I had my daughter. I was happy working for someone else. Until I wasn’t. I started to realize that there was a different way to do physical therapy. One in which I could provide a higher quality of care to my patients while saving them time and money navigating through an often complicated healthcare system. Without that hurdle I have the time and freedom to really focus on the patient, their goals, their needs, what is important to their individual life situation. So I started doing some research, educating myself on how to move forward. Read more>>

Sharron Williams | RN, Health/Care Consultant & CEU Provider

I have always been an Entrepreneur since age 10. I created this current business because I enjoy helping others to succeed in business. When I was working I would help people start a business, a homecare business, or give them information on how to market their business. Then in January 2015 the opportunity came for me to leave my great paying job to start my home health & home care consulting business to help others. My business has also allowed me to be home with my son who has autism. Read more>>

Kim Mitchell | Potter

I didn’t set out out to create a business. It wasn’t my intention. I was simply doing what I loved, and before I knew what was happening, a business had emerged! I have collected pottery forever, it seems. Then I began taking pottery classes because I wanted to better understand the process. What I discovered was that I loved to create tangible, beautiful, useful pieces from a messy, muddy ball of clay! I love the planning, execution and fine-tuning of the details. I am thinking about pottery almost every moment of the day. I dream about pottery. I appreciate insomnia for the chance to ponder my current projects a little more. My family members were my first customers. Then I began selling at shows and markets and then taking commissions. Earlier this year I opened a webstore. (, and now I’ve been selling to customers around the world! Read more>>

R. Tony Smith | Founder & Owner

“Everyone Deserves Love” — I literally woke up one day with the inspiration to be a matchmaker. This epiphany was based on a lifetime of experiences with our community fighting for equal rights, identity and fairness in society. Many in our community are continually reminded that we are less than equal, so “Denver’s Cupid” is my gift back to our community to provide opportunities for love, friendship and connection that we ALL deserve. Read more>>

Dave Regan | Tattooist, Musician, Fine artist, Designer & Author

I have spent many years in my industry and through it, have worked across the world. I have identified the factors that I see commonly shared by businesses throughout all of my experiences, and wanted to distill my sense of business acumen in a way that would enable me to step up to the plate on a global stage. I realize that owning one’s own business requires a great deal of flexibility, and even now I am in the process of restructuring in order to expand for the future. I am not a person who respects leadership that does not lead, or puts the employee last. I do not respect treating clients poorly. I respect punctuality. I realized that the only way I can present myself that best defines my values and my morals was to start my own business. In order to get in front of a lot of the common problems I see in my industry, incorporation made the most sense. Read more>>

Ford Church | Founder & Executive Director

When I first thought of starting Cottonwood Institute (CI), I reached out to a variety of people in the for-profit and nonprofit sectors to get their advice. Many people took the time to meet me for coffee or chat on the phone and I was blown away by how people in Colorado made themselves accessible to speak with someone like me who just finished graduate school and who had no experience. CI could have been set up as a for profit or a nonprofit, but initially I thought it would be better as a nonprofit because we primarily contract with schools and youth serving organizations to deliver our programs. However, pretty much everyone I spoke with about my idea told me NOT to start a nonprofit. There were many reasons they shared, including the fact that there are so many nonprofits competing for limited resources, fundraising is hard, and there are easier paths. Read more>>

Paige Fleener | Owner

With the direction 2020 was headed i knew I needed to bring joy. I went from working out 6 days a week and weighing my food to being stuck inside with no end date. It started with baking items I already had in the house since the stores were bare. I remember the first time I went to make macarons I pretty much gave a limb away trying to find the proper ingredients. I would try a recipe a day and boy it was bad. Most days would end with a few bad words and the promise to never touch a macaron again. However I would wake up and realize we still had nowhere to go so I would try again. I have a serious love/hate with how difficult macarons are to make. I finally got it down and boy it went from 12 macarons a day to a team of 5 working with me. Read more>>

Ashley Greeno | Cookie Artist & Creative Entrepreneur

Ten Thousand Cookies started as a fundraiser! My husband and I had decided to grow our family through domestic adoption, which can cost $40,000-$50,000 in fees and expenses. So I started selling cookies as a way to earn some extra money for that. My goal was to sell 10,000 cookies and we hit that goal in 18 months! At that point, I had so much momentum that I decided to keep going and turn it into my full-time business. Read more>>

Tonya Whitehouse | Multimedia Artist

The thought process around starting my own business was to begin the journey of personal healing and to reflect wellness into the community, through creative expression. Through many years of sickness, the loss of my mother and other traumas, I had a vision. The vision of bringing joy, healing elements, color, eco friendly practices and connection into an artistic business model. Ever since I was a little girl, I have had a love for art and nature, but I really didn’t acknowledge my gifts until much later in life. I created many beautiful pieces, such as paintings, sculptures, jewelry, photography and many other creative endeavors along the way. These creations took place along side of full time jobs. I fell very ill with a relentless auto immune disorder that left me in bed and incapacitated. Years later, I realized that I had two choices, to stay sick or to heal. Read more>>

Joel Santos | Lapidary & Jewelry Designer

I started learning how to cut stones about six years ago and really enjoyed doing it. Once I thought about starting to try and sell my stones it seemed very overwhelming to me and it proved to be very difficult to find metalsmiths and jewelry designers to market my finish stones to. That’s when I taught myself how to do metal work so I could gain a wider customer demographic for my work. I also took the COVID situation as an opportunity to launch a website to further the growth of my brand. Read more>>

Zach Seibel | Co-Owner

Myself, my brother and my dad had been talking about starting a business together for years, it was just a matter of timing and figuring out the best way to make it work for each of us. In 2016 I was working as a real estate agent for MODUS real estate, my brother Cole was a licensed general contractor with another company and my dad Jim was running a custom home building company in Colorado Springs. In late 2016, the three of us decided it was time to team up and create our own construction company called Seibel Construction. Read more>>

Raquel Rose | Catholic Creative

I started my own business almost unintentionally at first. I was a young single mom, living at home because I needed the support and trying to finish college. Needless to say, it was a busy time in my life. I worked, I went to school, and I was in the thick of being not only a new mom, but a young, single, mom. Because of my new responsibilities as a young mother, I was no longer able to be a “typical” 21 year old. I had to mature at a quicker pace and make different choices that would help me and future for the sake of my beautiful daughter. I had my daughter a month and half before I graduated college, I then immediately began graduate school. My plate was full, not to mention my daughter was not a great sleeper. During this time I turned to creativity. Read more>>

Shawn Denoyer | Artist

Since I was 14 I’ve continued to clock in and be loyal to companies and businesses that always treated me like I was just a expenditure no matter my sacrifices for them. One day I went to a meeting with a company I had been with for years and the owner was tearing everyone apart. I expressed that he was handling it wrong, he said, “If you don’t like it, there’s the door.” So I left! The next morning I started my first business! Read more>>