6 Creative minds in Colorado that are kicking all sorts of ass right now
Colorado is truly the land of opportunity. Entrepreneurs from all industries flock to the state hoping to grab a piece of the inspirational and collaborative atmosphere. We compiled our annual list of young entrepreneurs and creative minds who are forging a path within their industries and transforming the way we interact with the world.
Eli Cox // Berkeley Supply
Favorite part about running your own business: My favorite part would have to be knowing that every day I am waking up and only having to answer to myself. Every single day the decisions I make ultimately contribute to the success or failure of what I am working toward. How do you measure success? I think too often success is measured by the size of a bank account balance. While that is important, it’s not everything. As long as the lights are on, brands are paid, and I’m not eating mayonnaise for dinner, I like to think that’s pretty successful, especially considering what the shop started with. How have you grown along with your business? I was 26 when I opened my first shop. I had to grow up fast. Responsibility takes the front seat to vacations or staying out late getting drunk with your friends. Owning a business helps you figure out what’s important, quickly. What’s the biggest myth in business? That you will ever have it figured out. Where do you see your industry going in the future? I hope it continues to grow at the rate it is. I think people are sick of buying shit that they have to throw away in a couple of washes. People want to buy things from people who stand behind the products they are selling. As long as companies in this world continue to do it the right way, I don’t see why it will not continue to grow in popularity. What’s more important: gut instinct or expertise? Hands down, gut. I have never once had a business plan, never “crunched numbers.” Honestly, if I feel like its the right move, I do it and figure out the rest later. It has worked out really well so far. During your first year of business, what’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned? I think the hardest lesson I learned was not to quit your second source of income until you ABSOLUTELY can. I did too soon, and it was a big strain on the business. Okay, if I am being fully honest, I got fired from Hops & Pie, but I never tried to hard to find something else. Do you believe in luck? Not really, I’ve gotten “lucky” on the blackjack table or been “lucky” I didn’t hit the deer that jumped out in front of me when I was going too fast on my motorcycle. Not with my shop though. It is about hard work and sacrifice, not luck. Have you ever failed at anything in your life? Nothing significant. Nothing that really needed to be overcome, I guess I am incredibly fortunate, but I also don’t let myself fail. If I set my mind out on something, I do it. How do you stay creative? I am surrounded by some of the most creative people I have ever met, they take the credit for keeping me creatively driven. I see what they are doing, and how hard they are working to stay creative and it keeps me pretty inspired. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? Getting to see how stoked people are on what I do day to day at the shop. People come in all the time after they get stuff and tell me how much they love it. I always love that. How do you define success? Waking up every morning and loving what you do. How do you stay ahead of the competition? I try not to worry too much about the competition; I just put my head down and do what I do. Best advice you’ve ever received? “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” - Michael Michael Motorcycle Are there any business leaders or leaders in general whom you admire? My dad, dude is tough as nails. What’s your greatest accomplishment to date? Getting my business to a level where I was able to open a second store. It was not easy. I started with nothing in a bathroom-sized shop around the corner on 43rd. I am pretty proud of that, it took a lot to get here. One slogan/rule you live by: Take care of those who take care of you.
