Denver Startup Week is the largest free entrepreneurial event of its kind. And in 2020, it had it’s largest reach of its 8 year run because it was virtual. People from 32 countries around the globe joined online seminars, lectures and discussion all aimed at inspiring entrepreneurs and providing them some tools and strategy for reaching their goals.

What an honor to help kick off Day One of Denver Startup Week by moderating a panel discussion called Resilience, Risk and Reward: Lessons from the Entrepreneurial Journey.

The three fabulous women who joined me were Emily Hines, Co-Founder of Sweat Cosmetics, Angela Carlson, Co-Founder of REB3L Fitness and Kendra Anderson, Founder of Bar Helix and Cabana X.

Emily Hines starred on the University of Denver’s women’s soccer team. As she puts it.. back then, she was the forward in charge of passing the ball to her current business partner and fellow Sweat Cosmetics Co-Founder Taryn Hemmings. When on the field back in college, they had the hardest time finding makeup or even sunscreen that wouldn’t run or drip into their eyes or smear onto their uniforms when they would sweat.  After college, Emily went on to be a tax accountant. She admits she forced that profession on herself while Taryn went on to play professional soccer. But still, the idea of finding the right skin care and make up products for athletes weighed on the minds of both women. After extensive research & development, Emily jumped out of the corporate world and into the startup world. Emily brought her financial acumen from the corporate accounting world to run the back-end operations of Sweat Cosmetics but she admits she and her four partners all wear many hats.

Angela Carlson, Co-Founder of REB3L Groove & Strength, also started out in a different field. Angela  was a neo-natal nurse and an expert in her field who often delivered presentations before medical audiences.  She also raised two children and it was her daughter who introduced her to a REB3L class.  Her daughter was in a REB3L class at their gym and Angela was curious about what it was all about. Angela jumped into a  class and quickly discovered it was different from ANYTHING she had ever taken. This workout class was an event! The lights are off in REB3L classes. The music is blasted and class participants dance hard with their hair down and makeup on. And from the very first class, Angela could feel the sense of community that ran deep among the participants. She wanted in. Angela went from a class participant to a Co-Founder of REB3L which offers live classes and virtual classes. REB3L Nation, as it’s called, is growing fast. There are 150 instructors across the United States leading choreography that Angela and her two partners design. Angela says REB3L is not just a dance company. She says dance is the method that helps women grow and gain a new sense of confidence.

Kendra Anderson also knew she had a business model that was different and specific and would engage the community and especially women who wanted to get dressed up and go out for a memorable evening with friends. Kendra opened Bar Helix in Denver’s RiNo District in October of 2017. The very first bar in Denver to serve Negroni cocktails, Bar Helix grew a following with its very cool, sophisticated vibe. When the COVID pandemic hit, Bar Helix had to shut down. It continued to sell carry-out cocktails. Then, in July of 2020, Kendra opened Cabana X, a pop up, full service, outdoor restaurant.. also in RiNo. Cabana X was an even bigger hit, offering a full menu from tropical locales to help visitors feel like they were out of town and enjoying vacations at a time when people are staying safer-at-home because of the pandemic.  Kendra says she has always said ‘yes’ to every opportunity that has come her way.. from graduating from cooking school while working a corporate job full-time.. to being certified as an advanced sommelier.. to owning a catering company, starting a wine consulting business, writing articles and columns on the food and drink industry to opening two successful Denver hotspots.

Kendra like the other women on the panel has always trusted her gut and told the online audience that is what she is relying on as the fate of the restaurant industry remains uncertain with the health and safety precautions in place because of COVID

I asked each woman to give me one word that embodies their entrepreneurial journey.

Kendra said ‘evolving,’ since she has always pivoted and evolved in her startups. Angela said ’empower’ because she witnesses how her clients become empowered through the workouts, their improved health and fitness and their supportive fitness community surrounding them. Emily said ‘hustle.’ From her days on the soccer field to her job of pitching to investors or making sure inventory is well stocked, Emily is constantly  hustling.

This Denver Startup Week panel was organized by Women on the Rise, an initiative of The Commons on Champa, Denver’s community entrepreneurship hub. The Downtown Denver Partnership created The Commons on Champa to connect entrepreneurs to powerful resources and networks that help them create long-standing businesses, together. The Partnership’s Women’s Council then created Women on the Rise which is dedicated to ensuring women have equal access to powerful networks, capital, education, support and resources as they build businesses.

Our 90 minute discussion was a hit! Typically, the standard ‘show up rate’ for a COVID/Zoom era online event is 10% (that’s 10% of the people who register actually tune in). Resilience, Risk and Reward had a 33% show up rate which is phenomenal, so I’m told.I loved every minute of our chat and happy that others got a lot of out the ups and downs … AND THE REWARDS…of entrepreneurship.