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Inspiring Denver Stories

The heart of our mission at VoyageDenver is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of Denver’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool. Check out Denver’s rising stars below.

Kristin Jean Marie

As a young girl, I was pretty fashionably rebellious. My mom said I went through stages of refusing to wear anything but a dress to flat out refusing to ever wear one again. I was always on a mission to wear things that made me feel or look unique and different. I told myself I would make a clothing line one day so nobody else could wear what I was wearing & ultimately, I did. In my 20’s I created Jean Marie Designz which has now not only been Published several times but has also shown in Denver Fashion Week, Latin Fashion Week, and Equality Fashion Week in LA. Being a Fashion Designer and also having experienced the vulnerability of being a model at a very young age was my ultimate inspiration to throw my artistic visions and aspirations into Photography. Read more>>

Jenni Frank

My story began at birth. I was raised a free spirit and always encouraged to follow my heart, let go of status quo and reach for the stars. We have to dream to make dreams come true. My Yoga journey began in college. I was studying in Fort Collins and my roommate drug me to a hot yoga class. I was both afraid and excited for what I was about to experience. I was very active so I thought this would be a nice complement to my lifestyle. At this time, it was purely physical – as it is for many people who first get involved. And then somewhere down the road, if you stay committed, it all changes. Or at least, this has been my experience. These physical postures have become outlets of creativity, exploration and empowerment. They have taught me when to speed up and when to slow down. Read more>>

Uriah Halbeisen

I’ve always had a natural passion for music because of my father. When I was young, he used to play piano and when record stores were still a popular thing for CD’s & Vinyl’s he used to take me almost every other week it felt like. It was always fun to sing along with my dad on car rides but the reason I really enjoyed going was because there was a popular band back in the day named Uriah Heep and my mind melted to think my name was on an album cover! I would run straight to the U section scrambling through all the artwork & records available hoping to find one every time but nothing outside of being a curious little kid excited to see his name on something because of how rare it is. Read more>>

Christopher Dorsa

I’m a Chiropractor and I opened my practice in January of 2020 specializing in Sports, prenatal, and wellness care. But, it all started with me being a real skeptic of chiropractic, due to a poor experience with one who I had seen for a wrestling injury in high school. Fast forward to undergrad, I was at University of Miami as a premed student. During those years, I had two hip surgeries and a hand surgery, so I was familiar with the orthopedic specialty and I was sure I wanted to take that route. Read more>>

Chandler Boone

In the summer of 2016, I started blowing glass in Medford, Oregon (@ The Dojo Glass Studio). I was introduced to the craft by Margot Day, a great friend and inspiration. After moving back home to Kansas, I found my place in a new studio (Illuminated Glass | Lawrence, KS). This studio housed 15+ other glass artists, many of whom became great mentors and friends. I continued to blow glass in Lawrence while attending nursing school. Once I graduated with my Associate’s degree in Nursing, in 2017, I moved to Denver, Co. I have since been working in a small garage studio with Andrew Mitchell (@mitchellglass). I am currently continuing my education in Nursing by pursuing my Bachelor’s degree while working as a full-time nurse & part-time glassblower. Read more>>

Chinthaka Weerappuli

On June 2nd as a part of #BlackoutTuesday, a few friends and myself were deciding which black-owned business we wanted to support for dinner. We landed on one of the most successful black-owned restaurants in Denver, just a block from my apartment, and we’re pleased to see it absolutely crowded with people outside. Based on conversations we overheard, many were trying it for the first time. As I made my way to the front, I was told that I’d be the last one served despite their Google/Yelp/and Facebook (they didn’t have a website) hours all indicating they were open for another two hours. “Oh honey, that’s been wrong for years and we have no idea how to change it,” the owner told me. Read more>>

