Celebrating Women-Owned / Women-Led Businesses in Downtown Boulder
We'd like to introduce you to some of the amazing women entrepreneurs who work hard and inspire us daily right here in our own district. Scroll down this page to meet the women powerhouses of Downtown Boulder!
Sandy Calvin | Farfel’s Farm
Farfel’s Farm is a pet supply store located in downtown Boulder - that also saves hundreds of dogs per year.
“Farfel’s Farm started because Jeff and I feel so strongly about animals. I’ve been rescuing animals ever since I was little. I rescued horses for awhile but the dog rescue began when we brought 11 dogs home from Greece, 15 years ago. We found them all homes and the rescue grew from there. Last year we rescued 451 dogs. The store came first and has been in business 16 years.”
“The work we do is inspiring and difficult and wonderful. We unfortunately see the worst in people because a lot of the dogs we rescue come from difficult situations. We had the realization early on that the only voice these dogs are ours. We are often contacted with dogs who are about to be euthanized and need a chance at a second life. We asses their behavior and then work to find them a family.”
From treats to leashes to toys - Farfel’s is the place to stop with your furry friends.
“The store is really fun. We always say we’re like a dinosaur - there are so few of us left. Most pet supply stores are now feed stores or corporate chains. We try to maintain the community feel, and we work with various artists to try to be colorful and different.”
“The store also provides a sense of community. It’s nice to be able to talk to our neighbors and use the store to share things we are passionate about - like hanging Trump dog toys in our window the last 4 years. During that time, for every dog toy we sold, we donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to help protect the places we love. It’s nice having a platform to be able to stand up for what we believe in.”
“I love our employees - we could never do it without them. We’re very lucky to have two incredible women on our team. We love being able to employee women and see what women can accomplish.”
“I am an activist through and through - I even chained myself to a bridge when I was younger. I’m a feminist and really believe it’s time to celebrate and uplift women. Women are so powerful and I’m proud to be a woman entrepreneur.”
Thank you to Sandy Calvin for her time in doing this interview.
Erin Casey | West Flanders
If you’ve enjoyed a beer from West Flanders in the last few years you have Head Brewer, Erin Casey, to thank.
“Back in 2012 when West Flanders opened, I was hired as a server. Eventually, I was promoted to floor manager and bartender. I went to art school so I’m very processed-based and creative - the brewing aspect was really interesting to me. West Flanders was growing really quickly and so I asked if I could be the Assistant Brewer and they gave me the opportunity. In November of 2017, I was promoted and have been the Head Brewer for the past three years.”
"When I develop recipes I get really excited seeing people trying (and loving) the beers that I’ve created. It’s really rewarding to see other people enjoy my work and the passion I put behind it.”
Without a bar top serving customers, the last year has been challenging.
“This past year has been really challenging for the beer industry, and it’s been tough mentally on a lot of brewers. There’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment but I’m hopeful for the future.”
“West Flanders is unique because the brew system is behind the bar. When I became Head Brewer, I was able to bring us out of the 90s way of brewing through implementing new brewing techniques. Now looking at the beer list and knowing our top-sellers are my beers is really exciting.”
“My first year as Head Brewer I took home three medals at the State Fair and also placed second among brewers in Colorado. It’s awesome to be a woman kicking butt in the beer industry!”
Thank you to Erin Casey & Gwynedd Bailey.
Lisa Fairlee | Color Me Mine
Lisa Fairlee and Sandy Hahn are co-owners of Color Me Mine on Pearl Street's East End.
Lisa: “My best friend, Sandy, and I met when our girls were in first grade together - we were both at a point a few years ago where we were tired of the corporate world and just wanted to do something different. We would talk and daydream while our girls were at gymnastics practice. Sandy had the idea of investing together in a Color Me Mine. We saw that the Pearl Street location was for sale so we immediately came and looked at it and fell in love. It’ll be five years this coming May 2021.”
1983 Pearl Street has a long history as a paint studio.
“This location has actually been a Color Me Mine for the past 21 years and before that it was an independent paint-your-own-pottery studio called, As You Wish, so this corner has always been a fun artsy place for the Boulder community.”
