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Hidden Gems: Local Businesses & Creatives You Should Know

Every day we have a choice. We can support an up and coming podcaster, try a new family-run restaurant, join a boutique gym started by a local fitness champ or we could keep giving away our money to the handful of giants who already control so much of our commerce. Our daily decisions impact the kind world we live in; if we want a world where small businesses are growing and artists and creatives are thriving then we should support them with our time, money and attention. We’re proud to highlight inspiring creatives and entrepreneurs each week in Hidden Gems series. Check out some of our latest local gem features below.

Stephen Fitzgerald

In 2014, after more than a decade in the design and advertising world, I inadvertently started what would become a Colorado-based bike company called Rodeo Adventure Labs. In the beginning of this new chapter, there was no intention to start a company, and I’m probably one of the least prone people out there when it comes to taking risks and starting a company, but Rodeo tricked me into making it exist by combining my passions for design, cycling, good people, and the outdoors and putting them all under one banner. Read more>>

Lauren Ives and Ty Brigman

Tesoro is a Denver-based husband and wife duo comprised of female vocalist Lauren and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist, Ty, from the local band “Ghostpulse”. Lauren and Ty met in 2017 when Lauren went to a see a friend’s band, from Las Vegas, play a house show in some random basement in Littleton. Little did she know, that basement would belong to her future husband and bandmate. Ty, being involved in the local music scene and various bands for over 15 years, had a music space in his basement that he would graciously offer up as a venue for touring bands who were passing through and hadn’t booked a venue. Read more>>

Alana Mascarenas

I was born and raised in Denver Colorado. I am the oldest of four, three younger brothers, and one younger sister. I have always had a passion for hair, and going to take the boys to get haircuts every two weeks was hard and was pretty expensive. So, starting in 8th grade I took it amongst myself to try to cut my brother’s hair. Honestly speaking, now that I look back on it, they were great supporters because their haircuts had many mistakes even a couple of times they needed to shave it all off. During my senior year, I enrolled into a concurrent enrollment course to pursue my lifetime dream of being a cosmetologist. Read more>>

Mike Fox

Researching products that I could design related to my interests. I used a print on demand to take care of the fulfillment while worked on experimenting on designing new products. Read more>>

Graham Hill

– Company began about 8 years ago – Formerly was working at NREL using GIS (mapping) datasets – Had an idea to use drones to do my own mapping – Blossomed into a full-blown production company, using drones for Film, TV, music videos – 3 years ago, experimented with our first drone light show setup at copper mountain – Then covid ended live events – Decided to take a chance and invest fully in spring of 2021, which proved to be perfect timing
– Have now done around 50 drone light shows all across the United States – We now share the largest drone light show fleet in North America. Read more>>

Jenn Smyth

Typically, when asked to submit my story or bio, I will add the following: “After teaching English internationally, Jenn decided to blend her passions for people, fitness, and teaching by becoming an E-RYT 200 Yoga Instructor. She primarily teaches in northern Colorado and also travels extensively in pursuit of furthering her yoga experiences. As a daughter of Korean immigrant parents, she strives for inclusiveness and equality both inside and outside of the yoga studio. When not teaching, Jenn loves exploring beautiful Colorado with her husband and rescue dog.” Read more>>

Ben Bryant

We started Denver Comedy Underground to give people a comedy experience like no other in Denver. Where people can enjoy high quality comedy without the baggage that comes with going to a comedy club or to a bar show. Originally we did showcases out of the basement of a murky Colfax Irish bar, but the bar began to struggle, and we moved to a wonderful theatre in the below ground level of the Althea Center and we’ve flourished ever since! We’ve been able to have awesome shows and we have some of the best crowds and regulars in all of comedy! Read more>>

Daniele Danae

I am a native of Denver. My mother started in the flower business in 1985. As was seen as a staple in the community. My sisters and I grew up working in her store, and we all got our entrepreneurial side from her.  In Nov of 2018, our mother passed away after a long battle with cancer. And we closed the shop. During the pandemic, and the lockdown I was drawn back toward the flower business, as I saw it as a way to spread love and joy to others when we are not able to be together. Read more>>

KJ Whitney

For nine or ten years I was living in [Washington] D.C. I worked at a job that was just a job. It wasn’t my career path or lit fires in me or something that I was passionate about. The commute alone felt soul-sucking. Eventually I moved to Colorado with the intention of not doing anything less than what I loved. I had been passionless in my purpose of being for a very long time and I wanted to do something different. Read more>>