Jason Graves // Apollo Ink
Favorite business/inspirational book?I don’t have a favorite book on business. A book that I have had since high school that has always given me artist motivation is The Art of Rock by Paul Grushkin. Favorite part about running your own business: One of my favorite parts is enjoying my job, this is a fun place to work at. How do you measure success? If I achieve my goals. How have you grown along with your business? By patiently adapting. After 10 years you could say I’ve grown up a little bit. We started this when I was 27, so naturally I take things more seriously than I used to. What’s the biggest myth in business? That it takes money to make money. Where do you see your industry going in the future? I have seen it grow technically from the types of fabrics and inks that are used to computer aided graphic production. I see it continuing to evolve in that same direction, while also getting safer, more eco friendly and possibly getting easer to do. I think as long as humans continue to wear clothing, have the need to be individuals or want to market there businesses, there will always be a need for custom branded T-shirts. What’s more important: gut instinct or expertise? I guess that depends on the situation. In a business setting, I’m going to trust my gut and go with expertise. During your first year of business, what’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned? Even if your friends are trustworthy, you can’t blame them for your decision to trust the people they know. Do you believe in luck? Yes. Have you ever failed at anything in your life? Yes, I forgave myself and moved on. How do you stay creative? I just allow it to happen. I think as soon as you condemn yourself to one style, one genre or one outlook, it’s over. You can’t be afraid to try new things or change your mind. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? Happy clients, who are proud of what we make for them. How do you define success? I think success is a feeling, a sense of satisfaction. How do you stay ahead of the competition? I don’t tell them my secrets. Best advice you’ve ever received? You get what you settle for. Are there any business leaders or leaders in general whom you admire? Yes, mostly friends and colleagues. I’m not going to drop any names because I don’t want to leave anybody out.
Ru Johnson // Roux Black Consulting
Founder and Lead Executioner
Favorite business/inspirational book: The Big Payback; The History of the Business of Hip Hop by Dan Charnas. Favorite part about running your own business: Getting to go as big as I want without restraints. How do you measure success? By growth and development within my team, and whether or not I made it through a sold out event production without a chipped manicure. How have you grown along with your business? Being able to delegate tasks to a team of people I trust is a true sign of growth. When we first started, I’d do everything myself. Even now I’ll be awake at 3 a.m. sending quality control emails. I trust our process as a company more so than ever because it’s living and breathing. What’s the biggest myth in business? That you should be prepared to fail. Where do you see your industry going in the future? The creative world is growing by the minute. We’re learning new ways of developing dynamic campaign development tools for artists and other entities who want to expand their consumer demographic. The parties are getting bigger, the concerts more grand and the creative process more dynamic. It’s a great time to work in entertainment. What’s more important: gut instinct or expertise? Expertise. If you have the knowledge, the wisdom is a natural progression. Gut instinct comes from knowing the mathematics and applying your intuition to any situation using your expertise. During your first year of business, what’s the hardest lesson you learned? Undervaluing the time and application it takes to working a project to full completion. Do you believe in luck? As Drake said, “My luck is a sure thing cause I’m living right.” Have you ever failed at anything in your life? If yes, how did you overcome that failure? Certainly. I’ve thrown parties that weren’t sustainable in the long run, trusted the wrong people with the vision and didn’t believe in myself enough to execute. I overcame that failure by believing in myself more and going back to the basics. How do you stay creative? I drink a gallon of water a day, sleep on soft sheets and listen to a lot of new music. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? Hearing my clients tell me how happy they are with the work we create for them. Or the moments when they see the plan come together. It’s like magic. How do you define success? Nailing your goals to the wall and checking them off the list by any means necessary. I’ll also have a yacht in the Maldives at some point but you know ... baby steps. How do you stay ahead of the competition? I crush them. Best advice you’ve ever received? “Drive it like you stole it.” Are there any business leaders or leaders in general whom you admire? Jeremy Pape from Collective Culture is someone I admire because he does it for the love of the art. He works hard at creating something he can be proud of and runs his business like its his passion. I also think Sean “Puffy” Combs is the king of reinvention.