Chad Larson

I started doing photography in high school while still using film but really didn’t do anything with it much after. I started back up about ten years ago doing landscape and scenery, which I still enjoy but not getting anywhere as more than a hobby. Life happens and I got out of it for several years and got the itch to get back into it a few years ago and I rediscovered a passion and have been working hard to make it a new career after being in the service industry for 33 years. Read more>>

Sophia Akrami

I am the President of Amber Personal Care, a home care company here in Denver, Colorado. My job here at Amber Personal Care is truly my calling! We help seniors and people in need of caregivers to live and thrive at home instead of going to an assisted or nursing facility. I was born in the beautiful city of Shiraz, Iran in 1966 to a very kind and liberal Muslim father and a bright, hardworking, and feminist Baha’i mother. Shiraz, the City of Secrets, is a city with 3000 years of history, poetry, and rich culture. People from Shiraz are famous for their hospitality and laid back personalities. My childhood was nothing short of amazing, colorful, and happy until the 1979 revolution happened. Read more>>

Doug Good Feather

In 1997, I was working as a union carpenter in Minneapolis, MN building a homeless shelter for Native Americans next to another non-profit Native American organization. One day I was working and my coworkers were one floor below me laughing, I went to see what they were laughing at and I saw a group of drunk Native Americans on the street. It broke my heart to see my people that way and see anyone laughing at them. I made a prayer then and there for Creator to show me a way to help my people and all people live in sobriety, compassion and love. A week later, I ended up walking off the job because of the racist treatment I received by my superiors and coworkers. I applied at the Native American Indian Center for a position as a chemical dependency case manager and I was blessed with the job. Read more>>

Chinthaka Weerappuli

On June 2nd as a part of #BlackoutTuesday, a few friends and myself were deciding which black-owned business we wanted to support for dinner. We landed on one of the most successful black-owned restaurants in Denver, just a block from my apartment, and we’re pleased to see it absolutely crowded with people outside. Based on conversations we overheard, many were trying it for the first time. As I made my way to the front, I was told that I’d be the last one served despite their Google/Yelp/and Facebook (they didn’t have a website) hours all indicating they were open for another two hours. “Oh honey, that’s been wrong for years and we have no idea how to change it,” the owner told me. Read more>>

Jeremy Wolf

Looking back, it seems there was a very specific string of events occurring over a period of many years that orchestrated the marrying of me and my current work. There was a defining moment that I regard as the primary pivot point where my life began to take a specific direction, though at the time, I could have no idea what direction that might be. Growing up in Arkansas, life had been relatively simple. I spent much time alone in nature as a child and had always been a lover of music. Quite improbably, at the age of 18, I stumbled onto an incredibly progressive and avant-garde ambient music show that was broadcast from a local community radio station which played the likes of Brian Eno and Steve Roach. Until then, my musical tastes were of the relatively typical, popular and alternative music styles that an average teenager fancied, and I had never before heard anything so expansive, abstract and contemplative. Read more>>

Lesley Pace

I started practicing yoga at the age of 16 as a part of my physical therapy for an ACL/MCL tear. My first time doing yoga, it made me feel so powerful and focused and I knew that I wanted it to be a part of my life. As I proceeded through college, I maintained my practice and I enjoyed being able to share what I learned with others. I earned my 200 Hour certification in 2014 and since then, I have been able to teach hundreds of students in the local community and beyond by building inclusive spaces and working to ensure diversity with some of the top brands in yoga (including modeling/contracting for Yoga Journal, Lululemon, and Patagonia). Read more>>

Anita Mumm

From my present vantage point, my ending up as an editor makes perfect sense; I’ve always loved books and the idea that I could get paid to read would have made me swoon as a child. But how I actually got here was a lucky surprise. I’d been working as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher at colleges and nonprofits in the U.S. and abroad for almost a decade, and on the side I pursued my interest in writing. After I’d been in Denver for a couple of years, one of my writing teachers told me about a position available at Nelson Literary Agency. I had not even realized there were literary agencies in Denver—at one time, nearly all were in New York, but the digital age quickly opened the industry up to location flexibility. Read more>>