Heather Beckman

Our roots start in Wisconsin. Working in restaurants and earning a culinary arts degree, Heather and her newlywed spouse, Ian, though caution to the wind and moved to Greece to explore and eat. After years of traveling and working abroad, the Beckman’s settled in Fort Collins to start a family and partner with a local iconic diner in Old Town, FC, Co. After years of success in full service and with the mountains calling, the family moved to summit county. Colorado Marketplace and Bakery has something for everyone, morning, noon, and night. Read more>>

Makayla Juniel

I was born in Denver, CO and raised in Douglasville, GA. I finished elementary school and middle school in Georgia, then my parents decided to move back to Colorado to be closer to family, right before the start of my freshman year in high school. As my first year of high school began, so did my sister’s last year of high school. We started by going to East High School. I remember our long car rides through the city. She put me on to a lot of music, more than I would like to give her credit for, we bonded, and we argued… A LOT. Read more>>

Emily Hemendinger

I was born and raised in Amity Harbor, NY (on Long Island) with my parents and twin sister. You could say I was the “perfect” child, always well-behaved and polite. You could also say I was an anxious and perfectionistic child, which allowed me to excel in school and music, but also caused anxiety and high levels of self-criticism. I’m grateful because I was able to get into therapy as a teenager, which allowed me to work through my anxiety and perfectionism. Through therapy, I was able to learn how to take the motivation, ambitiousness, tenacity, and persistence out of perfectionism and leave behind the obsessiveness, self-striving, and self-criticism. Read more>>

Vanessa Frazier

We began our journey into the photography industry a year ago. We had a mutual interest in photography as well as wanted to help people capture their special life moments. Additionally, we wanted help emerging small business owners tell the story of their business through photographs. We currently manage Bona Fide Photography, LLC part-time but, we take our business and providing our clients with a great experience seriously. Read more>>

Ryan Monsalud

I’ve always been entrepreneurial in all of my pursuits. I can think back to the elementary school recess yard where I used to stop by the grocery store before school and buy packs of gum. I would then walk around the recess yard and sell individual pieces. This was around the time when guys started to be interested in girls and having smelly breath just wasn’t something they were willing to risk. That’s a true and silly story but pretty much can explain how most businesses function. Most people want to make a product and then go out and find someone to sell it to. The way it should be done is identify a problem and then create a solution that makes people’s lives better. Read more>>

Chantel Columna

Tamir, Ayana and I (Chantel) met in university, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in Troy, N.Y. While we all had different majors, we eventually met each other during our tenures there. It was not uncommon for us to enjoy a few pints at our favorite local bar, The Ruck, play some shuffleboard and joke about one day starting our own brewery. At this point, we were exploring homebrewing as well. Read more>>

Taylor Riot

Summer 2021 I was trying to vend at different events as much as I could, it started getting harder and harder to find a place to set up my things that made sense. One day, a friend of mine in Austin said “just start running your own.” So, I found a location in December 2021 that would let me set up inside. I gradually started promoting as much as possible, from there people started contacting me somewhat regularly to vend with Happy Cellar Bizarre.  Read more>>

Vine Ramazani

I started photography as a sophomore Back in September 2017. It took selling the majority of my sneaker collection to buy my first camera, which was a canon rebel T6. I’ve always been around photography and photos because my entire childhood is documented. my grandma and Mom would always buy disposable film cameras and they had a old digital camera while I was growing up. I was pointed towards commercial photography, when a senior in high school took a photo of a pair of old skool Vans, it was a great picture and it look like it belonged in a Vans lookbook campaign. Read more>>

Zara Otaifah

I’m a passionate artist and local photographer based in Colorado | United States. I use my photography to support marginalized communities and societies by Auctioning my pieces for fundraising. I’m also a Photographystorrytellor, and Autism Advocate. I have a bachelor degree in Optical engineering. I’m a single Austim Mom, I’m originally from Iraq, lived in the U.K for most of my childhood.. the most expensive gear I use in my work is “PASSION” Read more>>

Katelyn Annemarie Brush

When I was a kid, I wanted to write. I didn’t want to be an astronaut or a model or whatever… I wanted to write books about beautiful places, fairies, elves, adventure, and love. 🧚‍♀️ ✨  When I went to college, I wanted to study the greats. I went to Oxford and studied Shakespeare. I rode my bike to the Eagle and Child, the pub where the Inklings would meet before they went on to publish legendary novels like Alice in Wonderland or Lord of the Rings. I came back home from that semester and set my sights on being an Editor in Manhattan. Read more>>

