Seven Female Entrepreneurs Share Their Stories On Making It
We gathered together some of the top female entrepreneurs in Denver to hear how they started their own companies. They share their stories of overcoming adversity and pushing through regardless of barriers. Some leapt at openings in the market, while others grew up always knowing their chosen path and took a slow and steady approach.
We couldn’t help but ask how did they carve their own niche? And while they’re at it, could they dish out advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs? See how these ultimate business role models rose to the top.
Wendy Tong Wendy’s Team
Wendy Tong, an Air Force veteran and medical school graduate of Georgetown University, recently started her own company to provide household care for elderly people. The company goes by the name Wendy’s Team and is just that: a team of people personally trained by Tong, dedicated to providing senior citizens with quality care including pet care, companionship visits, grocery shopping, errands, housework, yard work, and quick check-ins. When Tong began home visits as a medical student, she realized how much the pressure of taking care of a loved one can affect a caretaker’s life. A desire to provide some relief to caretakers was a large part of Tong’s motivation in creating Wendy’s Team. Tong’s experience as a U.S. Veteran also helped to inspire the company. After seeing many veterans who had been led to believe they would receive more medical benefits than were actually available, Tong wanted to create a company to improve this situation. As for advice to others who are inspired to create change, Tong says, “Find something you have passion about and truly believe in. Solve a problem that’s real.”
Shannon Cumberland Rosy Rings, Peacock Parfumerie
Inheriting the creative gene from her father, Shannon Cumberland took a liking to candle making as a child. “I think I inherited the crafty gene! I remember I had a candle making kit you could buy from the Sears and Roebuck catalog and I would re-melt and re-pour the same candles over and over again,” says Shannon. Inspired by romance, music, nature, and whimsical and quirky objects, Shannon started Rosy Rings in 1995, a luxury candles and home goods store. She later launched a sister business, Peacock Parfumerie, in 2011. Both brands are currently sold in the U.S., European Union, Asia and Canada, and she expects the international expansion to continue. Shannon’s tip for fellow entrepreneurs: “Do something unique that sets your endeavor apart, and be prepared to go without a personal income for a minimum of two years.”
“Do something unique that sets your endeavor apart,” says Cumberland.
Danielle Stangler NeatCheeks
Danielle is paving the way, utilizing FLAVOR as a new market category in the baby industry. Finding inspiration in her three kids to launch NeatCheeks, her goal is to show them that they can do anything they want to in life, as long as they are honest, work hard and make good decisions. The idea was created one day while eating lunch with her family. Not having her regular face wipes, she asked her husband to dip his napkin into what she thought was a glass of water. Much to everyone’s surprise, their daughter said, “nummy, nummy!” after Danielle wiped her face. (It was actually lemonade.) The family had so much fun with the experience, Danielle continued to wipe her lips 20 more times! And then the idea of a flavored face wipe was born and featured on the T.V. show Shark Tank. Danielle’s expert advice: “Never set limits on yourself. If you can dream it, it can happen. Let your faith and passion drive you to see your vision to the end, and not for the money.”
” If you can dream it, it can happen,” says Stangler.
Jolene “Jojo” Collins Jojo’s Sriracha
Jolene “Jojo” Collins handcrafts small batches of all natural sriracha. To maximize its flavor, she uses locally sourced peppers (and sometimes even wine) and pours them one jar at a time. Each batch is then hand-labeled and hand-stamped; the operation involves two or three people—tops. Jojo finds inspiration through yoga, food and the thrill of bringing new products to the market. “We meet a lot of people who are really excited about what we’re doing and give us (sometimes unsolicited) advice on how to grow and ‘get huge.’ For us, it’s way more about how well we grow than how big we grow,” says Jojo. “Owning your own business means you’re the boss. You set your own schedule. It’s a lot of responsibility and you have to manage your time well, but I’ve never had a nine-to-five job and couldn’t imagine not having the freedom to pave my own path.”
Karmen Berentsen A Line Boutique
Entrepreneur Karmen Berentsen sold her first company in the tech industry in 2007. An avid fashion collector, one of her prized possessions is a bracelet owned by Audrey Hepburn. When Karmen heard A Line Boutique was closing its doors in 2012, she leapt at the opportunity to transform her passion into a career. A Line has experienced a sustained growth of over 600% in the past three years. Karmen credits her unique hyper-customer focused experiential business model. She says her family is her biggest support system and her best inspiration. “There is nothing more grounding than modeling for my daughter how to be ambitious, yet balanced,” says Karmen. Her words of wisdom: “Create experiences, not merely manufacture or sell a good product or service, but truly enhance lives. Learn to say ‘no’ to the good – to do the great. It’s easy to do the urgent and hard to do the important.”
“Learn to say ‘no’ to the good – to do the great,” says Berentsen.
Briar Schreiber Hype House
Briar Schreiber can’t remember a time when she didn’t have a project going on the side, from running a boot camp fitness group during grad school to a fashion magazine project with a business partner. She started Hype House in November 2015—a marketing firm that provides strategic development, events and promotion in sports, fitness, fashion and music. “I’ve had a lot of great opportunities in my career to date, from running events at the Olympics, X Games, the US Open and more…and some projects not as attractive. In the lead of my own firm, I’m most excited about being the decision-maker over which clients and projects to pursue,” says Briar. She finds inspiration from thinking up ideas, doing research and taking measured risks. Briar’s tips for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Jump off the diving board! There may be such thing as a “perfect time” in an alternate universe but in the real world, there will always be a million reasons to postpone.”
Juana Bordas President, Mestiza Leadership International
Juana Bordas emigrated from Nicaragua as a child and was the first in her family to attend college. When she graduated, she wanted to give back. She joined the Peace Corps and worked in the barrios of Santiago, Chile, helping low-income women develop work cooperatives to help them to feed their families. This experience reconnected Juana with her Latina soul and charted the course for her future. A founding mother of Mi Casa Resource Center, Juana served as its executive director for many years and then as the founding president of the National Hispana Leadership Institute. Today, she is known as a leader, best-selling author, speaker and diversity aficionado. She’s president of Mestiza Leadership International, a company that focuses on leadership, diversity and organizational change. Juana taught in the Leadership Development Program at the Center for Creative Leadership. Bordas says, “I know that as an immigrant and a Hispanic girl from a low-income family with seven brothers and sisters, I learned to be resourceful, scrappy, talented, and street smart. It was the perfect preparation for me to become a leader, writer, entrepreneur and teacher.”