Ashley Biggers

I graduated from the University Of Northern Colorado with my BA in Journalism PR &Advertising in 2016. From there, I tried applying for jobs within my field and faced a handful of challenges. Not being able to get a job right after college was very discouraging and was hard for me to find what I really wanted to do. I eventually began working for B2B Sales. During this time, I was working full time and working a couple of side jobs and working with family. My family owns two well-known restaurants in the Denver Historical 5 points neighborhood (Welton St Cafe & Genna Raes Wings & More). I began as a waitress and then quickly realized I wanted to do more of the behind the scenes work. Read more>>

Rabbi Caryn Aviv

I had a circuitous route to becoming a rabbi. In my early twenties in the 1990s, I applied to graduate school in sociology as an alternative to rabbinical school. At the time, the Jewish denomination in which I grew up did not admit openly gay students to their rabbinical school. So I became a professor of Jewish studies instead and also worked side gigs with Jewish non-profits. I had one foot in academia and one foot in Jewish entrepreneurship for about 15 years. After earning a PhD in sociology and anthropology from Loyola University Chicago in 2002, I taught Jewish Studies and Sociology at University of Colorado at Boulder and University of Denver. I also started a non-profit that advocated for LGBTQ+ inclusion in Jewish communities. Read more>>

Colleen Cummings

I began my photography journey around a decade ago. Then it was a hobby, a way to capture my travels, explorations, cultures. Back then, it was a fairly mindless endeavor where I would pull my camera out in ancient cathedrals while hiking rolling hills, or in bustling marketplaces. There wasn’t much thought other than me wanting to have the opportunity to look back at my adventures and reminisce in my mind. It was a way for me to encounter an enchanting land from my very own work desk. Read more>>

Chris Choate

Music, singing in particular, is deeply ingrained in my fabric. I was a kid in class who was humming during tests loudly enough to annoy people. The adolescent matching both Garth Brooks and Tupac lyrics word for word. The teammate in the locker room who had a song for every moment and every conversation brought up a new tune. I wrote out all the lyrics to ‘Wonderwall’ in fifth grade and my teacher took the paper then gave it to my parents thinking it was something to be worried about or something I should be punished for. True story. Turns out, I was just really into songwriting, catchy melodies, and rock and freakin roll! I took Guitar as an elective junior year of high school (Thanks, Mr. Johnson!) and have sung and played songs pretty much everyday since. Read more>>

Jen Kaplan

I left the corporate world over a decade ago to follow my passion and opened my first Pilates studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. Being a lifelong skier, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to move to Vail eight years ago. I taught Pilates, spin and fitness at several gyms and studios before co-founding Vail Pilates. I always felt that something was missing in the Vail Valley – a fun, motivating and inspiring place to indoor cycle like the studios I had grown to love while living in big cities like San Francisco, New York and San Diego. I decided to fix that, and so came PeloDog. Read more>>

Courtney Samuel

In 1999, I left North Dakota State University to pursue a career in the N.F.L. After not being selected in the 2000 NFL draft, I tried for the next year and half to make an N.F.L team. In 2003 after working for Sun Microsystems as a software engineer, I opened BBP. My original location was a 600 sqft training studio, where I would train clients before and after work. A year or two later, we expanded next door and added a kickboxing/cardio gym, giving us a total of 1400 sq. ft. and quit my corporate job. Since then, we have had 5 locations and currently operate in the heart of 5 points in a stand alone 3000 sq. ft. gym. Read more>>

Hannah Dresdner

I was brought into the field of mental health like many other helpers, by way of my own personal journey. I grew up generally unhappy for no particular reason. I had a loving family, a great education, I did well in school, had a wonderful group of friends, all my needs were met at all times and yet I still was never quite happy. I knew something was off and yet nothing was technically wrong. Eventually, in my teen years I was diagnosed with depression which helped to make some sense of what I was going through and yet I was still not satisfied. Read more>>