Catherine Deschamps-Potter

Originally from France, I moved to WI in 1988. I relocated to CO for the outdoors. I love to serve and help people. I particularly enjoy helping first-time homebuyers, families, and seniors as well as fix and flippers on the West side of Denver. Read more>>

Nikole Bari

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine opened up a refill shop in San Jose, CA (the sister company), I have always enjoyed supporting her along the way and ordering her products. In 2019 I moved to Colorado, took a step down in PayScale, and needed some extra money. I then spoke with this dear friend of mine and started selling products for The Source Zero at all the local farmer markets in Northern Colorado. For the last 3 years, I worked at the farm markets bringing the opportunity of a refill shop and zero waste boutique to Northern Colorado. Read more>>

Sydney Swing

Manic Pixie started as a project to keep my mind off the constant storm that was 2020, I had just moved back home to St. Louis after hustling in NYC for 3 years. I went from nonstop working, moving, grinding in a city that never stops to suddenly being partially unemployed in my hometown with nothing to work on or work towards. The midwest is notoriously a good spot to thrift, so me and a friend spent our downtime hitting up local shops and then decided to start selling on Depop for the fun of it. It has been my pride and joy ever since. Read more>>

Mika Lohrenz

I would have to say it started with my mom. As a very heavily tattooed woman, she was a large inspiration in the development of my interest in the tattoo industry. Growing up in tattoo shops my whole life, it always seemed like something I would eventually fall into, let that be from a collector’s side. Traveling around the world and collecting art from amazing artists, or being an artist myself I always knew I would take my place in line at some point. Read more>>

Carrie Swift

I think it all started with a calendar of computer-generated abstract artwork – way back in 1983. I was a junior in high school and the artwork that was printed in that calendar pretty much blew me away. I was hooked. I knew then that I wanted to become a computer graphic artist. A lot has changed over the years, but I am first and foremost, an artist. I graduated from Lake Forest College in 1988 with a degree in art and a minor in computer science. During my senior year, I landed an internship with Geni graphics corporation and learned how to use their independent computer system. That was the beginning of what has been an amazing career of nearly 34 years. Read more>> 

Sharon Lewis

I quit my corporate job 10 years ago to become a stay-at-home mom. It was not an easy transition because I was so used to working. You associate a lot of your identity with what it is you do. My husband encouraged me to find something outside of mom and family life that I could have as my own. I chose the gym. I hired a trainer and entered the world of bodybuilding competitions. I met a lot of great people in the fitness world including fitness photographers. One of those photographers introduced me to photography. He mentored me for a year and I built my portfolio with the help of my bodybuilder friends. As my confidence and skill grew, I dabbled in other genre’s like fashion, boudoir, creative portrait and product photography. Read more>>

Lindz and Lamb

Lamb before Lindz…Born in Atlanta and raised in Cincinnati, Jon studied fine art at Fort Lewis College in Durango and moved to Denver in 2004. He set up shop in 2008 in the RiNo Art District, where his artistic hustle didn’t stop, whether orchestrating live painting shows, making prints with Like-Minded Productions, or painting and exhibiting throughout the U.S., Caribbean, and Europe. “For me creating art is the same as eating,” he said, “I have to do it as part of my daily, lunar, business week cycle. Read more>>

Faith Bigley

Hello, my name is Faith Bigley and I’m the proud owner of B & C Craft Co. The name comes from my marriage and my maiden family names. It’s me, and who helped me become who I am today. I’m a Certified Holistic Life Coach and Certified Mind Body Fitness Coach that resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado just south of Denver. I’m originally from Pennsylvania, raised in the small town of Ardmore, a suburb about 20 mins outside of Philly. I always had the entrepreneurial spirit. Read more>>

Baillye Naughton

I move out to Colorado in 2014. I started off in Denver working as a server for J. Alexanders (now Redlands Grill) and learned there was so much more to the hospitality industry than just server. When I moved down to Colorado Springs, I was wanting a “big girl job” and stepped into property management. Wanting to work 9 am-5 pm, have benefits, vacation time, to where dressy clothes and to work in an office. Shortly after starting, I knew it wasn’t for me. I loved working and helping people but I wasn’t happy. That moment I realized I wasn’t happy, I started pursuing my sommelier certification and stepped back into food and beverage. Read more>>