“I’ve never considered myself super artistic so I can relate to the adults who come in and say ‘oh I can’t do this’. I love being able to tell them, 'yes, you can!' The people who come into the studio quickly become friends and our staff is one big family.”
“There were some really dark moments the last year. We were able to produce the to-go kits which helped a lot, as did holding on to the silver lining that eventually we were going to see people back in the studio. I’m proud of how we were able to pivot and make it through this last year. Boss Lady Pizza, Boulder Book Store, Upslope and St. Vrain Cidery have all been incredible partners helping us make it through the pandemic.”
“I’m so excited for us to continue growing and connecting with more of the community. It’s nice when adults come in and we can give them a little piece of their childhood back. Color Me Mine is such a cool place because people take away a tangible reminder of the memories they make here.”
Being women entrepreneurs means a lot to Lisa and Sandy.
“We wanted to show our children that you can follow your dreams and it’s not always about the money. I love being able to show my daughter that she can pursue anything she wants and that you can turn anything you’re passionate about into your career.”
Thank you to Lisa Fairlee for her time in doing this interview.
Erica Dahl | Savvy on Pearl
Erica Dahl is the owner of Savvy on Pearl. Celebrating 14 years open in May - Savvy is a Pearl Street Mall staple.
“My mom has owned a retail store for 48 years - my parents met because my dad applied for a job. Women-owned businesses was the normal in my family and I knew I wanted to open a retail store because I knew a lot about this industry.”
Savvy on Peal carries a variety of brands and items - including pieces that Erica designs herself.
“When I’m designing, I get inspiration from what is currently trending. Right now it’s the retro/vintage vibe - I’ve been printing a lot on acid wash. It’s fun to be able to mix the Colorado vibes with a tourist twist. It’s not so much that I love clothes, but I love watching people love clothes.”
“When I first opened Savvy - people would come in and because I was a young woman they would assume that I wasn’t the owner. I think it is so important for women to be in important roles to show that we are more than capable of running successful businesses. I’m proud to have a business that has longevity on the Pearl Street Mall - and be surrounded by so many other successful women owned businesses.”
“The past year has been really tough but what keeps me going is the days here and there that give me a sense of normalcy. We just need to be patient. The pandemic has been a good reminder to prepare for the unexpected the best you can. And if I make it through this - I can make it through anything.”
Thank you to Erica Dahl for her time in doing this interview.
Jessica Dizmang | Ben & Jerry's
Jessica Dizmang is the owner of Ben & Jerry’s on Pearl Street - she had a serendipitous start to her career as a small business owner.
“I was 23 years old and living in Manhattan and working at a private hedge fund. I realized that everyone I worked with made a lot of money but was miserable. I didn’t know what I wanted but I knew it wasn’t that. I told my bosses I was leaving and two weeks later 9/11 happened. That was my sign it was time to leave.”
“My dad worked at corporate Ben & Jerry’s, so he knew the Boulder store was for sale. He was getting ready to leave that job and I had just left mine so in November 2001 we took a two week road trip across the country and stopped in Boulder and that was it. I took over the store in March 2002. I had no idea what I was doing but here we are 20 years later and we’re still going strong.”
Every small business faces challenges - for Jessica, her greatest challenge has also been her greatest success.
“Being a female business owner with children puts constraints on everything. When I first took over, I was at the shop all the time, and I didn’t know how to build the business. I was working hard but I wasn’t working smart. When I had my first child, I learned how to hire good managers because I needed to take a step back and that changed everything. Hiring those good people made a huge difference.”
“My general manager Alexsys is amazing - I wish I could clone her. She is such a hard worker and that girl is what kept me motivated this past year. I had to keep the business going for her and my other employees. I had to stay positive for my team.”
“Being a woman entrepreneur means so much to me. I look at my employees or my three daughters and I want them to see that they can do anything they put their minds to and find a way to have everything they want in their lives.”
Thank you to Jessica Dizmang for her time in doing this interview.
Rebecca Luna | Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary & Supply
Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary & Supply is your one stop shop for everything botanical medicine.