Jason Siegel // Jason Siegel Photography
Favorite business/inspirational book: What Do You Do With An Idea by Kobi Yamada. Favorite part about running your own business: Being my own boss and being able to do what I want creatively, with time and with my own inspiration. This gives me the flexibility to jump into creative projects I love at a moment’s notice — and some of those projects have been my best works. How do you measure success? It’s not all about the money for me. I measure success by feeling excited about what I do. Each time I think I’ve reached the top, I reach a little higher — that’s success to me: achieving goals I never could have imagined setting. How have you grown along with your business? I’m generally a really laid-back guy but have grown into more of a Type-A personality than I could have ever thought possible. I’m driven to produce results because I’m passionate about what I’m doing. Where do you see your industry going in the future? My hope is that the industry continues to support artists and not just anyone with a shiny new camera. Don’t get me wrong, I think someone with a passion should pursue that passion and I’m all about supporting budding photographers. However, my concern about the future of the industry is when people looking for images are willing to sacrifice true artistry for a lower price point and hire anyone who knows how to use a VSCO preset or Instagram filter in a saturated market. What is the biggest myth in business? That you need a degree in the area you plan to work in. I did go to college, and I did get a degree, but it has nothing to do with photography. What’s more important: gut instinct or expertise? Gut instinct, for sure. During your first year of business, what’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned? Understanding that you learn much more from your failures than your successes. Do you believe in luck? Yes. My family jokes that I am always in the right place at the right time, and while I do seem to have a lucky streak, that’s just the beginning. Luck doesn’t turn into results without hard work. Have you ever failed at anything in your life? Academics were always a struggle for me growing up. Through the years though, I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it and not be afraid to outsource my weaknesses. How do you stay creative? I stay creative by surrounding myself with other driven and creative people and I make sure I’m constantly shooting to keep my juices flowing. If I’m not shooting at least four times a week, I feel empty inside … cue Evanescence. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? The places I get to visit all over the world and the relationships I’ve built. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some amazing people and work alongside individuals who were once my idols. How do you stay ahead of the competition? I’m constantly driven to be the best. I strive to be a tastemaker and I try to stay ahead of the curve by keeping tabs on what’s popular and anticipating what’s coming down the pipeline in pop culture, music, design and fashion. Best advice you’ve ever received? When I had first started shooting, I was fortunate enough to meet with landscape photographer John Fielder. One of the first things he told me once I had shown him my work, was that the difference between a good photographer and a bad photographer is that a good photographer never shows anyone his bad work. Are there any business leaders or leaders in general whom you admire? Every single person in my family is an entrepreneur and owns their own business in different industries across the board. It’s awesome to be able to look up to my own family members for inspiration. What’s your greatest accomplishment to date? It’s hard to say, but doing a couple tours with Dillon Francis this last year is definitely up there.
Ben Martch // Iris Inc
Co-Founder // VP of Business Development
Favorite business/inspirational book: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Favorite part about running your own business: I enjoy the freedom of working with clients on a personal level. Being my own boss enables me to swiftly adapt to an ever-changing industry, allowing me flexibility in furthering my clients’ goals and objectives hence my focus and title of Business Development. How do you measure success? Everybody has their own definition of success. I measure success by creating a system of mutual benefit. After all, how can you be happy if you know that what you’re doing isn’t increasing others quality of life as well? How have you grown along with your business? I have learned to take things in stride and always come cool, calm and collected to make sure we make progress and not digress in the moment. What’s the biggest myth in business? I would say the biggest myth is that success is only about making money. If you simply focus on getting rich, then I believe you likely won’t achieve it and furthermore, if you do, you won’t be as happy. Where do you see your industry going in the future? Currently my business partner Gavin Beldt and I have our hands in multiple projects one of which we believe will revolutionize the way events are coordinated. We are capitalizing on the digital world and organizing the most efficient marketing campaigns around primary leveraging of social media to do so. If anyone is interested in the projects we’re working on please contact us on the website. What’s more important: gut instinct or expertise? Gut instinct has led to my expertise. During your first year of business, what’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned? Learning that not everyone plays fair. Do you believe in luck? To me, luck boils down to opportunities. I’m of the opinion that if you have foresight, you can plan for these opportunities. Have you ever failed at anything in your life? Yes. Contrary to popular belief, the event industry isn’t easy, there’s a learning curve. After nearly a decade of hosting/producing events, I can now say with pride that my business partner and I are ahead of the curve. How do you stay creative? I live and breathe my work. It’s a lifestyle. I’m passionate about it. This allows me to stay on the forefront. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? I love the partnerships I develop. The satisfaction of continual positive feedback from our clients/customers is the most rewarding aspect. How do you define success? Creating a life that enables me to build meaningful relationships, and contribute to the industries and people that mean something to me. How do you stay ahead of the competition? I stay involved in high-level conversations with industry leaders of all kinds regardless of whether or not they are a client. My relationships are what keep me ahead of the game. Best advice you’ve ever received? “Under promise and over deliver.” - Ted Martch (Pops) Are there any business leaders or leaders in general whom you admire? There are a handful of businessmen in Denver whom I admire and consider industry leaders: Gavin Beldt, Jonny Denver, JJ Walker, Mike Alexander, Kyle & Brad Speidell, Josh “Moona” Haupt and Josh Lee. What’s your greatest accomplishment to date? Working with the City of Denver to produce/organize the 420 Rally 2015, headlined by Rick Ross. We saw more than 80,000 attendees at Civic Center Park. Mad love for the 420 Rally team!