Michael Riggs

I have always been driven to helping others to become their full potential. Going back to my college days, where I studied at the University Illinois to be a high school teacher , all the way through to my graduate work at the University of Virginia studying sport psychology, I have always drawn tremendous satisfaction helping motivated and passionate people to set goals and help them achieve them. Read more>>

Philippe Ernewein

I started my teaching career in the early 1990s with Teach for America in New Orleans, Louisiana. I took a short sabbatical as a park ranger in Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico after I completed my 2-year commitment with TFA – I knew I wanted to teach, just needed a brief pause to hit the reset button. I moved to Denver to be part of the Denver Academy and earned my master’s degree in education from the University of Colorado. That was 25 years ago, and I’m still at DA, now as the Director of Education. Read more>>

Kristie Plantinga

When I went to college, I planned to become a therapist. I was fascinated with the world of mental health, and I was encouraged to pursue the profession because of my listening skills. But towards the end of college, I was a bit burnt out on school. I also realized that I needed therapy myself, so I didn’t feel comfortable becoming a therapist at that time. After college, I took a gap year and tried to figure out what I wanted to do next. I ended up designing a local boutique’s website and creating its messaging. The hours flew by, so I knew that I had found what I wanted to do–marketing! Read more>>

Kali Taaffe Rawls

I went to school to become a teacher but after graduating wasn’t able to find a job. So, when I was pregnant with my first son, I went back to school to become an event planner. After graduation, I volunteered for different events but again had trouble finding a job. At that time, I had a friend (whom I had met my first go around at college) who was battling brain cancer. She was about to prepare for her third brain surgery. She was a mom of 3 and had gotten married at the courthouse prior to her second brain surgery. Read more>>

Tanisha Lawrence

I started my company 8 years ago, while working in an office. I felt unfulfilled and wanted to have something to do to keep my thoughts away from work. Creating my own nail polish line was new and challenging. It began as a hobby but I became more and more invested. I very soon seen the potential in my hobby and made it my business. Read more>>

ZEPHR

Eamonn approached Jim after seeing his band play on the roof of the MCA one summer evening. He asked him if he wanted to start a pop punk band called ZEPHR, in the vein of Jawbreaker. Jim said yes, as long as there could be a little influence from Superchunk. We began writing songs together, weekly, on Sundays. The songs came fast and easy. A month or so later, we were able to score Tyler on drums. The lineup was complete. Read more>>

Madelyn J. Smith

As a surly and dispassionate middle schooler, I found myself enrolled in both a theatre and a choir class against my will. I begged to be removed. Surely there was something a little less embarrassing I could be a part of. What about team sports? Or Spanish? Maybe technology? Please, anything but this. Alas, all other classes were full, leaving me stuck for the semester. They could enforce attendance, sure, but they certainly couldn’t make me enjoy the classes. Read more>>

Jessie Lessard

For years I have been a hairstylist behind the chair, specializing in hair extensions. Styling hair has always been one of my favorite services to offer my clients; I have traveled to many places for award shows and photoshoots, you name it! The idea of HERA Goddess came about in March of 2020 when the shutdown happened. I wanted to create a service that could help stylists earn more money while making their own schedule – kind of like “uber for hairstylists.” As the business plan progressed, so did my ideas to make this company bigger than I could imagine. Read more>>

Colin Lloyd

I started my journey into photography and videography because of my sister really. She was the first one of us to pick up a camera and to take film in high school and it motivated me to follow in her footsteps pretty much. At first, I just wanted to make videos and movies and had no intention of doing photography as a career, but then in college, I got my first DSLR and I started taking photos of everything. Eventually, I started reaching out to some local DJs and shot some of their shows at Torrent the local college bar/nightclub. Read more>>

Jason Kaplan

I started playing music in 2011, and not even by my own choice. I didn’t think I was going to like it, yet my parents had a free coupon for a drum lesson and so I went ahead and gave it a shot. It was the best thing I ever did because here I am today, 11 years later and there’s no sign of me stopping anytime soon. I fell in love with drumming and playing music from the moment I first hit those drums and it’s been non-stop ever since. Over the past 11 years, I’ve had the opportunity to play what seems like hundreds upon hundreds of shows, and I’ve been fortunate enough to play with many skilled musicians and diverse bands; Read more>>

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