“This was a dream for many, many years. I feel like it’s what I was born to do. As a botanical medicine-making teacher, I could never find everything I wanted in one place. It’s a little selfish because it was everything I wanted. It is a birthright to have access to botanical medicine - to help create that access is thrilling.”
“I went to herb school kind of as a fluke - it fell into my lap and in my first class my teacher made a cup of tea and I thought that was the coolest thing. She said, “Herbalists are Outlaws” and I thought 'I want that.'”
Using botanical medicine can extend into other parts of your life.
“When people get excited about botanical medicine, they inevitably get excited about environmentalism. There is something to be said about how tangible it is to make a cup of chamomile tea and experience its benefits. It connects people to the earth and they begin to think about their everyday choices.”
The past year has been difficult for small businesses - but good can be found anywhere you look for it.
“My fellow small business owners in downtown Boulder are amazing - coming together as a community during the pandemic brought on a lot of camaraderie. I’ve never felt so close to my neighbors and other small businesses around the state.”
“During the pandemic, there was a great need for botanical medicine to keep us well and we felt a responsibility to provide these medicines. Everyday I’m excited to be here and interact with our community.”
“I am so grateful for the women who came before me who paved the way for women-owned businesses to be the norm - it shows how the world is becoming more progressive and opening up to more diversity.”
Thank you to Rebecca Luna & Riley Krull
Radna Segal | REFUGE Art Gallery
REFUGE Art Gallery opened in August 2020 as a space (and refuge) for the downtown community.
“I wasn’t planning on opening a gallery - it was a ton of little accidents all coming together. When the pandemic happened, I realized that people needed a place to be able to safely gather.”
“I had rented 1727 Pearl for my socially-distanced birthday party and that was really where the idea came from. I wanted to create a safe space for people to be able to have a first date or celebrate a birthday or just have something to do all while supporting local artists.”
“I’ve always had a love of art - I attended art school and whenever traveling I would always visit different art galleries. It was such an enriching experience and I wanted to create that for others here in downtown.”
Starting a small business is hard - starting one during a pandemic is nearly impossible but with the help of a few good friends, REFUGE was born.
“It’s been an interesting ride opening a business in 2020 but it’s almost been like therapy and I’ve loved creating this safe space for people to come and visit.”
“REFUGE was a woman’s project - myself and four other woman artists coming together. It was really fun to work with them and I was happy to help support other women in my community. I’m looking forward to future shows and being able to bring some spring colors into the gallery.”
“Women’s History Month is important to me because the majority of people who purchase art from the gallery are these beautiful, kind, well-traveled women and I love to celebrate them.”
Thank you to Radna Segal for her time in doing this interview.
Heather London | 1313 A Salon
Heather London is the owner of 1313 A Salon and she is no stranger to hard work.
“I grew up on a ranch 100 miles from Boulder, working chores and showing horses, but in between I was lucky to have a piano and a lot of books. I always lived along the front range and moved to Boulder in 2008. My first business was cleaning homes, born from a need to keep my children fed and sheltered. Not glamorous, but it worked, and as a side benefit it also gave me a framework to help other women help themselves - most of whom similarly had no-one else helping them out.”
“I bought 1313 A Salon in 2018. I originally thought I would work there as a stylist, but I also needed a proactive empty-nesting plan. My identity as a mother was dismantled as my last child went to college. I had more stability than when I was a young, single mom, but asking the owner of the business to sell it to me was still like jumping off a cliff - I was going to be responsible for the clients, the staff and my family as well. I hoped I had everything I needed to pull it off and I made the leap.”
“No one told me there was going to be a pandemic after throwing every resource I had into the business. Since COVID, all of our numbers are down and we are treading water just to stay open, so I modified the form our donations take to providing complementary haircuts to clients of organizations in town, such as TGTHR (previously Attention Homes) for homeless, at risk youth. My plans always work out on paper. In real life, my plans are usurped by unexpected repairs, turnover, conflicts, discovering my management style sometimes doesn't work, and of course the occasional global pandemic.”
