Five #GirlBosses to Follow in Denver
By Jessica Fialkovich | @jfialkovich
Denver is teeming with kick ass women entrepreneurs, some you may know and some you may not recognize. The following list of individuals ranges from women who run some of the biggest companies in the city, to leaders who transformed their success in the business world to nonprofits, to pioneers leading innovation and change in the way we work and play.
Make sure not just to follow them and their ventures on social media (and yes, you totally should!), but also seek out events featuring these women. All five of are strong advocates and supporters of entrepreneurship, Denver, and women.
Denise Burgess, Burgess Services LLC
Burgess was raised in her family’s company, Burgess Heating and Air Conditioning, and as a teenager even worked cleanup on jobs. She rejoined the company in 1994 and took control in 2002 after her father unexpectedly passed. At that time, she transformed the company from heating and air conditioning to construction management. Since then, Burgess Services has worked on projects for the City and County Denver Justice Center, US Air Corp of Engineering in Miami, and the Denver International Airport. Burgess has been named one of the Top 25 Most Powerful Women (Colorado Women’s Chamber), and a recipient of the prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian and Davide E. Baily Small Business Advocate Awards. She was recently named board chair of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, where she is very active. Burgess will be the first African-American to serve in this role in the 150-year history of the Chamber.
Heidi Ganahl, Founder of Camp Bow Wow, The Fight Back Foundations, & CU Regent
Ganahl founded one of the best known and most successful companies in the pet industry, Camp Bow Wow, in 2000 following a number of setbacks. After growing the business to the top in the industry, being named to the Inc 500/5000 List of Fastest Growing Companies and being named as Fortune Magazine’s 10 Most Promising Entrepreneurs, Ganahl sold the company. She also founded the Fight Back Foundation to lead on issues relevant to homes, schools, neighborhoods, and Colorado. The three outreach brands in the Fight Back family are Moms Fight Back, Dads Fight Back, and Students Fight Back. In 2016, Ganahl ran for political office--CU Regent (which is essentially the board of directors for the University of Colorado system)--and received more than 1.2 million votes (Hillary Clinton received 1.3 million in Colorado) to win her race. Ganahl continues to support and speak about entrepreneurship, women and community issues throughout the state.
Traci Lounsbury, Founder of Workplace ELEMENTS
Lounsbury is the principal owner of ELEMENTS, a corporate interiors dealership. ELEMENTS was ranked as the 6th largest woman-owned business in Colorado by CoBiz Magazine this year with annual sales of approximately $74 million. Prior to ELEMENTS, Lounsbury also owned multi, multi-million dollar organizations starting from the age of 25. With her success, Lounsbury has made giving back to the community a priority and supports the Denver Children’s Home and the Downtown Denver Partnership. Recently, Lounsbury (along with other successful female Denverites) created Women on the Rise with the Commons on Champa, which provides a supportive environment for women entrepreneurs to provide opportunities for connection, mentorship, and professional development. Lounsbury was also named the 2015 EY Entrepreneur of the Year and a 2017 Outstanding Woman in Business by the DBJ. You can find her monthly at the Women on the Rise events and speaking around town.
Lee Mayer, Founder of Havenly
Mayer founded Havenly in 2013, which pairs customers with interior designers online starting at just $79. One of the first companies to work with Boulder-based MergeLane, Havenly grew rapidly and received extensive investment interest from firms around the country. More impressive the the company’s growth was Mayer’s strength to stand up to one of the investors in those firms recently when one of Havenly’s board members was accused of sexual harassment of three women. Mayer publicly denounced the behavior and asked the board member to step down from his position. Mayer is active in the Denver community and makes speaking appearances to groups like Women on the Rise and Women Who Startup.
Krista Morgan, Founder of P2Binvestor
“Fintech” is a term used to describe startups who solve financial problems with technology. A general term applied to a large, mostly male-dominated industry. Krista Morgan founded P2Binvestor within the community to create an innovative marketplace offering asset-backed lines of credit to growing companies. P2Bi has grown quickly in funding, employees, and most importantly, revenue, making a mark on the fintech world. Morgan is also an avid supporter of women in entrepreneurship with an active role in Women Who Startup and the co-host of Women Who Startup Radio.