Jenni Lyons

I started drinking kombucha when I was 19 and like most people who incorporate this fizzy, fermented beverage into their diets, I felt awesome. I was hooked. After years of collecting those familiar glass bottles of booch, I decided to make some of my own and it was so fun. It sparked a passion in me I hadn’t explored, fermentation! I have always loved food, cooking and gardening. I also had started a business as a natural health & lifestyle coach so kombucha fit right in. Soon it was on tap at my house, created a name and my friends loved it. We ended up taking it to the local farmer’s markets and I found out that while it was new and strange to most people, they too loved it. People came back every weekend to fill up their swing-top bottles. Happy Leaf was the first kombucha brewery in Denver. Read more>>

Rachael Ardanuy

After nearly ten years advocating for marijuana reform, I watched history being made in 2012 as Colorado passed the landmark Amendment 64 to legalize adult-use marijuana. 2012 was a landmark year for another reason – it’s the year I became licensed to practice law. After honing my craft representing clients in Florida for a few years, I moved to Colorado to dedicate my career to working with entrepreneurs, business owners, investors, and anyone else connected to the cannabis industry to provide sound legal counsel and education on how to operate successfully and continue pushing this industry forward. I have also included estate planning to my offerings – both to cannabis business owners and all others – as I find it to be so valuable to protect the legacy that we spend our lives building. Read more>>

Lorena Cantarovici

Lorena Cantarovici is the force behind Maria Empanada –the Denver-based restaurant chain that in only seven years, earned national recognition as the leading brand of artisan empanadas and is credited with developing the on-trend, differentiated and highly scalable “Craft Casual” concept. Lorena came to Denver from Argentina with only $300 in her pocket, not a word of English, and the determination to make it big. In 2011 she started selling empanadas from her garage, mostly to friends and family. That those sales laid the groundwork for something bigger is evident today. Read more>>

Jill Stewart

When I’m asked how I became a portrait artist, I smile big. It wasn’t predictable but it was inevitable. After a very fulfilling career in the corporate world, I was presented with a life-changing medical condition that shifted my priorities. My body began to fail and the world I had worked so hard to build suddenly crumbled. It was at this crossroads, I decided to get to know myself on a level of higher consciousness. Along this journey, I dropped my self-judgment and the door to my passion for painting portraits opened wide. Throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by art and influenced by my father’s paintings. And, growing up in the historic and natural surroundings of Virginia, my love for nature and traditional, timeless design was ignited. Read more>>

Anna Steffensmeier

I’ve always had a passion for beauty and making people look and feel pretty. As a young girl, whether it was giving my aunts outlandish hairstyles consisting of a plethora of butterfly clips, cutting my family’s hair, and yes even my dolls hair (although my mom was never too thrilled as she explained “it doesn’t grow back”) painting my friend’s nails, or going through my Grandmas countless items laying around that were hair related, I always had a thirst for dabbling in the hair and fashion world. My grandmother was a hairstylist, so I guess you could say it’s in my genes. As college years approached Cosmetology school seemed to be my best option. As I pursued that industry in school and as I entered my first salon job, I found myself always being the stylist to get paired up with all the brides. It was terrifying, but I felt honored to be trusted in that role and seeing the happiness on their face as they told me they felt so beautiful was truly satisfying. Read more>>

Valerie Alvarado

I started my journey a long time ago while in college- I knew it was time to buy a one-way ticket and let the rest fall into place. I wasn’t sure what I really wanted my degree to be, gathering that much debt was a huge choice that I didn’t feel I had the answers to. So I booked my flight to Thailand, and ended up bouncing around Southeast Asia for about seven months, then packed my bag and moved to New Zealand. After my visa ran out, I packed my bag again and headed off to Australia. The entire journey was spent gathering experiences and friends that I shared some of my most cherished memories with. Read more>>

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