“I’ve had to throw out all my plans and assumptions seemingly daily, so I’m amazed we are still open but I'm starting to feel hope again. I, and all of my staff, have been stressed and fragile because our resources are tapped out. We’re worried for our families, and feeling financial pressure. But I'm responsible for much more than myself, so self-indulgence or self-pity doesn't ever fix anything. As hope emerges with vaccinations, higher capacity limits, and better weather, spirits are lifting with 1313 staff and our customers too, even with continued grief for some of us. There's a new appreciation for what really matters - our health and our community.”
Thank you to Heather London & Kate Hernandez.
Alexa Squillaro | Blo Blow Dry Bar & Whole Sole Blend Bar
Alexa Squillaro believes in helping people - her businesses allow her to do just that.
“I moved to Boulder three years ago and own multiple businesses in Boulder - Blo Blow Dry Bar and Whole Sol - which my husband and I started together. We’ve been on Pearl Street for two years and opened a location at 29th Street in December. Our friend Christopher started the Blo Franchise on Pearl Street, and we wound up acquiring it during COVID. I’ve always loved the dry bar concept and when I had the opportunity to buy it, I was definitely in.”
“Before I started Whole Sol, I worked in New York City Public Health helping to prevent childhood obesity. Wanting to serve my community, I then worked for an online farmers' market providing people access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In the same vein of waiting to provide people access to easy, healthy options and nutritious food, my husband and I created Whole Sol.”
Staying motivated during tough times is hard - good employees make it easier.
“I work for entities that pay a lot of other people so I am inspired and motivated to be able to provide steady income and employment to my team. During the pandemic none of our management staff was laid off or missed a paycheck so we were able to continue with business as usual the best we could. During really stressful times, food is so emotional so I’m happy that we’ve been able to provide people with healthy options.”
“If you’re a female entrepreneur, you’re kind of going against the grain of history and doing something outside of the box. You're trying to persevere on a male-dominated career path. All the challenges are worth it because I feel so empowered and lucky to be part of the female business owner community.”
Thank you to Alexa Squillaro for her time in doing this interview.
Mikki Rainey | Classic Facets
“I was a stay-at-home mom and before that I had a million jobs. My first business, I bought a store that specialized in consignment designer clothing. From there, I started selling vintage costume jewelry. Those pieces eventually became our most popular items so I sold the clothing store to an employee and that’s how Classic Facets was born.”
“I’ve been on pearl street for 20+ years and in business for 36 years. The store has evolved from glitz to fine jewelry. I like to say we sell time. We’re really charmed with the stories that jewelry could tell.”
“Since the start of the pandemic - I haven’t been able to be at the store much. My manager, Theresa Peregoy has been with me for 26 years. She has taken over and done a wonderful job - I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without employees like her.”
Mikki has become a jewelry expert over the years and knows the history behind the majority of the pieces that Classic Facets sells.
“I learned all of this by doing - I was a theater major in college and minored in costume. In costume, you have to know all of these details. I can look at something and understand the history behind it.”
“I love working with people. I love meeting new people. I’m making new friends all the time. Classic Facets is everybody’s happy place. People look around at all of the pieces and it gives people joy. I always say, 'Don’t postpone joy. Give yourself a present. Love yourself. Gift yourself something beautiful to wear. Don’t let things hide in your drawer - if you don’t have anywhere to go - put it on with your pjs!'”
Women are tough as nails - and they make excellent business owners.
“I believe in women - we’re so smart and can multitask which is what makes us such great business owners. Women don’t give up. I like the idea of women taking control of things. I bet if women ran the world there would be peace.”
Thank you to Mikki Rainey for her time in doing this interview.
Lindsay Shaw | Lindsay’s Boulder Deli @ Häagen-Dazs
“I went to CU Boulder and graduated in 2000. I moved back home to Atlanta and started working as a high school teacher. Eventually, my best friend and I moved back out to Colorado - Vail specifically and worked on the mountain. My parents owned Häagen-Dazs franchises in Atlanta. When my job in Vail ended I moved back to Boulder and my dad told me that the Häagen-Dazs downtown was for sale so... I bought it in 2004.”
All of the sandwiches at Lindsay’s are either family recipes or were the brainchild of her employees, i.e. the 'That’s What She Said'.
“My mom went to cooking school at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and she said, I’ll teach you how to make 10 sandwiches and two soups and I thought, how hard can it be? And here I am 17 years later trying to live the dream.”
“I expanded Lindsay’s from 1400 sq ft to 3500 sq ft so the fact that I’ve been successful taking on that much more space and rent has been a huge accomplishment. Seeing my employees succeed inside and outside of the business has been incredible. I love being able to teach young people life skills and seeing them grow.”
“Being in business for 17 years is a massive accomplishment. The pandemic has been really challenging and I’ve struggled with being positive and authentic at the same time. Knowing that summer is coming keeps me going. The warm days where business is almost normal is encouraging.”
“My employees keep me inspired and motivate me. I try to hire people that I enjoy being with for six hours a day! I’m so proud to be a business owner in Boulder and be able to contribute to the community. I recently had a daughter, Rita, and I really want to keep living a balanced lifestyle where I can enjoy my personal time while having a business that I am really proud of. I love my job!”
“When I meet other women entrepreneurs - I immediately feel a connection to them. I’m often in meetings where I’m one of the only women. I love being able to reach out to the women-owned business community and build connections. To have support from other women going experiencing the same successes and challenges means the world to me. I’m so proud to know so many incredible women entrepreneurs.”
Huge thank you to Lindsay Shaw for her participation in this interview.
Marcy Miller | Organic Sandwich Company
Organic Sandwich Company was originally just an idea between sisters - with some hard work - it turned into reality.
“I come from a long line of entrepreneurs. My sister and I would always come up with ideas when she finished culinary school and I finished business school. I was working in Corporate America but I knew I wanted to work for myself. Organic Sandwich Co. was one of those ideas that we were floating around and after moving to Boulder, I spent my free time working on the business plan. I applied to the Boulder County Farmers Market and was able to launch this concept. We opened the store on Pearl Street and then a second in Louisville.”
“Beyond a love of sandwiches, which I do have, I’m more excited by the fact that we take these organic, fresh ingredients and provide nutritious food to people. To be able to create a fast-casual, farm-to-table experience is really exciting.”
Being a business owner in the last year was not for the faint of heart.
“My competitive nature really helped me get through this past year - we pivoted and were able to provide Organic Sandwich in ways beyond sandwiches like our meal kits and produce bags. Slowly but surely we’re getting through this.”
“I’ve found such great communities in Boulder and Louisville. I feel so supported by these communities and the programs they have to support local businesses. When it’s time, I’m looking forward to finding another community like this to expand into.”
“I love helping other entrepreneurs and being a resource to other business owners, especially women business owners. I’m a big fan of paying it forward and helping others.”
Thank you to Marcy Miller for her time in doing this interview.
Michelle Vargo & Hanna Harem | Bliss
Michelle Vargo & Hanna Harem became the owners of Bliss in February 2020 - their first year was a tough one but they made it through.
Michelle - “I started working at Bliss seven years ago - I was a CU student at the time and after I graduated I had the opportunity to own the store. It had all of the options I was looking for in a career. Finding a balance with work and my personal life has been a tough thing to figure out but I’m proud of us for surviving this year.”
Hanna - “I’ve been at Bliss for 10 years now. It was supposed to be a break from my job as a chef in the restaurant industry. I fell in love with it and I’m so excited to finally be an owner with Michelle. There is a creative aspect to it that I love and is so fun. It’s everything I’ve wanted since I started working here. There’s definitely been a learning curve learning to take over the business but I’ve gotten really good at filling out SBA paperwork!”
In a tough year - Michelle and Hanna were able to find inspiration.
Hanna - “Our loyal customers have definitely kept me motivated the last year. Bliss has been in business for 16 years so it’s been really encouraging to have people continue to support the store even under new ownership. Personally, I’ve been really inspired by nature and it’s definitely come through in the displays and other stuff we’re doing in the store.”
Michelle - “I was really drawn to Bliss because of our amazing staff and team. That is a big reason I worked at Bliss for so long before buying it. The comradery with all of the women on our team is nothing like I’ve experienced before. It’s what keeps me going for sure. It’s been really nice seeing our staff growing closer and working smarter throughout the pandemic.”
Hanna - “There really is such a sense of community within our store and I think that’s what being a woman-owned business is all about.”
Michelle - “Supporting each other as women and wanting what’s best for other women is really important. The previous owner really did that for us so we want to make sure we continue doing that for our employees.”
Thank you to Michelle Vargo & Hanna Harem.
Beth Krodel | Insight Designs
Insight Designs, a Pearl Street firm that develops web sites, apps and more, was founded by Beth Krodel and Nico Toutenhoofd in 1999 and just celebrated its 22nd anniversary.
Beth and Nico met as interns at the Daily Camera in 1992. She was a reporter, and he was a photographer. A few years later, they teamed up again at the Detroit Free Press, which is where they hatched their plan to move back to Boulder and start a business.
“We weren't sure about the future of newspapers, and we both had this entrepreneurial spirit," said Beth. "We had several ideas, but landed on websites; the web was new and exciting, and we had the feeling it wasn’t going anywhere. For the first few months, we worked from Nico's apartment, and Mike's Camera was one of our first clients. We hired our first employee in 2000, our second in 2001 and kept growing from there. We're now a team of 19.”
“The people I work with -- both employees and clients -- keep me inspired. You want to do the best you can for the people you work with. ...Especially in this past year, we’ve really tried to be flexible with our employees, to support them as they try to balance child care, home schooling and work. It’s been a stressful time, and we want to make it as easy as possible for them.”
“Tech is constantly changing and that keeps you on your toes. I feel like I’m constantly learning, which is great. ...The biggest challenge this past year as a business was the unknown at the beginning of the pandemic. Would our clients be able to pay us? Would we be able to keep our team intact? Fortunately, it's been OK, and we've all been able to work from home seamlessly. ...Through it all, my saving grace has been getting outside.”
Being a woman entrepreneur is rare; in tech, we see even fewer.
“I feel a lot of responsibility as a female entrepreneur in tech. I’ve taken part in mentorship programs where out of 80 mentors, I was one of only two women. When meeting with other tech CEOs and partners, I’m often the only woman. Because there are so few of us, I know I need to do a very good job, I need to encourage other women to get involved in technology, and I need to set a good example for my children and their friends to show them that women can and should be tech entrepreneurs.”
Thank you to Beth Krodel for her time in doing this interview.
Susan Williams | Mindful Works
Mindful Works is a workplace that invites trust, incites motivation and inspires confidence.
“I am proud to serve as the Executive Director of Mindful Works, a nonprofit social enterprise providing paid job training and real work to people facing employment obstacles as part of a mental health challenge. As a long-time social worker, I have witnessed the value of work in helping folks with realizing their recovery. We are delighted to be renting space from the First Congregation of Boulder, right in the middle of downtown!”
“Mental health is health and wellbeing - we know that to be true now more than ever as we deal with the impact of the pandemic. We all know someone whose life has been touched in one way or another by mental illness. The impact of work, school, a meaningful activity - is evidence-based as a critical part of recovery. Mindful Works provides a path to employment through the design and manufacturing of fabulous pouf/ottomans, meditation cushions, eye pillows and neck-wraps, boho bags, protective face masks and our new, environmentally responsible products: tote bags made from recycled billboards - keeping them out of the landfill! We have a team of highly skilled women seamstresses who teach, create, and sew alongside our program participants: Team Cushion!”
“It is so rewarding to work with young adults as they navigate obstacles and work toward their goals and dreams. It is an honor to tell our story at markets and artisan fairs as we meet customers face-to-face. We celebrate our graduates and as we connect with them after they have returned to school or found a job in the traditional labor market. It is incredibly uplifting and affirming knowing that what we are doing is making a difference.”
“During the pandemic, like so many small businesses, we have had to pivot from direct-to-consumer to more robust online sales. Our program participants keep us all going and motivated as they develop work-confidence, create wonderful products, delicious baked goods and come to work each day with a desire to learn and grow. We hope you will visit our website: mindful-works.org to learn more about our mission and see our products. Everyone needs a pouf!”
Thank you to Susan Williams for her time in doing this interview.