Colorado: a state shaped by adventure-seekers, frosted mountains, and an eclectic mix of small businesses.
As part of our Denver office launch, we’re highlighting a few of the Gusto companies that call Colorado home. From a cake decorating studio to a software development shop that believes in social good, the Centennial State is brimming with inventive companies just waiting to be explored.
Frankie Bushell loves how much you learn about yourself in the process of running your own business. “You’re confronted with a lot of personal challenges, all of which become very apparent when you’re leading a team. There’s a lot of self-reflection.” Frankie began his career in consulting and then fell in love with web development. Soon after, he formed Cirro, a Denver-based creative digital studio that pushes the envelope when it comes to digital experiences. His goal is for Cirro to become a thought leader in the industry and to eventually open an overseas office. In the beginning, Frankie would reach out to friends and family to get business, but now he doesn’t have to: “It’s been word of mouth ever since.” Today, many of his clients come to him because they’re looking for a smaller team they can really collaborate with. And Frankie adores the expertise his small, but mighty team brings to the table. “We’ve really accomplished a lot for our size.”
A few years ago, Bre and Ben were two drama geeks with $2,500 to their name.
The pair met while doing theater — Ben did audio, Bre did lighting — and they soon fell madly in love. During that time, they squirreled away every penny so they could one day launch a company that fulfilled Ben’s love of computers. EGN Solutions was born in their garage soon after, and today has grown into a full-fledged IT organization for small and medium-size businesses.
The two lovebirds are still running the show, but now as first-time entrepreneurs. Ben is in charge of the technical, design, and “CEO stuff” at EGN Solutions, while Bre handles all of the office and financial work. This year, Ben and Bre are really proud that they moved to a new (non-garage) office, along with reaching the 100-client mark.
“Everyone thought we were nuts and that it wasn’t going to work. We said we were going to prove them wrong — and we did.”
Playing with 500 cookie cutters, 30 different candy types, and 12 icing flavors is just a normal Saturday afternoon for Jay Sudowski. During the week, Jay co-owns a data center called Handy Networks, and on the weekends, he runs Colorado’s first DIY cake decorating studio.
“It’s funny, on the weekdays I’m a CTO, and on the weekends, I’m washing dishes in the back.”
Jay’s sugar high first developed when he and his fiancé, Linda, bought My Make Studio from a business owner who decided she needed to move in a different direction in order to spend more time with her family. Neither one of them were bakers, but they decided to take a chance, and turn the whimsical endeavor into something meaningful.
In the beginning, Jay was working seven days a week with both businesses, and was feeling really overwhelmed. It was only after he and his fiance ramped up their social media efforts and started offering birthday parties and summer camps did the business really take off. In March, they were hosting around four parties a month, and thanks to their staff of eight, they’re now up to five a week.
So how similar is a cake decorating studio to a data center? “Let’s just say it’s a very different atmosphere.”
Six years ago, Chris Strom had a flash of clarity.
He had just returned from living overseas and decided to return to his childhood home while looking for a job. It was a great place to move back to, says Chris. “Denver is right by the mountains and the weather is awesome. It’s sunny 300 days a year here!”
During his downtime, Chris taught himself HTML. His development chops soon opened the door for a few freelance gigs, and eventually, Chris landed a full-time job — at a company which then went under six months later. But instead of looking for another job, he made a pivot and started a web development company.
After discovering that many of his clients also needed a marketing strategy to go along with their fancy new websites, he soon switched his company’s focus to digital marketing. Digital marketing can be an enigma, and Chris is extremely proud of the way his team cuts through all the marketing jargon so their clients can really understand what’s going on.
In fact, many of ClearPivot’s clients have been with them for several years — some of them even dating back to when he first opened up shop.
“I love working in [Boulder] because we can be in our office and 10 minutes later, we’ll be hiking gorgeous trails right out of downtown. I’ve never found another city where the mountains are so accessible.”
Emily KenCairn works at DOJO4, a certified B Corp software company that believes in using business as a catalyst for social change. DOJO4 works with clients such as Stand Up For Cancer, Code for America, and Unicef Kid Power to help them use technology to make a difference.
Using the power of code for good is something that co-owners Ara Howard (CTO) and Corey Kohn (COO) are both deeply committed to. Ara has a background in hardcore data engineering and Corey is a photographer with years of experience in documentary film. The two connected over their desire to change the world through market-based solutions to real problems.
In fact, that mission is ingrained into everything DOJO4 does, from working with clients to helping out their local community. In 2012, the company helped launch a co-working space called The Impact Hub, and they also use their office to host community events.
“People in Boulder are really on the cutting edge of social, environmental and technological solutions,” says Emily. “It’s an exciting combination to be a part of.”