Allyson Feiler // Green Tree Medicinals
Favorite business/inspirational book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s an oldie that I think everyone should be required to read at least once during their lifetime. Favorite part about running your own business: The flexibility and working for my own success. I’ve always been an especially hard worker but when you work for yourself every minute that you put into your business is benefiting you and that makes me want to work harder, longer and more efficiently. How do you measure success? I’ve always measured success by milestones. I set goals and detail my intentions and hope to achieve them. If I don’t I work to figure out why I failed and try again. How have you grown along with your business? The biggest growth I’ve seen in myself is my ability to cope with stressful situations. I’ve learned to take everything in stride and to prioritize, delegate, use all of my resources efficiently and to buckle down whenever necessary. What’s the biggest myth in business? That we are making a ton of money. Most people think that we have huge gross sales so we must have huge net profit but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We basically pay about 40-60 percent of our gross profit back in taxes. Where do you see your industry going in the future? Hopefully national or even international. I would love to focus on the medical science behind cannabis and work with a large pharmaceutical company to create products that are scientifically extracted to deliver exact consistent dosage and targeted effects. What’s more important: gut instinct or expertise? I’d have to say expertise. It’s critical that we understand exactly what we are doing so that we can comply with all of the forever-changing regulations. During your first year of business, what’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned? I’d have to say that I learned to always stay nimble. For me it’s been a continued lesson as things constantly change. Do you believe in luck? Absolutely. I’ve got it tattooed on my leg for just that reason. I’ve always felt success is a combination of luck, timing and hard work. Have you ever failed at anything in your life? I’ve failed at relationships, at friendships and in business. One of my hardest failures was losing the vote to ban dispensaries in Longmont that we fought in 2012. How do you stay creative? My employees tend to inspire my creativity. It’s nice to hear fresh perspective so I talk to my employees about their thoughts and ideas so that I can continue to improve the business and satisfy our customers. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? I am passionate about the medical use of cannabis and I am rewarded daily by offering products that are natural healthy alternatives to those in need. How do you define success? For me, success means that I am meeting my goals. I regularly set goals daily, monthly and annually. These goals are a great indication of my success and I know I won’t meet them all but it keeps me working towards something and focused on achieving versus stagnation. How do you stay ahead of the competition? I’ve found that if you focus on what works and pay less attention to your competitors and more to your customers, you will be successful. I don’t want to be the biggest player in the industry, I just want to help people and grow this business in a sustainable way. Best advice you’ve ever received? Put myself in other people’s shoes for perspective. I’ve learned that even if you disagree with someone, if you try to see it from their perspective you can often times understand at least why they felt that way and that will better help you to find a middle ground and create a positive outcome. Are there any business leaders or leaders in general whom you admire? Elon Musk. I love that he is pursuing something he’s passionate about and that his pursuits can improve the quality of life for generations long into the future.
As seen in the June 2016 issue: